Wednesday, May 09, 2007

True Strength

My husband says that his mom is the strongest person he knows, male or female. In her physical heydey, she ran a 300-acre farm byherself in Pennsylvania when her husband (Bob's stepdad) was an alcoholic and gambler. It's taken her years to accept her physical decline because all her life, she's had to do what she was told she couldn't do, but didn't have a choice because there was no one left to do it. When your mom dies at 4 and your dad is in prison, when you are passed around from relative to relative as free house help; when you are working for pay from age 12; when a nurse tells you your baby boy is not being fed and the doctor wants to let him die; when you find yourself divorced with three young boys at 23 in the 1950s; when you are told you won't live to see 40 because of a family heart ailment and you have to prepare your sons to care for themselves ... you become a strong person.

So it should be no surprise to us that my mother-in-law celebrated her 80th birthday recently. Her strength is exemplified in different ways these days -- she is strong spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, if not physically. She teaches us lessons every day -- lessons about contentment, lessons about ministry, lessons about life. Yet her physical problems remain severe.

We were visiting with a dear family friend (a rare gem who is more family than friend) and we all prayed together. When it was mom's turn to pray, she prayed such a simple prayer but it has stayed with me: "Lord, cause me to be a blessing to someone." Friends, that is true quality of life. Don't be fooled by the arguments that say people can't live without quality of life. Our mindset, our attitude, our relationship with God determine our quality of life ... NOTour circumstances. As I shared before, if we have consciousness we are here to praise Him in the land of the living ... and as Paul shared in Phil. 4:13 - the secret to contentment is knowing we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. That is the true secret to True Strength.

2 Cor. 4:7-18 speaks to mom's physical situation .. and to all the rest of our human limitations which are not always so obvious.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested inour bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death forJesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in ourmortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all foryour sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond allcomparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to thethings that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, butthe things that are unseen are eternal.

The life of Jeuss is being manifested in her body, even as her outer self is wasting away. May it be true of all of us. This treasure - the transforming power of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit - is in our human jars of clay, our flesh with all its limitations, so that we have no doubt that the power is His, not ours. That lesson means more to me now than ever.

If you are in a difficult situation, unsure why things are happening ...if your circumstances are not in line with what you expected ... don't lose heart. Look to the eternal weight of glory; focus on what is unseen.Don't miss the blessings and lessons in the journey by failing to see thevalue in your suffering. It shows more than you know.Glory is at stake here.

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