I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121: New International Version)
When my Fibromyalgia pain was at its worst, even normal everyday tasks were a struggle. When making dinner and washing dishes, pain would shoot down my neck, arms and back. I was so weak that my arms became sore just from washing my hair. Perhaps the most difficult challenge presented itself when my six-year-old son wanted me to play and participate in activities with him.
One evening after dinner, he wanted me to put on a play with him, and all I desperately wanted to do was to get in bed. Fear of the future rose up in me as I considered the coming week’s schedule: Teacher conferences meant his school would have all half days. How was I going to keep up with him during those extra hours? After all, I was still paying the price for the play date we had the previous day – pushing his bike up and down the hill to and from the park and walking with all of the kids through the trench among the brush in the hills backing up to the park exhausted me.
The anxiety and, I must admit, dread of the coming week and its schedule of activities – going to the kid’s museum, the loud and smelly trampoline park, etc. – had me briefly considering the afterschool childcare program. Where was I going to get the necessary energy to do these stressful things I didn’t want to do and that prevented me from resting? Despite my concerns, I quickly dismissed the afterschool childcare option because I wanted to be with my son regardless of how I felt, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of the precious and fleeting time I get with him. I just wanted to have the physical strength and energy to be my best self for him.
At some point in every Christian’s walk with God, the Lord allows trials in which we have no choice but to depend completely on Him. “One day at a time” is a well-known expression in recovery. The slogan has become near and dear to my heart as it reminds me that God will provide for my needs as they come. Worrying about whether He will provide for me and give me the strength I need a week from now just isn’t a good use of my time. After all, the Lord’s Prayer does say to “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11: English Standard Version: emphasis mine).
Having to depend on God is humbling. Personally, I would prefer that God remove whatever the problem is rather than have to rely on Him to overcome it. “Please remove this pain!” I might pray. “Take away this depression!” I may plead. And sometimes it is the Lord’s will to take away our problems. Other times, however, He is using them to accomplish a purpose. For example, the Apostle Paul was given a “thorn in his flesh” to keep him from becoming conceited. Paul implored with God three times to remove it, but instead God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God can use our weaknesses and our struggles to teach us about His grace and how His power rather than our own accomplishes great things in our lives.
Scripture provides contrasting accounts of those who did not depend on God and were defeated and those who achieved victory because of their complete dependence on the Lord. In Deuteronomy, Moses recounts the Israelites’ rebellion against God’s command. The Lord had instructed the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land, but when they reached Kadesh Barnea, just south of the land God told them to conquer and occupy, the Israelites hesitated. They were unwilling to proceed after they heard reports about fortified cities with walls as high as 30 feet, imposing fortresses and giant Anakites who may have been 7-9 feet tall (Deuteronomy 1:28: NIV Life Application Study Bible notes). Even though Moses assured the Israelites that the Lord would see them through and give them victory, the people would not go up and take possession of the land (Deuteronomy 1:29-32). Because the Israelites disobeyed God rather than depend on Him, their entire generation was banned from entering the Promised Land, and they spent the next 40 years wandering the desert (Numbers 13, 14).
A much happier outcome resulted for Asa, King of Judah. Because of his complete dependence on God, Asa’s army achieved victory despite being vastly outnumbered by the Cushites. When Asa went out to meet Zerah the Cushite’s large army, he recognized his powerlessness and his inability to obtain victory without the Lord’s help:
Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”
The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the Lord and his forces. (2 Chronicles 4:11-13; emphasis mine)
Asa prevailed when he focused on God’s power and not on his own.
It’s easy to be like the Israelites and see the giants, the impenetrable high walls and the obstacles in my personal path to obedience. Even though my health has improved and doing daily tasks isn’t as difficult as it once was, I can still become overwhelmed by insecurity, fatigue, discouragement, lack of time, money and energy, and my own ego. But when I fix my eyes on Jesus, He gives me the strength to do whatever He calls me to do.
Mighty warrior, I pray that we would recognize that the battle is not ours but the Lord’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). God will certainly help us accomplish any task He has called us to. When we feel threatened by the might of the vast armies coming against us in this life, may we pray like King Jehoshaphat, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12b). Then may we “take up [our] positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give [us]” (2 Chronicles 20:17), for the battle is not ours, but God’s.
Enjoy Matthew West’s song describing how we need God’s strength!
NIV Life Application Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print.