By: Susan Naslund
Several years ago, my sister gave me a bracelet with this scripture engraved on it: "I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)
It is a pretty bracelet, but when I first received it, I did not care much for the verse. Frankly, I do not delight in hardships. Do not ask me to take a Lenten journey because I always want to avoid the pain of the crucifixion and skip right through to the glory of Easter sunrise. No walking through the valley of the shadow of death for me. I only want to lie down in those green pastures. It is hard enough for me to get through dinner when all I really want is dessert.
No, my strength comes from a regular and rich prayer life that sustains me and gives me peace. Cheerfulness and optimism undergird my daily encounters. What power or fortitude can possibly come from weakness?
Lately, though, I have been in a state of emotional desolation. Caring for and worrying about my elderly father is taking up a lot of the area in my heart and mind right now. Conjuring up cheer and optimism is tiring. I ask for God's rod and staff to comfort me and give me strength, but sometimes I do not even know what words to pray. "Oh, God, oh, God, oh God," when waiting for paramedics to arrive is not exactly a well-crafted supplication. Sitting on God's Santa Claus-like knee and asking for God to change my dad's irreversible health conditions seems like the wrong approach. Not that I am questioning God's power -- I am just being realistic. I am weak in that realism. I often sit in silence and let my heart do the praying for me.
So, these days I am wearing that bracelet from my sister, and each time I look at it I am reminded of my current weakened state. I remember that my heart is doing the praying for me when I cannot find the right words in my mind. The prayer my heart prays is not one that changes God into what I want God to be and do. The prayer changes me. I am supported by the strength that comes from God's constant presence in my life. I am still not delighting in the hardships, but I am learning that I can indeed be strong when I am weak.
Certainly, I am not the only one going through difficult times right now. I also pray that those of you who are suffering hardships will also discover that you are, with God's help, strong. Amen.