My Favorite Benediction

In my younger days, I thought the benediction just marked the end of the worship service. Perhaps the musicians needed a cue to prepare for the postlude.

Now, the benediction is one of my favorite parts of Sunday morning. I desperately need the blessing of the Lord, and I hunger for it as the worship service winds down. I know some of what Jacob felt, when he would not let the angel go without a blessing (Gen 32:22–32).

Many pastors use the familiar passage from Numbers 6 (verses 24–26) to bless the people of God. My favorite benediction comes at the end of 1 Thessalonians.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24)

You may feel weary as you read this today, but by meditating on this blessing you may find just the encouragement you need.

For Sanctification

Paul begins by praying that God would sanctify his friends. If we’re paying attention to the context of this passage, this request is no surprise at all.

Paul has spent most of his letter encouraging the Thessalonians in their sanctification—that is, their growth and maturity as followers of Jesus. He has remarked how far they have come, and he has urged them to press on still more. (See 1 Thess 1:2–10; 2:13–16; 3:6; 4:1–12; 5:11.)

This prayer for God to sanctify his people is a delightful and fitting summary of the letter.

The God of Peace

If sanctification is an unsurprising topic, the title used for God may be less expected. We may not balk at opening the Bible and reading about “the God of peace,” but why does Paul use it here when praying about sanctification?

I usually connect peace with God to conversion and adoption. When my soul has a new orientation and master, I am no longer at war with my maker.

Yet, as any Christian knows, there are still “warring members” within us—territory within our minds and hearts that is not completely aligned with the Lord’s desires. As we are sanctified, our wills and loves change and therefore the objective peace we have becomes more fully realized throughout our person. We offer less resistance to what is best for us and we experience more peace with God.

It is therefore appropriate that “the God of peace” is the one who sanctifies us—he changes our rebellion into glad submission and eager friendship with our master.

Entirely Changed

As sanctification is progressive—that is, it happens slowly and not all at once—it makes sense that Paul would ask for God to sanctify his friends “completely.” The work has begun but is not yet finished.

Paul asks that God would keep their “whole spirit and soul and body” blameless. This phrase is Paul’s head-to-toe description of a person.

There are many dark corridors, locked closets, and dusty crawlspaces in the sprawling estate of our hearts. The remodeling of the Holy Spirit takes time and, often, suffering. But make no mistake—the goal is a gleaming, beautiful, renovated home.

Look to His Coming

The coming of the Lord is a pervasive theme in 1 Thessalonians, so it is no surprise we see it in this final benediction. Paul touches on this topic at least once in each chapter of the letter!

This is not just a quirk of Paul’s personality. The coming of the Lord should command our attention and be a great source of our hope. After all, that coming will usher in the time when we will be together with the Lord forever (1 Thess 4:17). All of the promises of God will come together to be fulfilled as we finally and eternally enjoy his unmediated presence.

So Paul prays that God would keep his friends blameless for that coming. He wants them to enjoy this most joyful occasion, and not to cower in fear when thinking of that day (1 Thess 5:4–6).

Hope in God

Paul ends this blessing by pointing back to God.

Paul writes that God is the one who calls them. He is the originator of their faith, bringing them out of darkness (1 Peter 2:9). And this same God who calls is faithful. He is sturdy and sure and unwavering. We do not have to guess whether he will continue to keep his promises—he will love his people perfectly, forever.

And finally, God will surely do it. That is, God will sanctify his people completely and he will keep his people blameless for the coming of Jesus. Paul has every confidence to trust in God this way, and his blessing urges us toward similar trust.

Blessing Indeed

Are you feeling stalled in your Christian growth? Frustrated by habitual sins and foolish decisions? Discouraged and in need of hope? Read this blessing, meditate on it, and pray it for you and for your friends.

Take comfort in the one who calls you, the one who is faithful, the one who himself will surely prepare you for heaven. This is blessing indeed.

Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (2/19/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

The Seductive Sin We Never Talk About

The sin mentioned in the title of this article is self-pity, and Trevin Wax helps us think about sources of this sin as well as ways to fight it.

Boasting is usually obvious. But self-pity is more subtle. It arises from the wounded ego. The self-pitiful often appear as if they struggle with low self-esteem or feelings of unworthiness. In reality, people who wallow in self-pity are unhappy because their worthiness has gone unnoticed. “I haven’t received what I’m owed. I deserve better. No one treats me according to my worth.”

Those Who Weep

Here is an excerpt from a new book by Tish Harrison Warren, called Prayer in the Night. The book (and hence this excerpt) is about grief, sadness, and lament.

Lament is not only an act of self-expression or exorcising pain: it forms and heals us. The Psalms express every human emotion, but, taken up again and again, they never simply leave us as we are. They are strong medicine. They change us. The transformation they effect isn’t to turn our sadness into happiness; they don’t take grieving people and make them annoyingly peppy and optimistic. They never say “Chin up” or “It’s not so bad.” Nor do they tell us why we suffer.

10 Things You Should Know about the African Church

Here’s an informative post about how God is working in Africa, written by a pastor in Zambia.

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (2/12/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

10 Brief Reflections on an Elder’s Character

With officer nominations opening at our church on Sunday (February 14), and with the importance of a man’s character in the qualifications for elder and deacon, this seemed like a good article to promote first this week. As you consider nominating men for church office, please prayerfully consider their character!

The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Kindness seems in short supply these days. Megan Taylor wrote about the nature of true kindness as well as its counterfeit.

Without the Spirit, although our kindness may look as if it is directed towards others, it is brimming with self-love and fueled by pride and fear of man. Without a connection to the True Vine, we can only show false kindness. What is false kindness? False kindness is being useful to others only when it is useful to me. False kindness has contingencies. It will appear at advantageous times, such as when we are being observed, or around those we like, or to get what we want. False kindness is touted by the world as a slogan or a feeling. False kindness is Judas Iscariot feigning concern for the poor while skimming off the top of the money bag.

Pruned to Bear Fruit

Dawn Hill has written a moving reflection on Jesus’s vine-branches analogy in John 15. What does it mean that we—as the branches—are pruned, and that God is the one doing the pruning?

The branches are not the focal point. This is the focus: the vine. The tree. This is what gives life to the branches. It is what causes those branches to be fruitful, stubs abiding in the vine while being nourished to flourish so that more fruit can come forth in due season. It comes full circle in John 15, doesn’t it? Apart from Him we can do nothing. Jesus is the vine. He is the focus. We exist to glorify Him and to bear fruit testifying of the Vine.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Pray According to God’s Character. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Pray According to God’s Character

Prayer is often born of need. We hunger, we are lost, we are confused, and we cry out to God. He has the power and authority we lack.

As we grow in Christ, we get to know God better. And as we read the Bible, we see mature saints praying in mature ways.

Moses Pleads With God

As the nation of Israel was making and worshipping a golden calf, Moses was on Mount Sinai. God was furious, and he let Moses in on his thinking.

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (Exodus 32:9–10)

Israel’s idolatry was so offensive that God was ready to start over. Ponder that for a moment; it is staggering.

But Moses wasn’t ready for God to destroy his people. In Exodus 32:11–13 Moses pleads with God to relent. This is a powerful prayer, and it’s instructive to examine Moses’s logic.

As Moses prays, he draws on God’s words, actions, and revealed character. Moses knows God and speaks with him as a friend (Ex 33:11).

Petition 1

O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? (Exodus 32:11)

Moses reminds God he has rescued his people from Egypt. The key argument, however, is just beneath the surface. What’s the reason God has brought them out of Egypt? Yes, he saw their suffering and felt compassion—he wanted to deliver them from a bad situation. But there’s more.

God redeemed his people because he wanted to be with them! By his rescue God was taking Israel to be his people and pledging himself to be their God (Ex 6:7). Moses sang about God’s loving redemption bringing the people to his house (Ex 15:13,17). God himself said how he bore Israel “on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex 19:4). Most notably, we see God’s purpose for the tabernacle.

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8)

God can’t dwell with his people if he exterminates them.

Petition 2

Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. (Exodus 32:12)

Now Moses is concerned with God’s reputation. He doesn’t want the Egyptians to have any ammunition for accusing God of “evil intent.”

Don’t brush this aside, because God is quite concerned with his reputation! He wanted the exodus to confirm his identity (YHWH) to the Egyptians (Ex 7:5; 14:4). His actions will bring him glory and proclaim his name in all the earth (Ex 9:16). God is particularly concerned that Pharoah and his army recognize his glory (Ex 14:17–18).

For any lesser being, a devotion to one’s own glory would be idolatry. But for God, there is no one greater! To avoid idolatry, God must promote his own name above all others. Moses knows this, so he appeals to God’s holy desire to glorify himself. His glory is at stake if he kills the Israelites.

Petition 3

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ (Exodus 32:13)

Moses knows that God is a promise keeper. And Moses knows that this promise to the patriarchs must be fulfilled.

We’ve read this promise earlier in Exodus (Ex 2:24). Moses tells us that God “remembered his covenant” with the fathers, and this moved him to act when Israel cried out from their slavery.

God has also told Moses to remind Israel of this promise. Moses tells the people that God will take them out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex 6:8).

To Moses, the idea of God starting over is outlandish. Despite the horrific sin the people have committed, God has promised. And because God cannot break his promise, he must relent.

God Responds

And he does relent. We read this immediately after Moses’s prayer.

And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. (Exodus 32:14)

Moses served as the mediator, crying out to God for mercy on his people. Moses appealed to God’s character and his promises, and God responded. What a loving God!

In Moses, we have both a picture of Jesus and a model for ourselves. God’s righteous wrath “burned hot” against Jesus instead of us. We should have been wiped out, but Jesus stepped in.

Jesus is still our mediator (Heb 7:25, Rom 8:34). Based on God’s character, his promises, and what Jesus has accomplished, Jesus prays for God’s ongoing favor toward his people.

We pray as well. As we pray for ourselves, our friends, our enemies, and those on the other side of the planet, Moses’s prayer provides instruction.

Let’s get to know God better through his word. Let’s rejoice in his purposes and his character. And let’s pray to him based on who we know him to be.

Post credit | Photo credit

Links for the Weekend (2/5/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

What Do You Mean by ‘Unity’?

I appreciated this article by Quina Aragon about what unity is and is not, according to the Bible.

It’s important for us to keep in mind the biblical vision, especially when we hear hollow unity calls that fail to also call us to repent of damage done to others. If we really want true and virtuous unity among God’s people, that both reflects him and also expresses the unity his Son secured on the cross, then we must examine ourselves. Are we insisting on our own way or dismissing others’ pain (Phil. 2:3–4; Luke 10:25–37)? Then we must repent, resolving anew to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The Lost We Love the Most

If we’ve already shared the gospel, and if there’s been no response, how do we continue to love our friends and family?

But what if evangelism is about more (not less) than sharing the content of the gospel? What if people are more complex and unpredictable than we may think? And what if the situation with our spouse, friend, child, parent, or neighbor is more dynamic than Satan would have us believe? In the face of an apparent stalemate, it’s refreshing and encouraging to remind ourselves of three dynamic realities in any relationship with a lost loved one.

Do Not Despise the Gentle Nudge

While there are exceptions, we often need many small nudges instead of large shoves in order to stay on a faithful path with God.

These little adjustments to our spiritual lives, while seemingly small and insignificant by themselves, make all the difference in avoiding spiritual danger and experiencing intimacy with God.

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (1/29/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

4 Misconceptions about Contentment

It is difficult to grow in contentment if we have the wrong idea of what it is. Melissa Kruger writes to correct some of our misconceptions about contentment.

Contentment does not mean that we are free from desires, longings, or heart-wrenching circumstances. If you are hurting or someone you love needs healing, cry out to God in prayer. Contentment isn’t apathy or a sort of “grin and bear it” mentality. We can seek solutions and help in our trials. We can tell others we are suffering. Crying out to God for relief is not in opposition to contentment.

An Open Letter to a Sinner

How do we fight against strong temptations when the battle has raged on so long? Mike Emlet helps us understand in this article.

I see that you are at a true crossroads. You’re getting weary and discouraged, fighting against desires that threaten to take you far afield of God’s design for your life. But it’s more than that. I heard notes of cynicism as you spoke. You’re entertaining voices that say, “God wants me to be happy, not miserable” or “It shouldn’t be this hard” or “What’s the point of these oppressive rules?” Increasingly, obedience seems pointless to you. You’re thinking, “Why not give in and give up, once and for all?”

Foundations Podcast with Ruth & Troy

Here is a podcast suitable for the whole family. Using Scripture, hosts Ruth and Troy Simons talk through 12 key truths (one for each episode) to connect all family members’ hearts to God. This might make a good choice for your next round of family devotions.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Erica Goehring called Work as for the Lord. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week.

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Work as for the Lord

In late 2020, I attended a cesarean birth with my client and her husband. An unexpected complication led to a quick drive to the hospital and a long wait for surgery. As a birth doula, during a c-section I am typically seated near the head of my client, next to her birth partner. I provide moral support for the pair and a hand to squeeze for anyone who needs it. Only inches away on the other side of a sterile curtain, a team of doctors and nurses do their specialized work with fine-tuned precision. From my vantage point, I see only a sea of blue backs and caps. Voices are low, and each person knows exactly where to stand and how to move around the crowded space. Every step is planned and executed, gears turning smoothly in a living machine.

Typically, the anesthesiologist is the only person on our side of the curtain. That early morning surgery was no different, but this time, the man who managed the patient’s anesthesia would leave a lasting impact on me. 

A Perfect Encounter

Hours before we were taken back to the OR, my client and her husband passed the time by creating a careful playlist, a mix of uplifting and sentimental favorites that would be the soundtrack of an unforgettable moment, the birth of their child. A few of their choices were Christian worship songs, and I smiled as I noticed the common faith that I didn’t know we shared. My client noted that I had mentioned “church” in one of our conversations, and the knowledge that I was a believer gave her peace and made her not worry about her song choices surprising me. 

As the selection of music played during the surgery, the anesthesiologist busily did his work. He adjusted dials and gauges here and there, monitored vital signs, shared a few lighthearted jokes, and frequently asked how my client was feeling. A new song selection rang out, and the blessed name of Jesus suddenly filled the room. The anesthesiologist paused and said with a smile, “I approve of this song choice!” He began to sing along under his breath. In his quiet way, he made his belief known, and with those words, he invited himself into the moment. In the most unexpected of places, the four of us had an unanticipated encounter with fellow believers and engaged in a short but heartfelt moment of worship.

Work in a Secular World

According to a study conducted by Barna Group and released in 20181, Christians increasingly reject a “spiritual hierarchy” of employment (for example, the idea that the job of a pastor is more important than that of an accountant). Instead, modern American Christians are more likely to blur the line between secular and sacred work as they embrace a sense of vocation in all work, a belief that various forms of employment outside of traditional ministry can be callings for which God has specifically equipped a person.

Even with a growing sense of vocation among us, many Christians also recognize that outward expressions of faith are often unwelcome in secular workplaces. Teachers in public schools and secular universities could face reprimand for openly preaching the gospel in class. A doctor or lawyer may be frowned upon for giving his or her Christian testimony in a conversation with a patient or client. As an entrepreneur, I have the right to share my spiritual faith, but I am also keenly aware that a major component of my work is to set an expectant family at ease during an intimate and often challenging experience. I must “read the room” with wisdom and care, and introducing details of my personal life is not always the best way to do my job well. 

All Work is for the Lord

Must Christian employees feel constantly at odds between God’s call upon their lives and the expectations of the world? How can a believer work for the Lord under the constraints of a secular environment?

First, take heart in knowing that evangelizing and sharing Scripture are not the only ways in which Christians do their work for the Lord. These are small components in a much larger picture. Colossians 3:23 reminds us, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” The word heartily points to industriousness, working with vigor and steadfastness. This word points to consistency and effort. All of these qualities speak to attitude and approach rather than specific tasks. Additionally, we see that our work is done for the Lord. Our purpose should be attached to the Lord’s pleasure, not merely the opinions of our clientele and superiors. Verse 24 continues, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Here we are pushed to look past wordly benchmarks that might be measures of man’s success, and instead, we are meant to look to the Lord for our reward.

Colossians 1:10 reads, “you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Here we see, again, that the manner in which we conduct our work matters to God and is a reflection of who we are in him. In the fruit we produce and the growth we display, we are honoring him. In the workplace, any of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) contribute to a positive environment and build healthier relationships. Certainly, a display of patience could diffuse a tense interaction or a demonstration of self-control could lead to productive teamwork despite heightened emotions. As so often happens, God’s word speaks to the greater spiritual good but does not fail us in the practical matters of living and working in this world.


I hope that the anesthesiologist can be an encouragement to all of us. This medical professional performed his job with excellence. I have no doubt he provides medical care of the highest quality for every patient on his docket, regardless of the music they choose in the operating room. Yet, he selected a subtle comment in a perfect moment to provide comfort and camaraderie, to serve the Lord with his words and actions, while never compromising the expectations of his position. I was moved in that moment, and I immediately thought of the potential opportunities I have in my work to express the truth of the gospel in a world that needs it.

Photo credit

  1. Quoted in Study: American Christians Are Erasing the Divide Between ‘Sacred’ and ‘Secular’ Jobs, The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter, September 25, 2018.

Links for the Weekend (1/22/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Why Mourning Can Be Good for Us

Crossway has posted an excerpt from Paul Tripp’s Lenten devotional. Mourning might not seem like a fun or particularly good thing, but Tripp explains the good it can do for our souls.

We should be rejoicing people, because we have, in the redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus, eternal reason to rejoice. But this side of our final home, our rejoicing should be mixed with weeping as we witness, experience, and, sadly, give way to the presence and power of evil. Christ taught in his most lengthy recorded sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, that those who mourn are blessed, so it’s important to understand why. Mourning means you recognize the most important reality in the human existence, sin.

The Blessing of Weariness

This article seems to go hand in hand with the previous one. David Qaoud writes about how weariness can help us identify with Jesus, enjoy God’s good gifts, and identify weaknesses in our life.

Yet the cause does not always lie in us. If we are reading our Bibles rightly, in fact, we should expect many mornings of ordinary devotions: devotions that do not sparkle with insight or direct-to-life application, but that nevertheless do us good. Just as most meals are ordinary, but still nourish, and just as most conversations with friends are ordinary, but still deepen affection, so most devotions are ordinary, but still grow us in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There are no Shortcuts

Kristin Couch shares how her devotional habits have changed and how central the Bible should be in our spiritual lives.

There are no shortcuts. More Bible equals more discernment. You will know what is phony only after you have filled yourself up with truth. Hard days will ensue, sooner or later. Fear not. Stand firm. The salvation of the Lord is coming. He will fight for us, his children, as we stand trusting and still.

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (1/15/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Are Paper Bibles Better?

At Desiring God, David Mathis urges us to read our Bibles deeply and meditatively. And, for some people, this might mean that they need to spend more time with a physical Bible.

I want to invite you, here at the outset of a new year, to join me in doing something countercultural: get a paper Bible and learn to read it differently from your phone and other screens, and make the words of God your rock in a world of multiplied words of sand. You don’t need an old tattered, torn, marked up, and re-covered Bible like mine. You might consider, though, whether paper might make a difference in your time alone with God. There is some research to consider, not just my experience.

A Word of Hope for Those with Chronic Pain

This was written during Advent, but I think it is still helpful. We all experience chronic pain or know someone who does. What does it look like for people with such pain to wait in hope?

Waiting in chronic pain can wear you down, shrivel your love, fill you with self-pity, and poison your heart. Or it can refine your character, build your patience and endurance, and increase your longing for God. Whether our waiting does the one or the other largely depends on what we believe is on the other side of this suffering.

How to Overcome Temptation

Jared Wilson reflects on Jesus’s temptation by the devil and what we can learn from it about fighting sin.

Thanks to Jesus, temptation doesn’t have to be our undoing. Until he returns, we will struggle with sin, but we can fight against it and the constant attraction to it we face, if we will cling to Christ’s grace and follow Christ’s example in staying alert, staying focused, and staying in the word that gives power.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called I Am Not Enough. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

I Am Not Enough

When my son was born, due to stay-at-home orders we had none of the external resources we had planned to lean on. Play dates and church programs for our daughter, housekeeping and childcare help for us, even parks and library outings disappeared overnight. 

It was just Zack and me—and we were not enough.

We were not enough to be the sole source for our two-year-old’s social interactions. We were not enough for the bottomless needs of a newborn. I struggled and usually failed to live out the fruits of the Spirit while tired and stressed. Of course, we had never been “enough,” but before we could hide behind all the things we used to supplement our own parenting. 

It’s crushing to know as a parent that you are not enough for your kids. 

A Sufficient Grace

Paul also confronted his own weakness, a mysterious “thorn.” He pleaded with God to remove it, but God did not. Paul wrote:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

When we are not enough, God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is sufficient to preserve my kids through hardship and loneliness. God’s grace is sufficient to forgive my failures, like when I snap at my kids because I’m just done with today. And by God’s grace our weakness makes room for the power of Christ to fill us with the ability to serve and give and love when there’s nothing left in us. 

We are not called to hide our weaknesses or project an image that we’ve got it all together. Paul says he boasts of his weakness, because that makes it clear it is Christ at work, not himself. 

A Sufficient Gospel

God working through weakness sits at the core of the gospel. Paul points out in the following chapter that Christ himself “was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4). Christ became weak, so weak that he died, and through his “weakness,” God demonstrated his power to save. 

We can lay at Jesus’s scarred feet the places where we feel we are not up to the task. Jesus doesn’t ask us to be enough; he asks us to lean on him. Much like God gave Paul his thorn, he places things in our lives—like pandemics and newborns—that we are unable to handle. These things drive us back to the cross, reminding us that we do not live by our own strength but by Jesus’s power through the Holy Spirit. 

*Record scratch*

There’s a rub here: Some days I still find myself feeling spent by 11 a.m., and Jesus has yet to show up to watch my kids while I take a nap. What does it mean to live in the power of Christ in the day-to-day? 

A lot of prayer, for one. Prayer has (at least) two benefits. One, you truly are soliciting supernatural help from the Lord of the universe. Two, the act of praying leads you to rehearse the truth of the gospel. I find myself repeating back to God his own truths, like God’s patience with us and Jesus’ boundless sacrifice. Bringing these truths to mind can put your own struggles in context and lead you to have more patience with, say, the sixth time you’ve asked the toddler to put on socks. Totally hypothetical example.

God also placed us in a community. It was hard to take care of my family without support—because God designed people to need one another. Christians individually and the church collectively are God’s literal hands and feet in the world. It is unlikely that Jesus will personally show up to do my dishes. But he might remind me that my soapy hands are being used to serve the tiny neighbors in my home, just like Jesus’ pierced ones served me. 

In those early weeks of my son’s life, I felt numb with the truth of my own inadequacy. God had placed more on me than I could handle, and it was crushing me. While I could have happily gone my life long without such a stern reminder, I have also never seen so clearly that every step was not in my own strength. God—in his mercy!—places overwhelming circumstances in our way, not to cause us to rise to the occasion, but to drive us, like the crack of a whip or the sting of spurs, to himself.

Photo credit