O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. Ps. 59:9
Perhaps this will be known as the decade of “vulnerability.” We’ve been working up to this in all things self-help for more than a decade. It was a predictable pendulum swing from our bootstrap forebearerers’ game-face self-sufficiency. Popular psychology researcher Brené Brown exemplifies this trend as she speaks to the hearts of fearful, shame-filled people. If you are not familiar with her engaging (but secular) work, you might start here. She gives us permission to be weak and soft and inviting and real. However, I wonder if society, psychology and faith aren’t in danger of losing sight of an opposite quality which is just as important: strength.
There are literally hundreds of references to strength in the Bible, many of them encouraging us to seek the strength of God. Our weakness is a good thing because it summons humility, engenders community and reveals our dependence. But it is still a lack, an absence. As darkness is an absence of light, so weakness is an absence of strength. We are weak so that we will find our strength in the Lord. That kind of strength doesn’t mean pretending to be something you are not; it means trusting that that there is something mightier than our own efforts, and that we have access to it.
King David is a great example of someone who was not afraid to reveal his weakness and also recognized the value of power. In times of distress David often sought God’s warm, reassuring presence, but in many of his psalms he also cried out for God’s strength. In fact, he calls out, “O my Strength,” naming God Strength, in Psalm 59. It is not only true that the Lord collects our tears and offers us consolation; He also gives us the capacity we lack to accomplish His good purposes in the midst of difficulty, purposes which might require forbearance (not giving way to childish or impulsive gestures), or require the courage to act, to fight, to speak up.
David likens his enemies to jackals and his Protector to a fortress, but we no longer rely on stone fortresses for protection or fear packs of wild dogs in the street. Because our fears are less physical, we tend to forget that God’s promises are just as applicable. Perhaps you lack the strength to show up at work after that last debacle or to face your spouse’s criticism again or to parent your disabled child one more day. God knows the forces arrayed against you and lovingly welcomes your weakness and fears. But He is also the source of all legitimate strength. God gave David some daring ways out of his many dangerous dilemmas – along with the strength to make it through. He can do the same for you. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” Phil. 4:13.
No wild dog ever breached a fortress. Nothing in creation is stronger than the God who lives in you. When we reach the end of ourselves and have only the power of God to rely upon, we are stronger than ever.