Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women and writes at LaurieCoombs.org. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their three daughters.
Jesus turned this world on its head. Things people thought they knew crumbled in light of His teaching.
The first are the last.
The greatest is the least.
The rich are the poor.
Life is found in death.
Strength is found in weakness.
Second Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “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.” You see, our weaknesses do not negate our strength. It's not about ridding ourselves of all our weaknesses, but allowing our weaknesses to become our strength. Allowing God to become our strength.
I still have weaknesses. LOTS and LOTS of weaknesses. And for a while there, I think I was trying to make them go away. I had mistakenly thought I had to be or feel strong in order to accomplish anything significant for the Kingdom of God, but I was wrong.
I've shared bits and pieces of our adoption story with you already, so I won't bore you with more of the details now. But I will say this: I was called to leave my entire world behind, including my wonderfully awesome and amazing husband and two daughters, to take a one way ticket to Africa when I was at my weakest. I felt weak emotionally, physically, and mentally. But what scared me most was that I felt weak spiritually. I can't even begin to tell you how this baffled me. Why, I wondered, in all these years of waiting, does it have to be NOW?
But then I got it.
My time alone in Africa was ridiculously beautiful in so many ways, but it was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. I wrestled like never before. I cried buckets of tears for so many reasons, but through it all, I learned a valuable lesson. It’s okay to be weak. Weakness draws us to our ultimate source of strength. And it is in Him alone that we find true strength.
We were never created to do it all or to be it all but were created to know the One who holds all things together. The One who is ALL.
I came home from Africa broken, elated and blessed beyond words, but broken. And for the first time, I just sat in it. I wasn’t trying to make it go away, and I wasn't scared of it because I think I knew for the first time that I had been broken for a reason. And there I found strength. True strength. I learned I didn’t need to be strong because He was. He is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7).
And here's the thing. Our brokenness does not disqualify us from living victoriously and making an impact with our lives. In fact, it's the very thing that qualifies us. It puts us in the race. It gives us a platform to speak into others’ lives. It gives us skin in game. I mean, after all, we can’t make an impact in a broken world without having been broken ourselves, right?
Used to think I could be strong and resilient if I could just conjured up enough strength within myself to overcome whatever life threw at me. To pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak. But I don’t believe that anymore. Instead, I believe true resilience and strength comes from knowing God. Knowing His heart toward you, that you are loved beyond measure by the Creator and sustainer of all things. Knowing who God made you to be, that there is a purpose for your life that is beyond your wildest dreams. It comes from a place of healing or working toward that end. A perspective of your past, present, and future that is rooted in Truth. The belief that God has good things planned for your future. And a connection to people who spur you on toward being the person you were created to be.
True strength is rooted and grounded in Jesus. He alone has the strength we need to not only endure the ups and downs of life but to thrive in the midst of them.
Any thoughts? Share in the comments.
I looked up the word resilience a few weeks ago. I was preparing for a speaking engagement I had coming up on the topic, and this is what I found:
noun | re·sil·ience | \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\
: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
Resilience is often prized. I'd venture to say that every one of us would like to be resilient. But what if we could be more than resilient?
I must admit I was a bit disappointed with this definition. I had honestly thought resilience was something greater than this. The moment I read this definition, I found myself challenging the notion that we're to become strong again or healthy again or successful again when something bad happens. I began challenging the thought that there's value to returning to our "original shape."
I mean, after all, where's the meaning and purpose of our trials if they don't induce change?
What if, when something bad happens, we were never intended to return to our original shape? What if the very thing we thought would destroy us is the thing intended to strengthen us and allow us to live more fully? To become stronger than ever before?
There was a time when I thought it was not possible to see good come out of my past. But I was proven wrong.
Years after my dad's murder, I sat around a table with some family members telling them all God had done in and through my life, hoping they'd want to receive the same healing I had. I told them about how I had wrestled and wrestled with what had happened to my dad after he died. I told them about all the happy masks I forced myself to put on year after year, and how many years later, I finally reached a point when I was emotionally unable to put on even one more. I told them about the anxiety and depression that ensued and how hopeless I became. I told them about the desperation I felt as the darkness closed in on me but that in that moment the light of God shone into my heart and soul like never before. I told them just how good the good news of the gospel was to me in that moment. That I was saved, plucked from the fire, as I cried out to Jesus. I told them about Anthony, the man who murdered my dad, and how I had forgiven him. And finally, I told them that I was healed, finally healed, because of what Jesus had done in and through me.
They sat, mostly silent as I spoke. Listening.
Then my aunt said, "Laurie I'm glad you've finally come to a good place again."
I didn't have a chance to respond to her before her son said, "No Mom. Laurie isn't saying she's finally come to a good place again. She's saying she's better than she's ever been before. Even before Uncle Rick died. Right?" He looked to me for confirmation.
I nodded my head. That's exactly right, I thought, with tears in my eyes.
He got it.
You see, Jesus had not returned me to my original shape. He had fashioned me altogether different. New.
Over and over again, I have seen Jesus use every bit of my pain. Though I would absolutely love to have my dad in my life right now, I can say with absolute certainty that my pain has made me better. And so will yours, if you allow Jesus to use it.
We need something greater than resilience. Something altogether new.
Any thoughts? Share in the comments.
Jesus is on the throne, now and forever. It seems I've been reminded of this continually lately. Life's circumstances have clouded my vision a bit, but with this simple reminder, I have consistently been brought back to the truth.
Troubles lose their weight when we see and believe this reality deep within our souls. This truth gives us a heavenly perspective on the circumstances we face and allows us the ability to endure trials with confident assurance that our God is in control.
Now, I cannot pretend to know all the reasons why God allows difficulties into our lives, but when confronted with them, I often think about what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi. He said, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need" (Philippians 4:11b-12, emphasis mine). Did you catch that? Paul learned how to be content. He learned how to face every circumstance thrown at him. Quite simply, we are not born with a propensity toward contentment, nor do we naturally face trials with joy, but we can learn to do so.
Elsewhere, Paul says, "I rejoice in my sufferings" (Colossians 1:24). James, the brother of Jesus, echoed Paul's sentiments when he said, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2-3). Trials are not meant to destroy us but are intended to test and discipline and strengthen and purify us.
We know that our God is good and faithful. We know God is sovereign and in control of all things. We know we are loved by God with a love that is far beyond comprehension. And we also know that it would be inconsistent with God's character for Him to allow difficulty into His children's lives that He did not intend for good. Our loving Father is not out to hurt us, but to mold us into the image of His Son, for our good and His glory.
James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him." During certain seasons of life, it can feel like we're made to endure one storm after another, but when this happens, we can rest in the knowledge that Jesus, "who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven," is not only with us in our battles but is fighting for us (Hebrews 8:1, Matthew 28:20, 2 Chronicles 20:17).
Right after Paul wrote about learning how to endure all things well, he said, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). This is the key, my friend. To live in complete and total dependance on Jesus––our Lord, our Savior, our Shepherd, our Counselor, our Prince of Peace, our Intercessor, our Advocate, our High Priest, our everything. May both you and I keep our eyes fixed on Him.
"To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!"
- Psalm 123:1
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
- Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis mine
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
- Hebrews 4:15-16, emphasis mine
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."
- 1 Peter 5:6-11, emphasis mine