Have you ever read a passage of Scripture that was so perfect for the moment you’re in that it moved you to tears?
That’s what happened to me last night.
You see, I received some news a few days earlier that I wasn’t prepared to hear. I found out that my newborn baby needs surgery…again. Our little 4-month old, Lucy, has overcome a lot, and she still has more hurdles in the future.
We’ve known this since she was born. But I just wasn’t expecting to hear one of her many doctors say that she would need another surgery so soon.
Lucy has congenital hip dysplasia; her little feet face outwardly and the sockets of her hips are not in place. Earlier interventions have not worked to resolve the issue, which means she will likely have multiple surgeries. Lucy will also be in a cast for some time afterward, and she will not follow the normal progression and development for a child her age in crawling, walking, and many other areas of physical movement. At the moment, we also are not sure how long all of this will be a major issue for her.
Lucy’s appointment was with an orthopedist, who had previously placed her in a brace and ordered another ultrasound less than half a month before. The doctor entered the room after reading Lucy’s latest ultrasound on her hips and declared that the brace she had been wearing was doing nothing. A date on the operating table was scheduled for a couple months later, when she reaches six months of age.
I felt a clenching in my heart and I thought, “Another surgery? I thought we’re done with the surgeries for a few years!”
Our family has been through a lot in the past year, and adding more surgeries felt overwhelming. As a result, I found myself living under a lot of stress and pressure. There has been so much going on and the new severity of her hip problem just felt breathtaking to comprehend.
Honestly, I’m not afraid of the surgeries or concerned that Lucy will not make it through. Lucy will ultimately be fine. I’m just tired and trying to constantly adapt to what life looks like now. Not only are we learning what it’s like to parent two young kids, but we are also navigating taking care of Lucy, who has a lot of medical issues, including a feeding tube. Her lymphatic system is completely wrecked because of her in utero condition, hydrops fetalis, which requires daily massages to help move all of her excess fluid out of her body. Lucy has Turner Syndrome a chromosonal disorder that is the root cause of everything.
With all of these issues going on at once, I had just been hoping that nothing major would be added to the mix. Thankfully, every problem Lucy is facing can be cured or managed and her long-term prognosis is very good.
But when you have a lot on your plate, you really do not want to have anything else added, especially when you’ve already navigated so many problems already.
Of course, illness is always unpredictable, as I am sure you are aware. Sometimes the cancer comes back. Or the treatment doesn’t work. Or one surgery leads to another, and then another.
So what do you do when you’ve traversed a well-beaten down and hard road only to find the path is even longer than you thought?
We always knew the journey with Lucy would be difficult. We just thought we would have a bit of a rest for the time being. She was born October 17th, came home from the hospital on December 11th, and by the beginning of February, she was already being scheduled for more extensive surgery.
Life is never what you expect it to be, is it? When we are teenagers, or perhaps even young adults, we often look at the world through a lens of wonder, possibility, and innocence. That’s what I love about young people; I love their idealism and their positivity. But something happens to most of us as we age, we become impacted by the world around us.
And it is a tough and hard world – because it is not our home. This world where we reside now is not where we were created to live.
It all started way back in the Garden in Genesis where everything when awry. That’s when the first humans decided they wanted to be like God and ate from the forbidden tree. Then everything changed and innocence morphed into a harsh reality.
Oh, there is so much to say on this topic, more than we can cover in this article alone. But it’s because of the Fall that we find ourselves in a sphere where trouble can come to us at any time.
So what do we do? Where do we go? How do we survive?
And that’s the question – the key to it all. Where do we go or what do we do when hardships fall on us?
Of course, when trouble strikes, there are always options to turn toward. Here are some very popular ones :
Of course, that’s just a few, but you get the idea. When life gets hard, people typically resort to some variation of these common practices.
So when I came back from the doctor’s appointment and shared with Aaron that Lucy is going back to the hospital in two months, well, he too was taken aback as well.
The news hit him hard and he was overwhelmed with the reality that Lucy will have to go back to the operating table, and it really affected his behavior.
After a few days, I spoke with him and said:
“Listen, you have to be strong.”
“Lucy needs us to be strong.”
“We can’t break.”
“This surgery will make her healthy.”
As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, I knew they weren’t entirely true. While I do believe that this surgery is just another thing on a long list of issues we need to tackle with Lucy, I knew the approach I had adopted for dealing with this scenario wasn’t right.
I was taking this on in my strength, not God’s.
How did I know? Simple – I was hardened.
What did the hardening look like? It’s tough to describe. I wasn’t yelling or even mad. Just tired. I simply felt like we couldn’t afford to breakdown – we needed to keep moving.
It’s a philosophy I don’t believe in, but here I found myself playing it out like an old record.
In that moment, I knew where my sense of strength was coming from, and it wasn’t God. It was me and me alone.
Strength is an interesting concept. Because a person can have strength and not walk with God. Strength is not a Fruit of the Spirit.
You can find many people that are able to persevere in trials with a tremendous amount of personal strength, even with little to no relationship with God. That is because strength is not specifically a virtue found only in Christian people. Strength is an innate characteristic for humanity in general, necessary for the survival of our species.
And we can see personal strength everywhere, in business, politics, and even some religious leaders. People can achieve success and overcome obstacles without God. Any person who is successful, regardless of the field or discipline, understands the importance of strength.
The danger of independent strength is that it can harden us and move us further from God.
We can become so accustomed to figuring it out on our own and operating in our own strength that we may not realize there is a whole other way to live. And believe it or not, many of us – Christians – live like this every day without realizing it.
Operating in our strength zaps our energy, and in the end, simply makes everything more difficult.
Although we may not always admit it – we’re limited, finite people. There is only so much we can do and we are not able to control the majority of circumstances. Sure, we think we can, but ultimately we are not in control. We ultimately cannot save a person from themselves or make circumstances outside of our control happen, no matter how hard we may try. We are not in charge.
When we operate in our strength, we are simply hurting ourselves.
And that’s when we become tired, irritable, worried, fearful, stressed, depressed…or worse.
When I choose to rely on myself, I am choosing to alienate myself from God.
It’s only when we surrender our efforts to grasp hold of circumstances in our own strength that we’re able to see God. And in Him, we’re able to find immeasurable strength.
The older I get, the stronger I become, and now it is my responsibility as an active follower of Jesus to keep myself in check. How much am I leaning on God and how much am I operating in my own strength? My life’s pursuit is to live closely tethered to Jesus because I believe that is the only life worth living. When I am operating in my own strength, well, I am not walking with God. I am walking alone.
Over the past few months, a thought has crept into my mind that has become more and more prominent. I’ve been saying to myself, “Keep your head down, Alexis.” In other words, I’ve been telling myself to, “Keep moving, don’t stop, don’t let your guard down, your children need you.”
And I’ve felt pretty good with this wisdom, but oh, how it is wrong. My head shouldn’t be down – it needs to be up and focused on Jesus.
Turning attention to God is how my strength gets realigned and refueled.
Intentionally focusing my heart and mind on His deep and vast reality is what brings me out of the pit of self-reliance. It brings me to the reality that God is in control – and I am simply amazed. I am reminded again of who I am partnered with, and that is my Savior, the One who has done so much for me in my life, let alone for this world.
There was something else that happened after Lucy’s doctor’s appointment that day, where I learned about the upcoming surgery. On the way home, I had an overwhelming urge to find some sort of breakthrough. A way to bring myself through the bog of self-strength that had become my mire.
As I was traveling home from our doctor’s appointment that day, I stopped by a Lifeway Christian bookstore. There, I found a journal that I thought would be a nice tool in my box for helping me lean in on God’s strength over my own. This journal is a compilation of quotes and Scripture that provides room in the pages to write a reflection. After taking a glance at it, I felt like it was a good fit, but it wasn’t until later that night when I got home when I actually paid attention to this devotion’s title.
It was called “Strength and Joy.”
Strength & joy…what an interesting concept. Because I certainly wasn’t feeling joy in my strength. But, as I have learned with God, when we turn to God in dependency, He blesses us with His Fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Remember the Scripture I mentioned at the beginning of this story? The one that moved me to tears. Well, it came from the journal I just purchased.
Here’s what God said to me:
Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Isaiah 41:10 NKJV
As soon as I read these words I started crying because it was exactly what I needed to hear. My heart was just so heavy that day, and I was grieved that my daughter would be back on the operating table very soon. I was carrying a heaviness as I went about that day, but all the while God had this little nugget for me – a small treasure for my heavy heart.
Can you believe how tender and compassionate our God is?
We probably all know this on some level, but why do we always forget? Why do we have such a hard time living out the reality of being a daughter or son of a King?
This is what God does for us when we seek Him. He shows up. Sometimes it’s very hard to hear Him because we muddy the waters with our own thoughts, feelings, and plans. When we become consumed with worry and sadness, or even our attempts at perseverance, that we create static in the airways that prevent us from hearing God.
We must learn to make room for Him and stop our neuroticism. We can get lost so quickly, wrapped up in the determination to solve our own problems.
When we run to anything other than God, we operate in our own strength and that, friends, is a slippery slope.
So how can you break the cycle of self-reliance? With intentionality.
For me personally, I try to go to the places where I connect with God best. Here are some examples:
- Listening to worship
- Spending time reading the Bible
- Conversational prayer with Aaron
We all connect with God differently. For example, some use physical exercise or being in nature. Others connect by composing music or painting. Still, some can connect best through inner silence.
But the way to break the cycle of relying on our own very limited power and strength is simply to stop and connect to God over and over again.
We are all works in progress and God knows that. That’s why when we were sinners He came down and rescued us from ourselves (Romans 5:8). Glory be to God!
Below are some additional resources, reflection questions, and a prayer. We like to give you things to take, not just food for thought. We want to help you put principles into action.
Thank you for how You move and how You speak to our souls. It’s truly astonishing how You are always ministering to us. Thank you for caring so deeply about us that You do not leave us to figure out our problems solely. We need help in remembering You are always with us and Your power is pulsing through us at all times. Oh, how easily we forget and we are so sorry for that. Help us, Lord. Help us tether ourselves to You. We love You. Amen.
Maybe you too are traversing hardships and how is it that you are surviving?
How do you deal with things that trouble you?
How do you make space in your mind for God to speak to you, for Him to break through?
What are some of your favorite practices for connecting to God? Why not try some of them this week with intentionality?
We have a great devotion based off of the worship song “Same Power” by Jeremy Camp, you can find it here.
We have an article about finding God’s strength that may be helpful for you: “How To Find God’s Strength In You Right Now”
We also have published 30 free prayers to help you for when you are seeking strength in God: “30 Prayers For Strength To Say Right Now”
Are you on our email list? We treat our subscribers very well! We often publish freebies such as Christian Challenges and even publish free at home retreat guides. We write a lot about finding your connection to God through different, unique ways like a 30 Day Christian Challenge or devotionals based off of worship songs and loads more! We hope you sign up 🙂
If this article helped you, would you please share it via social media or email? In doing so, you can help us make a more significant impact for the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank you so much! ~Alexis and Aaron