I discovered Dove chocolates (with almonds!) in the cabinet above the fridge. If I stand on tiptoes, strain with all my might and fully extend my arm, I can reach the bag. I need chocolate. Nothing will stop me, not even a little pain.
Strain: to stretch to maximum extension; to exert oneself to the utmost; to strive; to pull against resistance; difficult exertion or labor.
How many times do I choose ease over strain when good, but difficult, options present themselves? Actually, never mind; I don’t want to sit in regret over the missed opportunities.
A few months ago, when I attended the Total Strength Y class I strained my arms and core to lift weights. I really hate push-ups and planks—they’re the hardest. But, over time, I increased my strength. When I strained I got stronger.
I’m not a driven person. I’m a peacemaker. (Why can’t we all get along?) I’m no expert on the Enneagram, but the Nine type describes me to a T. I was skeptical to look into the analysis, but it has helped me understand myself and improve my communication.
I’m not proud to admit it, but there are many times when I’ve waited for my husband, or a friend, to make a decision or take action for me. I’ll gladly let someone carry the load and I will dutifully follow their lead. I’ll buckle down, commit to the task, and get the job done. But, there are numerous times I’ve hoped something would work out before I was required to do anything.
God has allowed me to walk through heartbreaking circumstances in which I was forced to take action rather than wait on someone else. The most painful experiences made me stronger, as I took responsibility even while timid.
Oswald Chambers’, My Utmost for His Highest is a long time companion of mine. I haven’t found other devotionals that express deep relatable truths to my heart.
God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is not strength. Am I asking God to give me life and liberty and joy? He can’t unless I accept the strain. I must face the strain to get the strength.
My Utmost for His Highest, August 2
In a memoir I read recently, the author describes the very difficult delivery of her baby girl. As she cried out in pain and begged for help, her husband, with a soft touch, leaned into her face and said, “No one is going to help you. This is on you.” Somehow, she said, knowing it was all up to her to get the almost ten pounder delivered, she strained and found a new strength. She pushed and gave it everything she had to get that baby out.
I also found strength as I read her words. The notion that no person is going to help me causes me to bow up and find a strength I didn’t know was there.
The Christian message can be confusing at times; especially for seekers or new believers. We’re told we are weak; we can do nothing without God. Other times we’re supposed to be strong; to fight the “good fight”. My simple explanation is this: we can do anything God calls us to do as we utilize supernatural strength from the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus
Do I reach for a closer relationship with Christ as determinedly as I reach for chocolate? Do I strain, even in discomfort to seek him, to listen to him and honor him with my life? Will I choose to not camp out in my past, but cling to him for my future?
The famous poet, Robert Browning said,
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.
I feel compelled by God to write authentically about my life. Being transparent scares me, but I’m more afraid to not write. I don’t want to look back in regret when I’m 80. It’s where my personal strain is today. I constantly reach for wisdom and strength to convey his truth.
When I strained for chocolate I learned that I’m able to reach a bit further than what I’ve already grasped or obtained; even as as an Enneagram nine.