“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10)
“Just be strong! You can make it!”
Ever heard someone encourage someone going through a rough patch in their life with an encouragement like that? Maybe they snapped back “Yeah, right!” Perhaps this led to feelings of anger or resentment. While such words are often intended to be encouraging, they overlook one big issue – we don’t have the capacity within ourselves to overcome every challenge or adversity which we face. This is especially true when facing mental health issues. Such words to a person who is in the midst of a mental health crisis can often send that person spiraling deeper as they become discouraged that they can’t do anything to help themselves.
Our Bible verse for this week points us to the often missing ingredient in that “be strong” encouragement – “in the Lord and in his mighty power."
In order to seriously take to heart the encouragement of our verse for this week, the first thing we need to do is lay aside our pride and our ego and realize our total helplessness and dependence on God. That is not an easy thing to do. Our human nature wants to say “I can do this!” or “I don’t need any help." That is nothing but selfish arrogance and pride! We need to repent of that and humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. The challenge is that so often people think of that humility as humiliating and make it a negative thing.
Christian faith realizes that we are nothing without God and anything that we do or accomplish is purely a blessing of his grace. So how do we get this “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power?"
First of all, take a look at your devotional, prayer and worship life. How much time do you spending strengthening or exercising your faith each day? There is a lot of emphasis in our day and age on physical fitness and indeed that is fine because our human body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit." But let’s not let our spiritual fitness slide as a result of our physical fitness.
Just like decent physical fitness requires regular ongoing activity, spiritual fitness and gaining strength in the Lord and his mighty power requires regular, ongoing activity. These weekly devotions are meant to be one component of that regular, ongoing activity. Do you begin and/or end each day in prayer thanking God for his blessings and asking for his strength? My heart is warmed when I see athletes young and old bowing for a moment of prayer before a game. This is not a show, but a true expression of gratitude and reliance on God.
Another thing to think about is setting aside a time each day for a devotion to dig into God’s Word and let him speak to you and strengthen you. One of the blessings of our age of technology is that you can have a devotion app on your phone or have any number of devotions automatically delivered to your inbox. If you want suggestions, ask your local chaplain or I’d be happy to share with you the three or four which greet me each morning when I wake up.
These verses from a rather well-known Christian hymn are a great prayer and encouragement to this end:
With the Lord begin your task; Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask; Jesus will perfect it.
Ev’ry morn with Jesus rise, And, when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes; Be to him commended.
Let each day begin with prayer, Praise and adoration.
On the Lord cast ev’ry care; He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might, With his presence cheer you.
With your Savior at your side Foes need not alarm you;
In his promises confide And no ill can harm you.
All your trust and hope repose In the mighty Master,
Who in wisdom truly knows How to stem disaster.
If your task is thus begun With the Savior’s blessing,
Safely then your course will run, Naught your soul distressing.
Good will follow ev’rywhere While you here must wander;
You at last the joy will share In the mansions yonder.
Posted by Joel Gaertner
Rev. Joel Gaertner is The Lutheran Home Association Vice President of Ministry and National Director of Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM). He provides spiritual guidance to our entire organization and develops and guides JCM programs in congregations. Pastor Gaertner and his wife, LuAnn, live in Cudahy, Wis., and have two adult children. Outside work, he enjoys golf, walking and watching just about any sporting event, especially the Green Bay Packers.