Recently, I was startled awake by a nightmare. In my nightmare, I was being stalked by a psychopath who was in prison for stalking me. I know, who do I think I am in my dreams, Olivia Benson? At the point when I was awakened, this man had somehow escaped prison where he had somehow been able to tamper with a can of green beans that had somehow found it’s way into my pantry. When I went to take this can of green beans to show to my husband, I found that the psychopath had done away with him and was in our bed in my husband’s place. The next thing I knew, the psychopathic stalker was choking me with his bare hands. I woke myself up screaming to save myself from sure death and found I truly was screaming in real life.
That dream stuck with me when I woke up and I started thinking what I could have done in that scenario, you know, had it been real. I thought, I could grab my metal water bottle sitting beside me, clobber him upside the head and run. Well, if you know me and my current physical condition, you know that I am not running anywhere. I do more of what I call the Sophia Petrillo shuffle. That got me thinking about my physical condition and how it makes me feel, the terrible “V” word. You know the one – Vulnerable.
Several years ago, I went on a journey to get healthier and lose weight. I changed my diet and started going to the gym. On that journey, I started seeing success. I started losing weight and seeing other positive changes like decreasing my blood pressure as well as gaining physical endurance and strength. Along the way, there were emotional battles to fight like trying to love myself regardless of how much I weighed, learning to reward or comfort myself without food and the biggest and most surprising emotional battle I faced was feeling vulnerable. You see, I had this picture in my head of what a strong woman was and she certainly wasn’t vulnerable. A strong woman, in my head was: fierce, BA (and I don’t mean barely able), a take no bull and don’t mess with me kind of lady, and she was a little large and heavier, intimidating woman. The exact opposite of what I defined as vulnerable.
That was a really difficult emotional battle for me, but I started changing that picture in my head one dumbbell, one barbell, one rugged trail and one mountain peak at a time…well, they seemed like mountains, ok. I worked through those feelings and my idea of a strong woman changed from a picture in my head of a large, heavy intimidating woman to a strong woman being a woman who was physically able, who could lift those weights and hike those trails like I was doing. But, here I am now in a place where I can’t lift those weights and I can’t hike those trails. So, what now?
That nightmare made me realize that I am back in a place of feeling vulnerable because of my physical weakness and limitations (which is due to an autoimmune muscle disease). In those early hours that morning, I felt the Lord tugging at my heart telling me that we – He and I – need to once again change that picture in my head of a strong woman and find a new definition of strength. There is certainly more to strength than the physical nature. So, what if I think about strength differently? What if being strong is less about being physically able and more about being spiritually, mentally and emotionally able? Maybe strength is an inner courage. Confidence. Resolve. Grit. Gumption. Moxie. Fortitude. Resilience.
As I pondered this, I realized that maybe I am not alone in struggling right now with feeling vulnerable. Look around at our world. We are living in such uncertain and certainly unusual times. These days it feels like I am standing next to a volcano that is rumbling and ready to spew at any given moment. Can anybody relate? The last year for me has been a struggle that started long before any of us had heard of the Coronavirus and before the new catchphrases “sheltering in place” and “flattening the curve” were a part of our vocabulary. My physical strength was deteriorating, and honestly, my spiritual, mental and emotional strength were taking a bit of a beating. But something else kept me going, bolstered me up and got me through – an inner strength. I can tell you that the source of my inner strength is not based on me…not on my willpower, self-confidence or self-assurance. So, where does that kind of strength, that inner courage come from?
The Bible has a lot to say about this source of strength:
The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; Habakkuk 3:19 AMP
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock and strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26 AMP
Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on Me. Isaiah 30:15 MSG
The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory. Exodus 15:2 NLT
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29, 31 NLT
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b NLT
The God of all loving grace…will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger than ever. 1 Peter 5:10 TPT
But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen you… 2 Thessalonians 3:3
It is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in me that keeps me going. It is faith in a Sovereign God, not a pie-in the-sky or genie in a bottle kind of faith in God, but a deep feeling of “even if I don’t know how or I don’t like the result, I know it’s all going to work out the way it should because He is GOD and He is in charge.” It’s not a Pollyanna pipe dream that every day is going to be great with sunshine and puppies. Some days will be hard. Some days I will have pain, physical and emotional. Things will not always go the way I want or hope or dream. People I love will get sick. People I love will die. Again, I will have pain. I will get sick. I, too, will leave this earth. Jesus said this in John 16:33(TPT), “And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” I will have trouble and sorrows. It is a given. But, I can experience peace and rest in Him in the midst of those troubles and sorrows because He has conquered this world and the Lord has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again.
God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide? No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails. When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.
When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
Even in heavy winds and huge waves, or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless. Psalm 46:1-3 VOICE
I want to be a strong woman who is sure and fearless. I want to be a strong woman who is sure and fearless in the face of uncertainty and weakness. I want to be a strong woman who is sure and fearless in the face of trouble and sorrows. And, I can be. What I can be sure and fearless in is that God loves me. God is in control. God sees the whole big picture and He holds the plan. God’s plans for me are good. God orchestrates everything to work toward something good and beautiful for me. God knows every detail of my life right down to the number of hairs that seriously need a cut, color and highlight on my weary head. He does not delight in my suffering, but rather mourns with me. Because at the end of the day, you and I are His most beloved creation and He wants nothing more than my whole heart, soul, and mind to belong to Him, for me to see Him and acknowledge Him in my everyday life and for me to worship Him.
I want to be a strong woman who is sure and fearless. Don’t you?