"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Philippians 3:12).
As a young woman I struggled with severe health issues. Sometimes simply walking across the living room would tire me out. I was like an old, worn out battery with barely enough juice to make a light bulb flicker. I simply had no energy left to expend.
Spiritually, there are times where I can feel the same way. I’m going through the motions of prayer, serving and worship, but it feels empty, lackluster. It’s as if all of the power of God has been drained away and I’m left alone with simply myself. And who I am feels small, insignificant. Unable to do much of anything, let alone something positive or good. God’s voice seems very, very distant. I begin to doubt Him. I begin to doubt His goodness.
There’s a story in Mark 9:14-29 where a worried father brings his son to the disciples to be healed, but they were unable to do so. Then Jesus arrives. After sharing more details about his son, the man says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us.”
I get the "if." He’d been let down. By his circumstances, by his son’s health, and by religion. The disciples couldn’t help, after all. So here he is, talking to the great I Am, the Master of the universe and using the word “if.”
I land in the world of "if" from time to time. If you can help me, God, I think. If you can make a difference in this situation. If my life matters to You. I forget. My focus is on my circumstances and my past instead of who it is I am standing before.
Yet here is what I love. Jesus doesn’t chastise or rebuke the father. He doesn’t roll his eyes with annoyance and walk away. Instead, He gently and lovingly responds by reminding the dad of what is true: “’If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Everything is possible. Everything.
The man, for his part, immediately responds to the power of God with repentance and humility. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” he cries out. It is in this moment he takes a step toward spiritual grit.
You see, he wants healing for his son. He no longer cares how silly or ridiculous he looks. He’s not concerned with doing things the “right” way, or if he’s doing enough. He’s desperate and he knows something needs to be different in his approach and his response. And because he is helpless, he has nothing left to try but to press on toward faith.
Even with the disciples who had failed very publicly to heal the boy, Jesus was gentle. “Why couldn’t we drive out the demon?” they asked, I imagine with downcast eyes, shuffling their feet with a sense of inadequacy and failure. Again, Jesus simply responded with truth. “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.”
There are several reasons why I can sometimes struggle to really hear God’s voice speaking into my life. At the end of the day, I can boil it down to just one word: unbelief.
I’ve let fear invade my heart. My situation begins to create doubt concerning the Lord’s promises or character. I’m too focused on myself or others, too important to slow down and listen for God, or too angry to try. I doubt that God really loves me, really has a plan for me, or can really handle my anger and sense of injustice. That He really cares.
The lies that the enemy tells me about myself ring louder in my ears than God’s truth about who and whose I am. I start to think my sin is immune to His healing touch. My life is somehow the exception to His great, consuming love.
And I’m spiritually drained because of it.
In my moments of struggle and weakness, when the "if" becomes louder than the "everything is possible," just like the man in the parable, I need to cry out to Jesus for help. Even when I don't want to. Even when it initially feels futile. Even if the cry is the quietest of whispers.
I may need to stay on my knees a little longer, or forgo something to remind myself of who God is and what is true. In the "if" moments especially, my job is to press on. To place my situation in more capable hands than mine. In my moment of desperation, to take my eyes off of the enemy and the lies, fixing them firmly on Jesus instead. He alone is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). He alone has the strength to carry my burdens (Psalm 68:19).
So I pray. I fast (or forgo something). I choose to "press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Philippians 3:12). To choose to develop spiritual grit. Time has taught me that God can work miracles and bring light into the darkest spaces, even my own.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT How do you get re-energized when you feel spiritually drained? Or handle the lies of the enemy? Do you run closer to or away from God? This week, fight to make space to run to Him, trusting He is bigger than any “if” you can throw His way. The answer WILL come as you lean into Him.
PRAYER Lord, this life is hard sometimes, even as it is also full of blessing. When my faith is weak, when the answers seem far away and I can no longer hear Your voice, help me overcome my unbelief, my fear and my doubt. When I’m in seasons of joy and blessing, remind me to cherish them in my heart in order to lean on them should I face another storm. Thank You for the breakthroughs I know you have in store for me. I trust Your timing, Papa. Always You are good. Amen.
FOR MORE: Join us online Saturday, May 20th at 10 am Eastern for the "Monthly Toolbox: Press On." Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to invite her to speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.