I dropped on the couch exhausted; something had to be wrong. An hour earlier, enthusiasm had soared as I headed out the door to mow the lawn as a surprise for my husband. The warm summer sun and the anticipation of using our new self-propelled lawn mower only increased my eagerness to get started. Yet within minutes, every pass across the front yard seemed increasingly difficult. Although exerting every ounce of energy I could muster, it seemed the harder I pushed the more I realized I had nothing left to give.
Pushing harder ultimately leads to exhaustion because God never intended for us to accomplish His purposes for our lives.
I called my husband, and hearing his voice brought a flood of emotions as I described all that had transpired. With unwavering calmness he asked, "Carrie, were you holding down the self-propelled bar?" Unbelievable. I had just mowed our entire front yard with the power of my own strength!
Pushing in My Own Power
I can assure you I'll never make that mistake again. But I'm realizing it's possible for those of us who love Jesus to find ourselves in a similar place. We can push harder and harder until we become so spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted we feel we have nothing left to give.
Paul shared a similar experience:
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death (2 Cor. 1:8).
Paul passionately loved his Savior. His life was consumed with a desire to know more of Jesus and to make Him known. This is the man who—by the grace of God—"pushed through" being severely criticized, whipped, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. Yet here, Paul seems unable to push through the oppression of this trial. As he teeters on the brink of despair and hopelessness, Paul admits he has nothing left to give.
John MacArthur says God was bringing Paul to the "point at which he could not fall back on any intellectual, physical, or emotional resource." Why would our loving heavenly Father allow those He loves to go through such a season of hardship and utter discouragement? The next verse gives us the answer:
But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9).
It's Always Been Jesus
I was recently lamenting to a wise friend my frustration at feeling like I had nothing left to give. To my surprise, she didn't say "push harder." Rather, with a tenderness wrought only from personal experience she whispered, "You never did, Carrie . . . It's always been only Jesus."
Oh, the profound simplicity of gospel truth! Pushing harder ultimately leads to exhaustion because God never intended for us to accomplish His purposes for our lives. Trying to do so is like mowing the lawn with a self-propelled lawn mower in the power of our own strength.
Has the Lord been revealing deeper levels of need in your own life? Do you feel like you have nothing left to give? Are you pushing hard to accomplish all that is on your plate but finding yourself increasingly exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Are you perhaps resisting being utterly dependent upon Jesus . . . for everything?
Oh, Lord, speak to our hearts today. Teach us to embrace the reality of our weakness that the fullness of Your glory and power might be displayed through us.
Apart from me you can do nothing (Jesus in John 15:5).
He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor. 12:9).