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.
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 in the power of my own strength!
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 that we feel like we have nothing left to give.
Paul shared a similar experience:
For we do not want you to be unaware brethren of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength so that we despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8).
He passionately loved his Savior, and 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:
In order that we should not trust in our selves but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9).
I was recently lamenting to a wise friend my personal frustrations at feeling like I had nothing left to give. To my surprise, she didn’t say “push harder.” She didn’t even seem surprised by what had brought me to the point of acknowledging, “I have nothing left to give.” 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? Are you feeling 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 even 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 (John 15:5).
He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Corinthians 12:9).