February 18, 2010
by Patrick Lafferty
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father... that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being.
Ephesians 3:14, 16
For 65 hours, Dan Woolley lay in a darkened elevator shaft beneath the rubble of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, following the devastating earthquake of January 12. Bleeding from the back of his head and suffering from a compound fracture to his leg, Woolley used medical apps on his iPhone to diagnose and treat his injuries. (Could Steve Jobs have ever foreseen such a use?) When the likelihood of rescue seemed to recede, Woolley took pen in hand and composed what he thought would be parting notes to his wife and two sons.
In words to his boys, he wrote, “I was in a big accident. Don’t be upset at God. He always provides for his children, even in hard times. I’m still praying that God will get me out, but He may not. But He will always take care of you.” A kind of courageous strength welled up within him to face his death, and to do so in a way that would impart hope and strength to those he left behind.
Where do you find the strength to die?
Or the strength to say goodbye? To endure suffering, or confess grievous sin, or just persevere in unremarkable, quotidian events?
You find it in what Paul prayed when he prayed for the church at Ephesus. Tim led us to where Paul found that strength—and where we must also. It’s a strength instilled by the Spirit of God, deep in our heart where all hope and action is forged.
Paul calls it strength because it manifests in the ability to face any circumstance without terror or overwhelming despair. It brims with hope and courage that this moment is not vacant of God; that this is not the end of goodness; that though there may be true loss, all is not lost. All that constitutes the strength Paul prayed for when saying farewell to the elders at Ephesus for the last time in Acts 20.
But the strength is not self-existent or self-originating; it is grounded in something deeper still. This strength springs from an abiding confidence in one discernible but incomprehensible truth: that the love of Christ is real and powerful. Fortitude grows where faith rests in the fact that He sacrificed Himself, in love, to rescue you from your greatest calamity: a life vacant of God. Courage blossoms when you believe that He secured for you, in love, an irrevocable liberation from the fear of failure, the threats of men, and the sting of death. Hope teems when you trust that His love exerts itself in this very hour, sometimes palpably but often imperceptibly.
Christ’s love for you is stronger than the regret for sin, the heartbreak of disappointment, the pain of suffering, or the sorrow of death—more powerful than the weight of all those ravages. We cannot escape those ravages in this world, but we can, Paul says, find strength to face them with the same kind of hope Dan Woolley did beneath six stories of rubble.
Metaphorically speaking, do you find yourself in a dark, cramped place, where the prospects of rescue seem bleak? Are you in need of the strength Paul prays for? That Paul had to bow his knees in prayer for such strength confirms one thing. This strength cannot be manufactured. It can only be sought. It can only be bestowed.