There are times in life when we just need to be "made strong" - while we find ourselves quite able to find our own strength at others. What is most amazing is how differently we see the events of our lives turn out with each of these scenarios! To be "made strong" suggests there is nothing of value in my own strength which will help me weather the storm. To rely upon my own strength often means the greatest disasters I have ever faced!
God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace. (Psalm 29:11 The Message)
Two exact opposites seem to be pictured in our passage this morning. First, we see the word "strong" paired with "peace". Second, we see the word "makes" paired with "gives". Knowing me as you do by now, you will know I don't "gloss over" these differences in the passages we explore. They are put there for a purpose - finding the connection is important.
Let's explore the first set of "opposites" - strength and peace. When we think of strength, our thoughts probably gravitate to power, force, or some type of courage. We describe someone as "strong" when they display power "over" something. We might remark about their strength when we see some display of "force" which causes us to sit up and take notice. We also find ways to acknowledge someone for manifesting significant "courage" in the midst of trying circumstances. Yet, when someone displays "peace", how many times do we call attention to "peace" as a character trait which "stands out" as displaying "strength"? Not too often.
There is another definition of strength which closely connects to the meaning of peace: The ability or power to rise or remain firm in the midst of attack. Yep, peace in the midst of the storm! The ability to rise above the storm is not our own - it is God's strength manifest in us. The display of a firm foundation in life is not because we have laid all the right pieces into place - it is because there is a builder of our lives who knows how all the pieces fit together!
The second set of opposites actually gives us some further insight - makes and gives. God MAKES us strong. His strength is something he brings into existence in our lives where our own strength is absent, or not able to measure up to the task at hand. He brings into existence by shaping us and changing us - so we will display HIS strength in the midst of the storm. God GIVES us peace. He graciously places in our care the very thing which "settles" the storm!
Now, back to my opening comments. We often "measure" a circumstance by evaluating our "ability" to handle it. When we think we have what it takes to conquer it, we step out - often without any consultation with God on the matter. The problem with this is in the MAKING and GIVING. When we are out on our own, we often lack the foundation which helps us stand when the decision to act in a certain way gets tough.
I remember a time of being asked to love someone pretty unlovely. Everything inside me said, "This is impossible! She treats me so bad! How on earth could I possibly love her?" Guess what? Those were the exact words God needed to hear from me! He knew I would be unable to love this individual - but he would MAKE my love genuine! He would GIVE me the peacefulness of heart which would help me to display his grace over and over again as this individual so desperately needed to see modeled.
I will not sugar-coat this - it was downright hard! There are a whole lot of other people in my life I have absolutely no problem loving, but this one individual - eegads! She did more to disturb my peace than to help me live in it! At least on the surface it appeared this way! Yet, deep down on the inside, God's peace was being given every moment of every day in dealing with her. I soon began to realize I was getting more out of not relying upon my own strength or ability than I ever bargained for! This period of trial drove me deeper into God's word - discovering the Psalms of David as a source of hope, strength, and peace. Yep, God was MAKING and GIVING exactly what I needed - just in a way I never expected.
So, I know we might think we have things under control and can "handle" it okay on our own, but when we assume this position in life, we miss out on the MAKING and GIVING of God's best for us! Just sayin...