Juggling Fire

Hitting Bottom: How Tough is a Samsonite?

You’ll have to forgive the glumness of my last two posts. Although I have nothing to hide, and I resolved long ago to remain transparent, I am not usually one to lay out my naked feelings for all the world to see. God has been challenging me, however, to do just that. I am finding healing in these studies, and although I don’t always express them with class, I hope my words bring healing for others, or at least someone. After all, if we keep our trials to ourselves, what’s the point of prevailing through them, right?

My wrap-up to Philippians for the University of the Nations School of Biblical Studies.

It’s one of the most well-known verses in the Bible: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”

How often do we quote this Scripture? More appropriately, how often do we not quote this Scripture? Do we really believe it every day, like when we want to sit down during worship because our feet hurt?

“I just cannot stand here another minute,” we think.

Why don’t we ever call on Jesus to strengthen us during these moments? I mean these are the times we really need to conjure up this verse – the times we think we don’t need strength. The times we don’t feel all that guilty about being weak.

We often fail to recognize those “little” moments of frailty, and although we should depend on Christ’s strength in all situations and occasions, it’s perfectly OK to be human. Paul made his famous proclamation of faith from prison, so it is meant to get us through the really hard times, and for me, it has.

During my 20s, when I thought life couldn’t get any worse, I rested on this Scripture day after day after day.

In those days, panic attacks, acute anxiety, and a grave depression had enveloped me. I would ask God night after night after night to end my suffering, to take my life, quietly in my sleep because I couldn’t bear the thought of even trying to handle any more pain. Each morning I awoke, still alive, spared again by the God who had a purpose for me. I would start a new day – again – reluctantly and with more heartache than the day before, nevertheless thinking, “If God spared me for one more day then he must have his reasons.”

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I remember thinking during those years that I felt as if I were standing on the edge of a cliff, that one trifling breeze could send me over the edge. I look back at that time now, and I see that in actuality I had already toppled off – hard – head over feet, end over end, snowballing, gathering moss and dirt and mud and gravel – layer upon layer of crust and shale and jagged rock – an ugly ball of agony.

I can see myself now lying almost lifeless at the bottom of that lonely canyon, exposed, yet sealed up in the hardest of shells … until one hot, dark day something – rather some One – started chipping away at the outside of my Samsonite casing on a relentless mission to break through to the inside.

It started with a quiet tapping. I could barely hear through all the thickness that encompassed me. In time there seeped in a pinhole of light. Blinding. So bright that I wanted to clamp my eyes shut, yet so enticing that I couldn’t look away. I was too confused and weak and scared to make my way toward the pinhole, yet I was too desperate to try and stop whatever – or Whom ever – was attempting to rescue me.

It was not an easy rescue. There were many layers through which to chisel, but the tapping began to be a constant, welcoming sound, and as my eyes adjusted to the light, the pinhole became a beaming eyelet, and the eyelet became a picturesque window, and the window became a scenic gateway, and one day I saw the mighty arms attached to the hands that had been chipping away, and they scooped me up out of those half-beaten-away remains of that shell, and they stood me up on my own two feet, and they hugged me tight, and they held me steady as I walked up out of that dusty, deserted canyon bottom.

I think about how tired I was. How I could easily have given up. What a relief it would have been. But the dying breath of relief I would have felt when I came to an end could never have compared to the breath of life that filled my lungs when it all began again.

That was the strength of Christ, and because of his suffering – and because of my suffering – I now know I can do all things through him who strengthens me, and I want others to know the same.


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