Why Voluntary Weakness Strengthens Us

It was twenty years ago that I paced back-and-forth, alone in that field, waiting. Watching. Praying. Sometimes with tears. Sometimes with just the open spaces of quiet and stillness. I’d felt His invitation to come after Him — felt the conviction of how little I truly knew Him, how urgent the hour I was living in, and how small my capacity was to receive all that He desired to give a willing heart in holy love and understanding. I remember vividly the exchange — when I gave Him my time, my small giftings, my future, without full certainty of the return. I’d just felt His beckoning to come, His desire to be known by His people — not superficially, but deeply — to be surrendered to, not partially but wholly (Matt. 22:37).

Nothing draws forth the heart like the desire of the Lord, and it was this that compelled me (Jn. 17:3, 24, 26). And with His call in my ear, I laid my gold in the dust, my own dreams surrendered and mens’ opinions aside (Job 22:24; Lam. 3:24). In that field, I paced. I sang small phrases of His Word. I cried out for more of Him, jotting tear-smudged ink into journals that piled up — one by one — into stacks, as the sand of my youth slipped through the hourglass of time.

Embracing Voluntary Weakness

I may not have had words for it, but it was voluntary weakness that I embraced then. Prayer is weak. Fasting is weak. Investing our time and strength in the secret place instead of in that which produces something that the world esteems, is weak. When we wait on the Lord in prayer, when we give up our time and set aside other plans, when we go without food because desire for Him has us wanting Him most, when we leave our to-do lists to pour over His Word, we sow our strength into the soil of what is unseen (Matt. 9:15; Jas. 5:7; Gal. 6:8). We give up the fantasy of success before men for the faith that says, “I know He rewards those who seek Him diligently” (Heb. 11:6).

Whether it’s with minutes or hours, we couldn’t feel weaker as we pour out our best into the secret place, like the oil of Mary’s costly perfume, seeping into the dust — often with criticizing accusations of the brothers in our ear (Jn. 12:3). Yet I believe the shock of eternity will be the value He gives to such poured out offerings.

Though not popular, voluntary weakness — or the lifestyle Jesus laid out in the Sermon on the Mount — brings us into that glorious point of the end of ourselves and the discovery of Him (Matt. 5 – 7). It makes space for Him as it brings us out of our busyness and frantic living, sharpening us with true urgency — making big things big and small things small.

Here, we begin to glory not in our many attainments, but in understanding and knowing Him (Jer. 9:23, 24; 2 Cor. 10:17). Here, we come to the crossroads where we become a source of true strength to others, for it’s here that any word we would ever speak about Him to others is filled with the weight of true encounter. We begin to speak of what we’ve seen and known, inviting others to the feast of that which we’ve tasted and found so sweet (Ps. 34:8; 119:103).

Few make the space that only hunger can forge and sit alone in the quiet where His voice is heard (Matt. 6:6). In our day — maybe more than ever — with the deluge of media and inundation of noise, with the ability to mask all of our imperfections, and with our hubristic habit of multitasking, we disdain the weak place of prayer, solitude and fasting. Yet it’s here that Jesus stretches out His inviting hand to us — in the middle of our clamoring world and to the ones least likely to forsake all the stimulants and consumption and duty-juggling, to come seek Him and find Him (Matt. 7:7).

Beholding and Proclaiming His Beauty

Jesus is never so sweet as when He is waited for with the achings of hunger. It’s always been the hungry that He satisfies, the longing heart that He fills with good things (Ps. 107:9; Matt. 5:6). He desires to fill His people with the mouths that proclaim His sweetness, a proclamation that can only arise from having first made space and capacity through panting (Ps. 42:1).

The hour we live in is indeed urgent — now, so much more than twenty years ago. There is Man — who is God, the Lord — with a soon return and a heart that refuses to come back to a dull and indifferent Bride, watching and inviting us. He waits for our response. There’s a path before our feet named voluntary weakness and the invitation is wide open. The way is small and narrow and hardly impressive (Matt. 7:14). It includes sowing seeds to where we cannot see, only with the eyes of faith perceiving the worth of those offerings (Jas. 5:7).

His Word cannot lie. He says,

Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…Listen carefully to Me, and eat what us good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear and your soul shall live… (Is. 55:1-3).

If we will make room for hunger, He will satisfy. Small prayers and hot tears of affection, offered only before one set of eyes — the Lord’s — matter eternally (Ps. 56:8). If we will carve out time, He will reward. If we will respond to His desire with voluntary weakness, He will answer our desire (Jn. 17:24; Ps. 27:4). If we will bring His Word back to Him in prayer, until we’ve indeed tasted of its sweetness profoundly, we will begin to speak words that carry weight — a source of strength and deliverance to the hearer.

And though the landscape of our day boasts of contours and challenges that generations before have not yet seen, the wisdom of His Word invites to the same path it has always prescribed — voluntary weakness — the path that leads us headlong into His strength and beauty (Matt. 5 – 7; Ps. 27:4; Lk. 10:42).