Strengthen Your Hands
Rest in an Expectation That Will Never Disappoint
“So, then, strengthen hands that are weak and knees that tremble. Cut through and make smooth, straight paths for your feet, so that the leg which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather may be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)
Last year was a difficult year. It’s the first time I look back on a year and struggle to feel positively about it. It was a year tainted by disappointed expectations. I began 2017 with big, exciting plans to come to Jordan to pursue my dream of studying Arabic. Since Arabic and Arab culture have long held a fascination for me, I expected to fall in love with the country and to be fascinated by the culture and the environment. Previous experience taught me to expect learning curves and rough patches adjusting to a new environment; for that, I was prepared.
I was, however, not prepared for my reaction: I didn’t fall in love with the country. I didn’t have the ardent passion I expected to want to learn everything about its culture. I even disliked and disapproved of several aspects of the culture. As much as I denied and struggled against these negative feelings simmering inside me, desperately trying to hold on to the expectations that I had created for myself, I finally gave up one day and admitted it: this is not all what I had expected it to be, and I feel awfully disappointed.
Not only was I disappointed by my dream, but I also became disappointed at myself. Do you ever picture yourself in certain situations—whether it be in a relationship, in a dispute, or in a life or death situation—and feel thoroughly convinced that you will react in a very specific (often a very correct, brave, and decisive) way? I do.
Yet this summer, I did not live up to my own expectations of myself in one of those areas; I acted exactly the way I swore I would never act. As a result, I found disappointment not only in my environment, but also within. At first, I tried to blame others for what I had done. Too quickly and painfully, though, it became clear that I must take responsibility for my own decisions.
Admitting that I have weak areas in my life was difficult and humbling.
At a certain point this year, I realized that disappointments are inevitable; yet how I respond to them is entirely up to me. Will I pout or get angry because situations don’t turn out the way I expected? Will I blame others for my shortcomings? Will I blame God and whine and throw a tantrum because He “allowed” me to go down a certain path? How will any of that help?
The portion just before the quoted verses from Hebrews teaches us that God is our perfect father, who teaches, corrects, trains and disciplines us. The author of Hebrews uses our earthly parents as a comparison: just as their parenting sometimes was unenjoyable and painful to us at times, so is God’s parenting towards us at times unenjoyable.
I can remember that as a child, my parents sometimes let me do things my way when I insisted on it, even though they knew it wouldn’t turn out as I expected. Because they cared, they were there to warn, advise, and stop me from getting in too far over my head; but they also knew that sometimes one learns better from bonking his head against the wall than from words.
How much more perfect is God at parenting? He knows us far better and knows how each of us learns best and how to address each of our weaknesses. I think the key is to trust that He is using every situation to form His Son’s character in us, and therefore, we should practice an attitude of seeing a negative situation or a mistake as an opportunity to grow.
“So then, strengthen hands that are weak and knees that tremble….”
We can’t sit and pout after God corrects us or lets us go our way for a time until we bonk our heads. We must get up, get before God, recognize where we blew it or admit we’re disappointed, ask for His help to do differently or for His encouragement, and go on!
I definitely felt weak, tremulous, and a failure. I wanted to run away from Jordan; I felt that I couldn’t trust myself anymore. But I saw that in staying, I could learn perseverance and grit, that I could practice trust in His guidance, and that I could grow closer to Him by letting Him be strong in my weakness. Just because I had that realization doesn’t mean that everything suddenly turned to roses—there are still many moments of wanting to give up and of utter chagrin when I remember my mistakes.
My hope and confidence are that He is directing my paths and drawing me nearer to Him.
He is an expectation that will never disappoint.
Rebekah loves languages and connecting with people. She is currently studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan. She is originally from Mexico and is particularly happy when the food is so spicy it makes her dizzy.