Last week we looked at the first three of seven characteristics of God He’s been showing me in fresh ways through the fires of chronic illness and other trials. This week we’ll look at the next four of these characteristics.
4. God is My Stability
Stability: the quality, state, or degree of being stableWebster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
Stable: firmly established : FIXED, STEADFAST; not changing or fluctuating : UNVARYING; PERMANENT, ENDURING
The passage that brought this truth home to me was Psalm 102 (titled “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the LORD”). I had read this psalm earlier last week as my psalm for the night, and at the time, with a heart in desperate need of strength and comfort, I missed the significance of the seemingly random words in the middle of the psalm:
But You, O LORD, shall endure forever,vs. 12
And the remembrance of Your name to all generations.
The same idea repeats at the end of the psalm:
Your years are throughout all generations.vv. 24-27
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will have no end.
“What’s the point of that?” I thought. “God is forever, that’s nice, but doesn’t help me. Huh. Let’s keep going.”
It wasn’t until a few days later at a friend’s house, as I reflected over the past weeks and my responses to circumstances, that the verses I’d brushed over tickled the back of my mind, and it clicked. Oh! That’s why those truths are in there! Because everything and everyone else changes, can let us down, but God never does.
God will never disappoint us. (When our expectations of God aren’t met, it’s a problem of expectations and understanding on our end, NEVER a problem of faithfulness or honesty on His end.)
God doesn’t change. What He says is what He always says. Who He is is who He always is. As a result, we can trust in Him, rely on Him, believe Him, and never be let down. Never doubt. Never be ashamed.
In fact, the psalmist speaks to this idea of not being ashamed often throughout his writings. Psalm 22:5 says, “They trusted in You, and were not ashamed,” and three times the idea repeats in Psalm 25: “O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed.”
I’m reminded of the word picture God gives Israel in Ezekiel 29:
“Then all the inhabitants of Egyptvv. 6-7
Shall know that I am the LORD,
Because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel.
When they took hold of you with the hand,
You broke and tore all their shoulders;
When they leaned on you,
You broke and made all their backs quiver.”
Israel was relying on Egypt for help, leaning on Egypt like on a walking stick. Egypt, too weak to hold up that weight, broke beneath Israel, tumbling God’s people onto their faces and injuring them. A powerful picture of what happens when we rely on something that can’t hold us up, something weak and unstable.
Sound familiar? It does to me. These past months have reminded me all the more that my health is not stable. My relationships are not stable. My income is not stable. This world is not stable. Honestly, if we think about it, nothing in this life is stable. At one point or another, something we’re leaning on–like a wall while we’re slipping on that awkward shoe–WILL give beneath us, causing us to fall into natural disappointment and hurt.
But God is stable. He is not a rotten branch that will break the moment you put your weight on it. He’s not sand that will shift beneath you and make you fall.
He’s a rock. Solid, unmoving, unchanging. When you put your weight on Him, He will never break. He will hold you up, support you, remain constant beneath you, and allow you to rest on His strength.
For there is none besides You,I Samuel 2:2
Nor is there any rock like our God.
For who is God, except the LORD?Psalm 18:31
And who is a rock, except our God?
With [God] there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.Hebrews 13:8
5. God is My Strength
Strength: the quality or state of being strongWebster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
Strong: having or marked by great physical power
Okay–if there’s one thing I’m NOT right now, it’s strong. I do not have (nor am I marked by) “great physical power.” In fact, every day something reminds me how little physical capacity I have, some days more often than others.
I have very little physical power. Sometimes very little mental power. Sometimes little or no emotional power. Sometimes, even, very little spiritual power.
I am not strong.
But God is. God is strong, stronger than me, stronger than anything or anyone. And when I need His strength, when I ask Him for it, He gives it.
I can’t tell you how many times He has carried me through a day when I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it. When I couldn’t. But He could, and He did.
I have come to Him in tears, begging for the strength I needed–physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or all of the above. And I have seen Him give me what I needed to walk through that project, that response, that event, that day.
God has been my strength when I have none of my own.
Fear not, for I am with you;Isaiah 41:10a
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you . . .
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.II Corinthians 12:10
In my weakness He is strong; In my need He leads me on. When I come to the end of all I am, And I place my trust in Him; That's when His strength begins – In my weakness. ~Cary Schmidt and Mike Harland
6. God Is My Sustainer
Sustain: to give support or relief to; to supply with sustenance : NOURISH; KEEP UP, PROLONG; to support the weight of : PROP; also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
Have you ever played the piano? If not, you may be familiar with the pedals of a piano–one to soften the sound, and one (or two) to hold the notes played.
In other words, without pressing down any of the pedals, when you play a note, depressing the piano key, the sound comes from the hammer hitting the string and then falls away quickly.
But when you hold down the sustain or sustenato pedal and press the same key, the sound lasts much longer before eventually fading away. The pedal sustains the sound of the note or notes.
This is what God does for me: He holds me up, holds me together, and helps me last much longer than my own capacity would allow. In short, He keeps me going.
I love the image given in Deuteronomy 33:27 and often return to it for both comfort and strength:
The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms.
God is holding me up in His everlasting arms. His strength sustains me, all the time. He will never let me go or let me fall.
I also love the rest of Isaiah 41:10, a verse that has held me up through many trials:
Yes, I will help you,Isaiah 41:10b
I will uphold [sustain] you with My righteous right hand.
What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms; what a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms. Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms. ~E. A. Hoffman
7. God Is My Source
Source: a generative force : CAUSE; a point of origin or procurement : BEGINNING; one that initiates : AUTHORWebster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
God fulfills each of these three definitions: He is cause, beginning, and author of every aspect of our spiritual lives and what we need to live for His glory.
While this characteristic may seem to be a catch-all or a generic umbrella for other characteristics, it is very much worth considering on its own, as I’ve learned as God has made it real to me in my own life.
He is my source of life. He created me with physical life the moment I was conceived and gifted me with spiritual life the moment I believed.
For with You is the fountain of life.
He is my source of joy. Nothing or no one else can replace Him as the overall, through-all joy of life.
In Your presence is fullness of joy.Psalm 16:11
He is my source of peace. When I’m in turmoil and come to Him in trust and worship, He gives me the peace I’m looking for.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you;
He is my source of wisdom. When I need understanding or discernment, sometimes even without my asking, He gives me wisdom to speak, think, or act.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.James 1:5
He is my source of faith. He began my faith and is perfecting it until the day of Jesus’ return (Phil 1:6).
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.Hebrews 12:2
Truly, God is the source of so much more, as I’m still learning.
If you, like me, have difficulty grasping the reality of these characteristics of God, especially in your valley of chronic illness, one thing I have found radically helpful is not just to ask God to be my sufficiency, strength, stability, etc., but to thank Him for being these things.
When my prayers changed from “God, please be my sufficiency, etc.” to “God, thank You for being my sufficiency, etc.,” my perspective and my heart changed too–for the better.
It’s not wrong to ask God to be these things for us or for others, but Scripture shows us that He is these things for His children, always. Sometimes we just have to catch up to–and live in–the reality of who God is even in our chronic illness.
Have you looked to God and His character for truth, comfort, and peace in your chronic illness? Can you thank Him for being your stability, your your strength, your sustainer, and your source? In what ways has He shown you more of Himself in your valley?