When I was little, my friends and I often played the game loosely titled “My Dad is Stronger Than Your Dad.” It went something like:
“My dad is so strong, he can move the couch by himself.”
“Oh yeah, well my dad is so strong he can move the piano!”
Back and forth, back and forth, until the game was trumped by the dad who could lift the entire planet and all of the objects in it, past, present and future. We all want to have a strong dad, and most men hope to be strong dads.
This has been a tender topic in my home over the past two years as my husband, Steve, who once defined the word strapping, has watched his muscles slowly, steadily deteriorate. ALS destroys motor neurons, and no one knows why. Healthy motor neurons move our muscles into action, so when they stop working, our muscles think they’re no longer necessary and give up. Steve’s muscles are giving up, and it seems as though he loses a bit more of his strength every day. At first that meant I had to open the mayonnaise jars on my own; now it means I have to help him dress and lift the spoon to his lips during meals. The man who used to bench-press well over 200 pounds can no longer pull the covers up over himself at night.
It’s hard to watch someone I love live without strength. That’s why this aspect of God’s character is so magnificent to me. He is strong. Our Dad is stronger than any human, power or principality. But the really big deal here is this: Not only is He very powerful, but He’s also willing to share His strength with others. Most particularly, He shares His strength with the weak. Read this:
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me (2 Corinthians 12:9, HCSB).
Read that verse again, out loud. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Asthenes, the Greek word translated here as “weakness,” means “ailments, diseases, infirmities, weakness.”James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), 16. In general, it speaks of the conditions of our humanity that create disabilities. That’s bad news. But here’s the good news: Dunamis, the Greek word translated here as “power,” means “ability, might, miraculous power, strength.”Strong, 24. Isn’t that exciting?
I am seeing the fulfillment of this Scripture in my husband’s life. I am watching the ability of God come into his disability. God’s might is overwhelming Steve’s weaknesses in ways that cause him to be stronger in spirit, purpose and vision than he has ever been before. I know many who would say that the only acceptable outcome for Steve’s life is miraculous, physical healing, but I am seeing miraculous strength invade his being in ways that can only be supernatural. He is physically weak, but he is being made gloriously strong by the God who is willing to share His power with those who most need it.
In fact, this is true of our whole family. Had you asked me three years ago how we would handle a giant of this magnitude, I wouldn’t have known what to say. Now my answer is definite: God has made us mighty. He has given us strength not just to stand but to reach out to others who are suffering. He has filled us with purpose and blessed us with credibility inside a community we didn’t know about before our own battle with ALS. We now share His love for the many families dealing with this disease, and love never fails. It always makes us stronger than we were before. I hope it makes those who receive it stronger as well.
When a really big battle lands on the doorstep, it’s tempting to flex our muscles and hope we can duke it out and win. But as I look more intently at the character of God, I see that He is waiting, willing and excited about showing himself strong for us and through us. I Peter 5:8 tells us that the Enemy is on the prowl, looking for ways to dismantle and destroy us. He’s on a mission, and we are his target, and that sounds scary to a weak girl like me. But then I read 1 Peter 5:10: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
The God of grace wants to bring His strength to our weakness, His power to our pain, His muscle to our fight. Let’s let Him.
Editor’s Note: Steve Stern went to be with the Lord in the summer of 2015. Bo posted on her blog: In 2011, Steve was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. That’s when he became a hero. He battled the treacherous disease with bravery, humor and determination. He stayed fiercely in love with God and committed to being a faithful and loyal friend, dad and husband, even in the midst of his suffering. He used all his minutes and muscles on the people he loved most and continued to develop new, important relationships up until his last breath on July 18, 2015. The impact of Steve Stern’s life, faith and love cannot be contained by words on a page, but it is reflected in his family and the many who were blessed to call him friend. His 19,445 days on this earth were a gift that he opened and lived out with joy.
Bo Stern is a sought-after speaker and the author of several books, including Ruthless.