On an empty corner by my house stands a lone tree. For the past year, this tree and what it holds have been a source of encouragement and motivation. Last Christmas some creative soul decorated the tree, brightening an otherwise drab community space. But then the decorations were left to the elements. Month after month, I watched them slowly disappear—except for one lone bulb. For well over a year, that little orb has held on to a branch. Last winter, my area of the country saw its share of wind, rain, and even a hefty deposit of snow. Yet that tiny object holds firm.
I find myself looking for the little sphere of hope as I turn the corner. I anticipate the grief of the day I do not spot it among the branches. There were days I related to it hanging there … alone … exposed … vulnerable … but still hanging on.
I see that same spirit in Nehemiah as he walked out perseverance, sacrifice, and personal integrity in the midst of challenging times. It is the same goal Paul expressed in Colossians 1:9–12. I like the paraphrase from The Message:
… We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us …
The strength Paul refers to is the supernatural power of God. The word he uses carries the idea of making strong something or someone that is naturally weak (that’s me!)—not a surge of strength but a steady and constant access to Christ, the source of strength. He prayed that we would have strength to stick it out over the long haul—to persevere—to hang in there. He asked the Father to help us remain steadfast under trial without giving in or giving up, no matter the intensity or length of the testing. His prayer covers various trials we may face: sickness, pain, financial loss, death of a loved one, warfare, persecution, marital problems, a wayward child, deployment, reintegration, even a duty station where we just cannot seem to find our place.
Sisters, this is the lesson I learned as I watch the tenacious Christmas bulb: The strength to hang on is not just to hang on. God gives his strength, not just to let us breathe another breath to survive, but to enable us to speak words of hope and encouragement to help others thrive. His strength is not just to help us open our eyes to another dawn, but to help us open our eyes to behold the glory of his majesty all around us. He strengthens us to walk through another day, but that is not where it stops. With God’s help, we can climb over obstacles, run and not grow weary, and “take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.”