Admitting Weakness

I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength. Lead me to a rock that is high above me.
-Psalm 61:2

I read this scripture and was challenged by it.  The challenge was that my heart is also weak or without strength.  I had a revelation that I need more.

My Bible that I usually read first, is the CEB, the Common English Bible.  So when I first read this verse, the other morning, I read, "When my heart is weak".  I was challenged by those words.  "Is my heart weak?"  "Yes, my heart is weak."

Here is the HCSB and the CEB, side by side; Psalm 61, verses 1 to 4:

  1. God, hear my cry; pay attention to my prayer.  God, listen to my cry; pay attention to my prayer!
  2. I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength.  Lead me to the rock that is high above me,  When my heart is weak, I cry out to you from the very ends of the earth.  lead me to the rock that is higher than I am
  3. for You have been a refuge for me, a strong tower in the face of the enemy.  because you have been my refuge, a tower of strength in the face of the enemy.  
  4. I will live in Your tent forever and take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.  Selah  Please let me live in your tent forever!  Please let me take refuge in the shelter of your wings!  Selah
I noticed that verse two leads off with "When my heart is weak", in the CEB, preceding, "from the ends of the earth".  But, in every other translation I can find, it says something like, "From the ends of the earth I call to You, when my heart grows faint."  I don't know why the CEB scholars flip it, but I suspect that they believe that the Hebrew gives them license to.

So, when I first read this verse, the other morning, I first read, "When my heart is weak", and that got emphasized to me.  That part of the verse, Psalm 61:2, challenged me; which is the story I want to tell.

I just read something yesterday about the danger of interpreting scripture too subjectively and then applying it to others, and I understand that.  This is an instance of my sharing about the text applied to me.  But I also am looking at the original author's intent and how it applies to all believers from then until now.

I think there are two good ways for preachers and teachers to share, preach, teach, or encourage others with a text, and one not so good way.  One, is to share the text, applied to me, and then say, "this might apply to you".  The second way, is to share the text as applying to we or us, and say, "this is for us".  The third way, that is weaker and not as good, is to share a text, and say, "this is for you".

Some preachers and teachers unfortunately have a style, where the third way is their way.  They talk at the people, they talk down, they scold, they rebuke, they judge, they spank people and rake them over the coals with their messages.  What is strange and unhealthy is when this is not the exception, done in lowliness, tearful love; but the weekly rule, done in anger, and applauded.

These same three ways also apply to bloggers and Christian writers.  

My goal is always to communicate the first or second way.  I originally titled my blog my "notes", because these are notes from what I am learning with things sprinkled in that I am re-learning.  The notes are for myself and for whomever may read them and benefit, and to the glory of the Lord.

When my heart is weak

I wrestled with this text and with what God was and is saying to me.

The challenge was, am I going to let the text speak to me, or resist it and say, "I'm good"?

If I do not say, "my heart is weak", when it indeed is, then I don't get the grace I need for my heart's activities in life, which includes my relationship to God, to myself, and to others.

Sometimes we won't admit our weakness, but we ask for leading, and wonder why we don't get led by God.  I don't have trouble admitting that I need help, as in guidance and leading.  But I do have trouble admitting that I am weak.  God gives grace to the humble.  God resists pride.

When I read this psalm again, it was a challenge to me.  I read, in my Bible, "When my heart is weak".  The text challenged me or confronted me, saying, "Your heart is weak".

No need to be offended, because the diagnosis is for healing.  The call is to get, ask for, a strengthening of my heart.  I suddenly realized that when and if I do not ask for this, I will not get it, and then I will interact in life - with God, with myself, and with others, from a weak heart.

There are all sorts of ramifications and disadvantages to having a weak heart.  For one thing, having a weak heart means that I have not been led up to the rock that is higher than I.  It is like not taking a promotion or an upgrade.

It is amazing that the door to going higher and receiving strengthening is the humility to admit weakness.

I looked up what other translations have in Psalm 61:2, for this description of the heart that is proclaimed:

  • when my heart is overwhelmed
  • when my heart is weak
  • when my heart is faint
  • when my heart grows faint
  • when my heart is without strength
  • in my despair
  • in the agitation of my heart
  • when my heart fainteth
  • when my heart was in anguish
  • in the feebleness of my heart
  • when my heart is in heaviness
  • in my weariness of spirit
  • with a sinking heart

It struck me that if I do not recognize my weakness, that my heart is weary, sinking, in anguish, or faint; then I will interact with my world - God, myself, others, and my and other's circumstances; from the place of my heart that is weak and weary, perhaps broken.  I will end up giving limited, not as hopeful and not that heavenly, counsel to myself and others; because it is out of the heart that the heart speaks.

And my sick heart also will inform my thoughts, which will be discouraged and less hopeful and less encouraged.

The path or doorway to going higher, up and onto the rock, is the humility to say that my heart needs help.

I catch myself thinking through my weary heart.  There is a verse that says, "hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" (Prov. 13:12).  Heart sickness is easy to get, if you have hopes, promises, or desires that you are waiting for.

The antidote for a weakened heart is to cry out to God.  That cry is, "lead me to the rock that is higher than I".

I also have to have some self-awareness and the humility to realize that I need help.  One of the terrible things about pride is that pride is not  teachable.  Don't get caught in the pride trap.

I am really struct my the fact that my circumstances, each and every stressor and difficulty; is an opportunity for the goodness of God to manifest.  The message of this verse, Psalm 61:2, or this part of this verse that says, "When my heart is weak, or without strength", is to admit or confess my weakness, so that I can rely on God's strength.

He does strengthen me, but that is not really the message here.  The message is that God is available to be my rock and my refuge and my fortress, my hiding place, and my place of rest - always.  Every circumstance is a challenge to God's goodness, God's grace, and God's faithfulness.

The door that leads to God's provision for me is admitting my weakness.  I am a son and a slave.  I have a life, with responsibilities and obligations, relationships, and aspirations.  But I am never self-sufficient or alone or the power.

He is strong and I am weak.  It is a huge insight and something I aspire to live in, that the Lord is my strength.  It is a continual practice to live by and through the Lord.

If I admit my weakness, there is the rock of his steady foundation offered to me to stand on and dwell on.  But if I refuse to admit my weakness, there is struggle, pain, exhaustion, confusion, and my own choosing,  and a life of  not seeing the way to the peace on the rock offered to me every day.

The word to me is to admit my weakness, confess it, make it a prayer.  Laments are the most honest and real prayers.

God, hear my cry; pay attention to my prayer.
I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength.
Lead me to a rock that is high above me, for You have been a refuge for me, a strong tower in the face of the enemy.
I will live in Your tent forever and take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.  Selah

God, You have heard my vows; You have given a heritage to those who fear Your name.
Add days to the king’s life; may his years span many generations.
May he sit enthroned before God forever; appoint faithful love and truth to guard him.
Then I will continually sing of Your name, fulfilling my vows day by day.