At some point I noticed the garden or plant nursery on the roof of a building below and wondered whether it was someone’s hobby or business. Since space is at a premium here, my guess is that these plants are being raised on the roof to sell on the street.
My source went on to explain that, in Singapore, it is common practice to compress the ground and test the foundational supports in this way before building a high rise. Someone has apparently decided that it is better to know sooner, rather than later, whether the substructure of a building can support its own planned weight.
I had never seen this done before. But it got me thinking about a proverb that says, “If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great” (Prov 24:10 NLT).
As I thought about such problems I was reminded that no one– with faith, or without it, is immune to the kinds of problems that make us want to run away, fear for our sanity, hit the bottle, or even long for death.
Then I thought about what life threw against people in the Bible like Job, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Joseph, Paul, and Peter.
Recalling their experiences I was reminded of why the Apostle Paul wrote of their combined stories that they “Were written for our learning (i.e. insight and perspective), that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4).
Remembering that people of faith have suffered just like everyone else in the world seems like a good reminder that the problems that tempt all of us to curse, run, drink, steal, kill, or maim, are part of what it means to be born into the human drama.
And what remains for all of us to learn, one at a time, over and over, is that we are safest, not when we are feeling the strongest, the safest, or the most honorable, but rather when we are feeling weak and afraid enough to run to the only Source of real strength.
Looking back I can begin to see how many of those stress tests I went into with way too much confidence in myself and natural circumstance. Some of the resulting cave-ins I’d like to forget- even though I probably can’t afford to.
Yet, along the way I’ve also gotten a taste of what Paul learned. Under the immeasurable stresses encountered in serving Christ, he concluded that “when I am weak, then am I strong” (2Cor 12:10). The kind of challenges that would seem say that God had abandoned him ended up giving him a chance to discover for himself the reality of God’s presence and grace. He learned enough to be able to assure others that God’s strength finds occasion to show up in the weakness of those who look to him for their help (2Cor 12:9).
At this point, some of us are probably also thinking of the prophet Isaiah who, expressed with such lyrical eloquence– what remains to be found when we learn not to panic, or run, or self-destruct, but…to wait on the Lord (Isa 40:28-31).
Over the years, we’ve heard this many times from one another. But the stories don’t seem to get old. And just now, I’m guessing that some of us might need to hear what others have found… when their own strength had been exhausted.