28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
At this point of my life I identify more with faint and powerless. Simon’s mother-in-law resembles me much more than Paul the evangelist. And I am at peace about that. So today I reflect on experiencing God’s immeasurable power in mundane everyday experiences.
Isaiah sets up a marvelous presentation for God’s power, there is truly no one who comes even close in their authority to The Creator. Set above all and forever in control of all, God rules over the humanity and takes care of the rest of creation. Apparently, the weak and exhausted folks have a special place in God’s heart and Isaiah finishes his chapter with the words of encouragement for us. God lifts us up, gives us energy and strength to go on. That is good news! In fact, it is great news for someone who is exhausted from work and worries day in and day out.
I want to raise a question though. When we receive that strength from God, do we go through a complete transformation? Like Clark Kent to Superman? Once God lifts us up, do we turn to super-evangelists like Paul? Do we take up the demons and heal the sick? Some of us do. But some of us, get up and serve dinner, like Simon’s mother-in-law. Life, interrupted by weakness, is restored by God only to get back to our normal routine of mundane tasks. We are not saving the world and winning crowds of souls. We go to work, take care of the family and strive to do some good when an opportunity arises. So what’s up with that?
Let’s take a look at Paul. Filled with God’s grace and directed by God’s call, he mastered the art of navigating a diverse world to perfection. Judging by his words, he has achieved what seems to be impossible, “I have become all things to all people.” (1 Cor 9:22) I am going to be honest with you, I have never liked Paul much. Or to be more exact, I do not quite trust everything he says about himself, because self-perceptions could be flawed. In Russian the pronoun “I” is a one-letter word “Я” which happens to be the very last letter in our alphabet. So when someone talks a lot about themselves, Russians like to remind that person, that “Я” is in the end of the alphabet. This saying is just a nudge to get someone have a reality check and speak in a humbler way. When I read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, that’s all I can think about. And judging by what we know about the early Pauline communities, he was not as successful in navigating conflicts and differences of opinion as he claims to be. 1 Corinthians 14:34 shows that when women disagreed with him, he just ordered them to be quiet.
Nevertheless, I cannot disregard the vast impact that Paul’s ministry had on the formation of Christianity. God’s power truly manifested itself in his works. Most of us, weary and faint, are not like Paul. And we definitely do not have the powers with which Jesus healed sick, rebuked demons, and fed thousands. Does it mean we are falling short of God’s grace? Are we not putting our God-given strengths and gifts to full use? Are we wasting the power that God gives us?
I wrestle with these questions, they are personal, calling for some deep evaluation. They make me cringe. So I can only speak for myself at this point. Sometimes, yes, I do waste my time, energy and resources on something totally insignificant, when I could be “winning souls.” Sometimes, despite the promise in Isaiah and my faith, I do not feel like eagle or a tireless runner. I am tired, exhausted, cranky and a total pain to be around. In times like this I become bitter and even depressed. And I wait on the Lord to help me get over this hump. And once I do, I return back to my normal routine: work, home, school, fitness. I am so like Simon’s mother-in-law, when God miraculously intervenes with healing and restoring power, I go back to tasks that do not seem important on the grand scheme of things.
That is why I find Simon’s mother-in-law an inspiring character in the Gospel. Jesus did not ignore her sickness, God took away her weakness, put her back on her feet and blessed her. The same happened with the crowds of sick who were healed by Jesus. God cares about “little” people and our mundane lives just as much as for Paul’s in his unprecedented ministry.
So I find joy and hope when I experience God’s immense power in my day-to-day “little” life. It is a precious gift not to be ignored or discarded, even if I may be the only one who see God’s presence and feels God’s grace in me.
Cover image Healing Peter’s Mother-in-Law by John Bridges source