I distinctly remember how overwhelmed I felt, staring down at that rectangle-shaped jungle that was now, apparently, mine. I was a grown woman but I didn’t know anything about gardening, so whatever had possessed me to sign up for a plot in my local community garden was now causing major imposter syndrome to run like sweat down my back. I had recently become a single mom with two high-energy toddlers running circles around me day and night. My whole world had collapsed, and most days I existed in alternating states of shock, numbness, and grief. This wasn’t the plan. I didn’t choose this divorce. What now, God? 

Time and energy were precious in those days. My brain was often locked in a fog I couldn’t seem to shake, and I was desperate for something to call my own. I needed a project – a purpose and a reason to get outside and moving; something to keep my mind and hands occupied. So I went to a meeting at the church behind my house, set up by some local master gardeners, and signed my name on their list. I showed up on day 1 with the little ones running their usual circles only to find that my assigned spot seemed to have been left untouched for a very long time. “Oh no.” Hopefully there was still some good dirt hiding underneath it all. Regret came rushing in. “What am I doing? Why did I think this was a good idea? I don’t have time for this, and I’m going to fail in front of all these experienced gardeners!” 

In hindsight, it probably wasn’t as big or scary as I remember it, but in those days everything overwhelmed me. Waking up was overwhelming. Going to work was overwhelming. Getting ready for bed was overwhelming. Bath time, supper time, and clean-up time were ALL overwhelming. And here I was, taking on more responsibility that needed my time, energy and attention – resources I didn’t have to spare. Had I simply imagined that nudge from the Lord to do this? Oh well. I’d already committed, and I didn’t want to be a quitter. So I put on some gloves and a brave face and dove in, pulling out vines by the armful.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons from that garden over the next couple of years, and I found unexpected joy from putting my hands in the soil and seeing God display His nature through nature. I didn’t just learn about growing food, but also about identifying weeds, appreciating the worms, predicting which veggies my family would or wouldn’t eat, and how to bake zucchini into almost anything! Through that process though, I had to come face-to-face with just how much I didn’t know about gardening. The older couple in charge were incredibly kind and knowledgeable, and I learned to lean on them, to ask questions no matter how silly, and to gratefully receive their help.

Obviously, I dealt with much bigger issues that year than learning how to tend a garden, but as it turned out, the life lessons were mostly the same: I was more capable than I thought I was, but on the days when I couldn’t do it alone, help was available – if only I was willing to humble myself, acknowledge my need, and ask.

But He {God} said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 -10 (NIV)

Just like Paul (the author of 2 Corinthians), hardship, difficulties, persecution, discrimination and insults are bound to come our way; but un-like Paul, I can almost guarantee you that our first reaction isn’t usually to “delight” in them!

Most of us tend to experience fear, sadness, anger or hopelessness in the face of unexpected and difficult situations. While these are normal reactions, we also get to choose how we respond to those things in the long-term. Often, what makes the difference in how we each choose to respond can be traced back to our level of humility.

When was the last time you encountered a hardship that knocked you down or exposed a weakness in your life? Maybe it was a job loss, a heartbreak, a false rumor, the death of a loved one, or a scary diagnosis. Often, these hardships change the course of our lives. So how is it that Paul can say for Christ’s sake he actually takes “delight” in these terrible things? If you go back and read the verse again, you’ll find his answer: “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  

Sadly, it’s usually not until we come to the end of our own strength that we seek God’s power to overcome our circumstances. I think Paul was trying to tell us that experiencing God’s power is actually pretty great – SO great in fact, that he got excited when he had opportunities to experience it again and again!

Contrary to what our culture teaches us, the Bible tells us that our greatest strength lies not in our in-dependence, but in our de-pendence on God’s unfailing power.

… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

This verse isn’t about what people can do, but it is about what GOD can do for His people when we humble ourselves and let Him take the lead. Our job is in acknowledging, seeking, asking, and turning our hearts toward Him once again. This is what our humility looks like. By acknowledging our deep need for God’s help, and accepting the fact that we cannot save ourselves, we learn humility by entrusting ourselves to His loving care and protection.

I used to think that humility meant thinking badly about myself, focusing on my flaws and failures, or abandoning myself in order to care only for others. But God’s Word tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”  “in the image of God” (Psalm 139:14 and Genesis 1:27). How could we possibly think badly about ourselves when we are, in fact, fearfully and wonderfully made by a good God? True humility doesn’t actually involve shame or self-hatred at all, but it does include recognizing and acknowledging when we need help and then asking for it.

What is a hardship you’re facing today? Where do you need to experience God’s strength in place of your own weakness? Instead of brushing it aside, I invite you to pray a simple prayer of acknowledgement before God, humbly asking Him for help, and maybe even like Paul, to take delight in the opportunity for His power to rest on you. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)