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Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Benefit of Weakness

 I simply couldn't put the book down. It was 1am, and I was still reading. I finally forced myself to stop and go to bed…but the next morning, I finished the last couple of chapters. It was simply titled A Warrior's Faith. It told the story of Navy SEAL Ryan Job, his injury that led to blindness, and the belief in God that transformed his life. I had picked the book up at my local bookstore a few days earlier but was unprepared for the amazing message of hope it contained. 

 Perhaps the greatest lesson I took away from this book had to do with the idea of weakness. As human beings, we are proud people. We like to act as if we "have it all together," regardless of how opposite that may be from the truth. I find this especially among professions like the military, law enforcement, etc. These individuals are trained to be "the strong ones" who can handle any challenge that comes their way. To them, it is a shame to be weak. It goes against who they are. But then…sometimes a challenge comes along that, humanly speaking, they cannot overcome. They are forced to admit their own sense of vulnerability. They have to face their own weakness. 
 Such was the case for Navy SEAL Ryan Job. He was part of the military's elite - a trained warrior who took personal company with such men as Chris Kyle. They were the toughest, the fighters who took the battle to their enemies and gave every bit of themselves to protecting each other and their nation. Ryan was no softy. He had always possessed this innate ability to out-suffer anybody. And little did he know that, on a hot August day in Ramadi, Iraq, that gift would be put to the test. During an intense firefight that afternoon, Ryan was severely injured and looked to be slipping away for good when he managed to revive and was transported to a local field hospital for surgery and treatment. In the weeks that followed, Ryan would lose his eyesight and his sense of smell as a result of the facial wounds he sustained. Ryan, a tough Navy SEAL, now faced his greatest test of all: how he would meet with the humiliation of blindness. Ryan now had to admit his weaknesses to others in ways that perhaps he'd never had to prior to being injured. His friends and spouse had to drive him everywhere. They had to guide him everywhere. They had to help him do the most basic things because he could not see. As would be the case with all of us, Ryan was initially frustrated that this would be his new life - a career change of sorts. But fairly soon after his blindness became his new reality, Ryan made the personal decision that his faith would turn his personal tragedy into blessing, that his affliction would be the beginning of a new life - a life lived fully in spite of its many challenges. Ryan came to the conclusion that he was okay with being blind. He was okay being weak. And in so doing, he began to find an inner strength that he had never discovered before. Over the next couple of years before his untimely death, Ryan Job would become a public speaker, would climb Mt. Rainer, would marry and have a child, would begin training for an Iron Man Triathlon. Ryan would seemingly do the impossible (as it relates to blindness), but he would do it with a smile on his face, and an unquenchable faith in God's divine plan for him.
  See, we all dislike the humiliation of being weak. We don't enjoy having to admit that we've failed, that we need help, that we've been wrong, that we don't have the strength to continue. We don't want to trouble others with our problems. We somehow think that there is shame in coming to the end of ourselves and having to confess our own inability to overcome the present challenge. But people like Ryan disprove this idea…and they further solidify the reality that God doesn't view weakness this way at all! Rather, He wants us to be weak so that He can give us His strength; He wants us to fail at our own schemes so that we can learn to succeed with His plans for us; He wants us to see our own fallibility so that we learn to accept His constancy and rely more on Him. Living a life of faith like Ryan Job did goes against all human logic or reasoning because it's learning to do the opposite of what our natural instincts are. Contrary to what we think, weakness can be our friend. Arriving at the insurmountable, we have to make choices that determine how we will respond to the circumstances that have brought us to this place of vulnerability. Will we be ashamed? Or will we take the opportunity, as did Ryan, to allow God to take our brokenness and turn us into something greater and more effective than we ever imagined?