He Gives Power to the Weak

There have been multiple times when I’ve gotten part of the way through a challenging outdoor activity and thought, “I can’t do this!” 

"Giving God my weak yes" with image of three women on a mountaintop

“He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of him who has no might.” Isaiah 40:29

“I can’t do this!”

I don’t think the sentiment, “I can’t do this!” is exclusive to me. We all have areas where we are challenging ourselves to grow, and outdoor activities often test us physically and mentally.

For me, this is often due to unforeseen circumstances or challenging terrain.

As outdoor explorers, we’ve faced moments when we question if we can go any further. Whether it’s putting that canoe up on my shoulders to portage it one more time or pushing through the last and steepest part of the trail to get to the summit.

It’s in those moments we take inventory of our internal resources and choose to push through even when it’s hard.

The experience at the end was more rewarding because we pushed ourselves and challenged ourselves when it was hard.

And sometimes it’s just step by step. I don’t always know if I can finish the challenge, but I ask myself; “Can I go five more minutes? Can I take one more step? Can I make it to that tree on the horizon?”

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. 

the author rests along side the trail on a high-elevation backpack trip
I didn’t know my friend was taking this picture. I’m trying to catch my breath on one of the hardest hikes of my life at approx. 15,000 ft elevation. Literally one breath at a time!
three women on a peak in the Andes Mountains
The excitement when we reached the highest point of elevation that we would see on our trek—so worth it!

My “Weak Yes”

We also have these moments in life and in our faith. Moments of being overwhelmed or feeling weakened by life’s challenges.

It’s in those seasons I’ve been learning how God wants to partner with me and ask for my weak yes. We see this not only in our own lives but also in the lives of those whose struggles and victories are recorded in the Bible.

There are so many stories when we see people taking their circumstances step by step, acknowledging their weaknesses, and leaning on God to fill the gap between the promise and the real life occurring in front of them. 

Queen Esther’s “Weak Yes”

One of these is the story of Esther. There are so many places in the story of Esther where she made incredibly courageous decisions. She isn’t the only person in the story, but for today’s purpose, we’ll focus on her.

Esther didn’t see the end from the beginning of the story that was her life. She said yes to those moments one at a time, and gave her weak yes.

Elisabeth Elliot quoted a poem dating back to 1897 by Eleanor Amerman Sutphen called Ye Nexte Thynge. She calls this type of action “do(ing) the next right thing.” She didn’t have the final answer at the beginning of the intense season, just the next step.

Here’s another moment of pushing through an outdoor challenge:

the author portages a canoe along a hilly trail in the woods
Pushing through to finish a long and hilly portage while carrying a 16-foot, 65-pound canoe
three women celebrate the end of a long portage in the Boundary Waters with one of their canoes
…and the excitement at the end! 

I’ve thought about that perspective of Esther often in this last season of life I’ve been in.

I picture her having no idea what to do about the insurmountable challenge facing her people. Choosing to believe that God truly is who He says He is. Choosing to fast and pray for three days not knowing what would happen after that.

I picture her standing before the doors of the throne room, taking one last deep breath before pushing those doors open. Then focusing all of herself on just taking one step at a time toward the king.

I’ve found strength in this idea of her giving her weak yes, and God giving her the courage needed to just keep taking the next step. 

Esther carried something deep within her that allowed her to take her journey step by step. And it’s also what allows us to take the next step—both in outdoor challenges and in our faith walks.

This is our knowledge of our identity in Christ and our knowledge of who God is.

What Does God Ask For?

The difference between Esther’s story and yours is that hers is written down and retold, and yours is known by you. There’s no other difference.

We are all children of God with the same inherent identity that gives us the same strength that she had to keep giving her weak yes to God. 

And this isn’t something we need to do on our own.

Not only in the context of community and people around us, but I also truly believe that in difficult challenges outdoors, God has been there to help me persevere and grow in discipline and character.

Just like I believe God has been there to help me in seasons where my weak yes is so insufficient to meet the needs and challenges facing me.

Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word and Spirit will not be sent out and return void. This means there’s a relational covenant that God has made with you, and God will bring your identity to pass.

It’s not a heavy burden for you to turn yourself into a project. To see your spiritual life as a to-do list. Nor is there pressure to meet a standard of perfection or performance. 

I’ve found that in the moments of doubt, grief or struggle, where I can’t imagine going forward, my weak yes does make a difference.

All God asks for is everything I have to give.

And while that initially sounds like a contradiction, I’ve found this to be the most freeing thought. Because when all I can give God is a weak yes, more is not demanded of me.

In that moment, God’s strength is there to complete my weakness.

As I look back on my testimony, I see many moments when my weak yes allowed God to shepherd me through a season I would otherwise not have made it through.

It has also sheltered my faith in seasons when I felt like I was drowning in doubt and struggling to hold onto my faith. I didn’t prevail in my strength alone.

And on my weakest of days, that’s when God is the strongest. And on those days I have truly learned that my God fights for me.

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. 

the author's selfie at the top of Cloud Peak, Wyoming
The picture at the top doesn’t come without a lot of moments of strength and weakness along the way.

Ways to Respond

I pray that if you’re weary today, you’ll find rest in our God who’s strong enough for your weak yes

As you think about this idea, see below a few questions to ask yourself as a journal prompt or devotional, or with people you trust in a Bible study or discussion group.  

  • Think about the statement: “All that God asks for you is everything I have to give.” What emotions does that bring up in you?
  • What does God want to say to you about where you’re striving to give more than you can give?
  • How can God give you rest as you say yes in weakness?
  • As you reflect on the story of Esther, where do you see God fulfilling the promise of being strength in her weakness?
  • Where can you give God your weak yes today?
  • Where in your testimony have you seen God be your strength?

This content is adapted from the devo of April 5 from Heaven and Nature Sing. Photos courtesy of Emilie O’Connor, Sharon Brodin and Shannon McAfee 

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Emilie O'Connor