The Word That Plagues Us

Author’s Note:
In this abiding series, each post will be framed as an email correspondence to a friend who is seeking to get ‘more’ out of his or her faith. My hope is that by exploring this topic as a conversation, you will resonate with the message as deeply as if it were a letter addressed to you.

To: Friend Seeking More from Faith

From: Doug Nuenke

Subject: The Word That Plagues Us

Hello friend,

In my last note, I talked about mirroring God’s power rather than muscling through life on our own. This concept is foundational to abiding in Christ: his power, sourced through the Holy Spirit, is what enables us to experience an abundant life.

Still, there is a recurring barrier to our abiding relationship with Christ, a single word that plagues us all: should

You said it in your last letter: “I feel weak when I should be strong.” ‘Should’ implies that it depends on us to bear through adversity, be tough, or at least act like we are in control. We all should model a certain level of composure, resilience, and aptitude.

I suspect many boys remember their dad saying things like, “You’re OK!” or “Big boys don’t cry.” That training subtly, at least for me, convinced me that I should have some kind of internal reservoir of energy that overcomes adversity on its own. It’s a lie of humanism, one that puts humans at the center of the universe as the ones who are in control, the ones who should have their acts together.

It’s the way the rules of many cultures work. Yet, the Apostle Paul, who was a highly accomplished man, would beg to differ. His economics of power were quite different.

Listen to Paul’s words here:

“But he (the Lord) 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

Rather than allowing the tyranny of should to direct his life, Paul embraces his weakness. He views it as an invitation for Christ’s power, a standing expectation for God to accomplish in him what he could never do on his own. You see, weakness is crucial in the abiding life. It trains us toward a posture of dependency and surrender. It helps us yield to God’s leadership and initiative in our lives.  When we embrace our desperate need for Christ, we abandon ourselves to his strength and power.  

Andrew Murray in Abide in Christ says,

The Christian thinks his weaknesses are his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God; God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

When we abandon the lie of should, we are set free to a life of dependency where God can accomplish his work and receive all the glory.  Weakness is a productive quality in the hands of God.

From now on, when you feel a should accusation rising up, let it be a reminder of the invitation that awaits you in Christ. In him and with him is a standing invitation to surrender, as a sail does to the wind that fills it and drives it forward. His presence and the breath of his empowering will propel you to where you need to go.


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