Exhale... You Don't Have To Be So Strong

Your dream seems just out of reach and you have to fight and claw every step of the way just to try to reach it.

You thought you had it all and then the heartbreak hit, hard, leaving you crumbling and trying to pick up the pieces.

Some days the dark cloud of depression seems so overwhelming that it's hard to even inhale. The weight is just too heavy.

Then someone close to you says it... "you're so strong to get through this."

A friend wrote the other day telling me how she is wading through the unknown, trying to pick up the pieces of a messy divorce and starting a new life for her and her children. She wrote because people keep telling her how strong she is and she doesn't know how to respond. She doesn't feel strong; she feels overwhelmed, broken and alone.

My sister is dealing with a life altering and degenerative disease while trying her absolute best to be be a wonderful wife and mother to her adorable boys. There are days she can't even get out of bed because her pain is too intense. There are days her hands and body swell so much that making dinner for her family isn't achievable. People tell her just how strong she is. She doesn't feel strong; she feels frustrated and broken.

During our years of fighting through infertility, we were constantly faced with so many conflicting emotions and experiences. For years, we cycled through hope in the latest treatment, only to follow that with disappointment and failures. Throughout the process and especially in the days and weeks that followed our heart shattering miscarriage and the next failed round of IVF, I heard how strong we were to get through the pain. I didn't feel strong; I felt shattered and empty, like a shell of who I used to be.

"You're so strong to get through this."

How many times have you heard that phrase? How many times has it left you feeling bewildered and confused?

The words feel so empty. Trying to respond back often leaves you feeling even emptier and weaker, or like you're trying to be someone you can no longer be. When we find ourselves in those really dark times, we keep putting one foot in front of the other. We keep paying the bills, going to work, taking care of our children or responsibilities because we have to. Maybe we even find some comfort in doing something that feels "normal," but it feels more like a fight for survival than a show of strength.

So why then, if we feel so broken and empty, do others repeatedly tell us "you are so strong?" Perhaps the strength they are seeing in us is a reflection of the Spirit carrying us through. Perhaps what they are seeing is a reflection of God Himself. Perhaps that phrase that leaves us feeling like a shell is the perfect reminder that we are solely dependent on His glory, power and purpose. Our empty shell is the perfect place to house His endless grace and comfort.

But he 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
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We don't have to be strong when we're dealing with the really tough stuff that sometimes comes our way. All we have to do is keep looking to God to get us through each step. He will give us the strength to keep fighting, the will power to keep getting out of bed, the healing to reach the lives He has planned for us, the energy to deal with the pain. He will be our source of strength. 

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope i the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
— Isaiah 40:29-31
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
— Psalm 119:28
God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble.
— Psalm 46:1
photo credit:   Floyd W. Tomkins   via  photopin    (license)

photo credit: Floyd W. Tomkins via photopin (license)

Next time someone says to you "you are so strong," look at it as a chance to stop and praise God for giving you the strength you are needing to walk through the dark times. Look at it as an opportunity to remember how much we need Him and to give Him the glory for being there for us. Be encouraged that though we may feel so broken and empty, we are actually being filled to the brim with God's grace and comfort and power.

When we are weak, He is strong. He will carry us through and along the way of our journey, He is healing us, giving us comfort and rebuilding our strength.  We don't have to be so strong, because He is. We only have to remain faithful to Him and be obedient to His Spirit.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.
— Ephesians 3:16

Joy Is More Than Her Middle Name

Today I am thrilled to be able to share such an encouraging word from my friend Sarah, whom I "met" through adoption.  I know you will be blessed by her words today as she shares about finding true joy as we abide in Christ.  AND, she has an amazing Bible Study releasing on November 30 (which you will read more about at the end of this post).  Join me in welcoming Sarah today to the blog!


In March of 2015 our little Liana Joy Manhua arrived home from China. I’ll never forget the moment of stepping off of the plane into the chilly air at the top of the mountain at Yeager airport. The barren trees from the surrounding hills were home. After two weeks away, I was finally going to be able to hold my other children again. Together. Our Family Day. Our Belong Day. Her first day with her new family. This face says it all. She wasn’t quite sure about all of us. And we weren’t really sure about her either. 

Liana Joy Manhua. Joy wasn’t something I just chose randomly. I believe God gave us her name.

I wanted to give her a meaningful first name. Lian means flower in Chinese. Liana, adding the ‘a’, was the Hebrew word for My God has answered. God answering prayer summed up our adoption experience. Manhua was her Chinese name. It was a part of her, and we wanted that to stay a part of her. 

I choose Joy for her middle name because it was short. That’s it. I liked it, and it was a short second middle name. God just laughed, I’m sure. Joy would become more than her middle name.

Joy became something we fought for, in the middle of the tears - both hers and mine. Joy became a distant dream as my own dreams died. Joy was birthed again as God showed me HIS dream for our family. And how much more beautiful, amazing, and fulfilling His plans were, compared to mine. 

Joy was something I tried to fight for, choose, and just wait to show up. But it didn’t. Joy didn’t show up until I began to abide. In John 15:11 Jesus says: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. What things? What did Jesus say so we can have joy - full joy? 

If we read John 15:1-10, Jesus is telling the disciples the secret of abiding. The secret of abiding is we stay connected to the Father, and Jesus, so we can bear fruit. How do we abide? I love this quote by Andrew Murray in his book Abiding in Christ:

It is only into the thirst of an empty soul that the streams of living waters flow. Ever thirsting is the secret of never thirsting.

Abiding isn’t about doing, it is about thirsting. Do you thirst for Christ in your life? One way is to ask if you are reading God’s word everyday? Not because you should, but because you get to. When the hard season of adoption hit us, I backed away from Scripture. I felt too hypocritical to read. I knew joy was far from my heart and mind, so I stopped reading God’s word. I didn’t want to do it as a check-list item.

I realized joy would never find me if I waited to “feel right” before seeking Christ. Abiding would only come in the pages of scripture. Joy would only show up if I showed up first. So, slowly I learned the beauty of showing up one day at a time. If you are struggling to find joy, find God first. Don’t worry about where you were yesterday or what tomorrow will bring. Start today. 

If you want help in knowing where to start, my new book is for you. The Glorious Ordinary is a nine-week Bible study designed to lead you into deeper study of God’s Word. No matter if you’ve studied scripture you entire life, or are just starting out, this study is for you. I’ve provided the passages to read, questions to answer, and scripture to memorize. It releases November 30!

Sign up here to get started abiding TODAY. You will be the first to know when my book releases as well! I’ve developed some great printables to help you in your Bible reading journey. You will receive them all of for free, right in your inbox. Click here to sign up. 

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Sarah lives her life with an amazing husband and four little ones (one adopted from China). Her inner-planner girl would like to say she’s super efficient and has the house, homeschool, and husband all neatly organized. But she doesn’t. Sarah’s house is run with fuel from coffee and Jesus. She is learning how to find the thrill of walking one day at a time in the messiness of mundane. She invites you to study God’s Word in your ordinary days. 

If you are having a hard time starting a Bible study habit, check out Sarah’s 5 Steps for Starting a Bible Study Habit - Today! Found at sarahefrazer.com/audio-course

Connect with Sarah here: Website / / Facebook / / Instagram / / Pinterest / / Twitter