Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Hebrews 12:12
It’s been a rough month for my family for a number of reasons, and I’ve begun to realize something about community and ministry that hasn’t been so clear before. If you read the above verse, you might be tempted to think that it is an encouragement at tough times to buck up, keep a stiff upper lip (along with your other limbs) and determine to fortify yourself for the tough road ahead. We might even be inclined to give such advice to others. While it is not necessarily a bad idea to fortify yourself, it is not, in fact the point of this verse and such an approach might lead us to do the opposite of what this verse actually says. In fact, this is a plural “your” as is made clear in the next verse.
Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:13
See it? The point is as a community we are to strengthen the feeble arms and weak knees of others around us. WE are to make level paths for other people’s feet. So what I’ve been thinking about is this.
We’re all going to have rough times, and people around us will all, at some point, undergo rough times. Everyone is too weak at some moment. Even Elijah was reminded by God, that “the journey is too much for you,” a reminder given by a compassionate and gracious God, not a frustrated and impatient one. Each of us is lame, too fragile, too weak for the journey at some point. AT those moments, it becomes very clear, as it has to me in the last few months, that almost every single person you meet has the ability to make your journey harder or easier. It’s amazing how a simple word, a small kindness, a moment of patience, an unnecessary but true compliment can actually strengthen the feeble limb.
More than that, when you are aware of someone’s struggles do you make it harder for them by your judgment, condescension, fear, control or apathy, or do you seek to strengthen the feeble arms and weak knees. Occasionally in our self righteousness we may even act as if we believe our job is to make the path harder for the struggling, in order to teach them a lesson, or purify them by fire.
This verse instead seeks to remind us we ought to work to make the paths level and easier for each other, in order to heal rather than disable. Even when tough love is appropriate (which may be less than we think) it’s important to remember that the opposite of enabling is not disabling, it is healing. It is making the path as level and easy as possible for the person to find healing.
It’s my new commitment and a suggestion I make to you. Ask yourself, when you encounter those struggling in anything, are you making their path easier? Are you strengthening them in their weakness, or are you making them feel weaker, being careful to point out their flaws, bad decisions, and other “issues” Realize that even when you are not in a position to “help” you are in a position to heal or disable.
Isn’t that the kind of church, small group or ministry you want to be part of?
Here’s something I hope strengthens your weak limbs, if you are feeling unable to walk forward