Strength to the End

Two of my friends lost their mothers in December, and it always brings back memories of my own mother’s passing when that happens. If you have lost your Mom, you understand the special kind of painful hole that her death creates in your soul. Your mother, whether she was good or not, whether she was supportive and encouraging or judgmental and harsh, was the very first person to know you from the inside-out. There is a blood bond or an adoptive bond that can’t be denied. And if your mother was good, the hole is cavernous and hard to navigate, especially in the first weeks and months. Her lack of presence in this world is disorienting and foreign.

I had a good mother, so I know this pain.

Our lectionary passage today has a beautiful phrase that made me think of my friends’ new grief and my own well-worn sadness over losing our mothers. The blessing of my mother’s passing came in the way she died, as we had spent the evening together and I made her tea and helped her get ready for bed. A few hours later she died in her sleep. We didn’t know it was coming. What a tremendous gift of grace that was!

God gave both of us strength for the end.

Paul assures the church of Corinth that God will also strengthen them to the end. This is a powerful promise that we can all grab ahold of when a loved one dies or as we face our own mortality. I think this can also apply to the end of a relationship, losing a job, graduating from college, moving away from your home, adult children going off on their own … all those things that at some point must come to an end.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the partnership of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until it’s season, something God alone can see.
(Hymn of Promise, Natalie Sleeth, UMH #707)

God is faithful indeed.

The End and the Beginning by Michelle Robertson


I discovered last week that lifting an oversized leather couch needs to be done carefully. I was not careful. I instantly felt a tear in the muscles of my ribcage, known as an intercostal muscle strain. It happens when you twist and lift. Apparently, you can twist OR lift, but not at the same time. I spent the rest of the week going about my chores as I helped my daughter and son-in-law move into a new house gritting my teeth as had to bend, lift, move, and breathe my way through the discomfort. Fortunately, this is a mishap that heals itself, but over a week later I still can’t sleep on that side.

Paul talks about the difference between real strength and teeth-gritting strength. I can relate. Had I had real strength for lifting the couch, I wouldn’t have had to grit my teeth for a week. Perhaps real strength would have involved knowing the limits of my own strength and realizing I was in over my head.

In this letter to the church at Colossae, Paul is commending the people for their growth in their faith. Growing in faith requires some heavy lifting.

Colossians 1 (The Message)

9-12 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

In this Message translation, Paul calls the long-haul strength that faith building requires “glory-strength.” Don’t you just love that? He encourages the followers to keep working hard at it, staying attuned to God’s will and learning about how God works. Always the encourager, Paul tells them that in his prayers he asks God to give them wise minds so they might acquire a complete understanding of God. He reminds us that God makes them strong enough to do what they need to do.

Do you need to be reminded of that today?

13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Some of us may feel that we are still in dead-end alleys or dark dungeons. Sin, hopelessness, addiction, abusive relationships, etc. keep us trapped in doom pits and we need a way out. Thankfully, Christ provides it:

Christ Holds It All Together

15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so expansive, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Read that again. All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe get properly fixed and fit together by Christ. The blood of the atonement brings us to a state of at-one-ment with God and his purpose for our lives. In him we live, breath, and find our being. And he is the greatest fixer of all that is broken.

Are you broken today? Do you need be fixed? Are you gritting your teeth because your strength is failing? Seek God and his glory-strength and he will restore harmony to your soul.

Glory-Strength by Karen DeBellis