I used a balloon at a talk I did a few weeks ago and it occurs to me that a balloon perfectly illustrates what the Lord revealed to a young man in my office recently.
When you buy a package of balloons they just sit there flat on the counter. That is because the external air pressure around an un-inflated balloon pushes down on it with no opposing resistance and smashes the poor balloon (cue dramatic action movie music here).
However, then you pick up that poor, defenseless balloon and start blowing into it, all of a sudden it fills out to its particular designed shape. How come? Because you are pushing air into the inside of the balloon that is at a greater internal pressure than the forces exerted on the outside.
The young man in my office was feeling especially disconnected from the Lord. He was overwhelmed by all the external circumstances and opinions of others that kept driving home one specific message: you are a total failure who does not fit anywhere. In fact, he was convinced in his inner man that he had messed up so much, had disappointed God so many times, that even God did not want to be around him – and that would likely never change.
So as he sat in the middle of this intense pain, I prayed and asked the Lord to reveal His truth to the inmost part of this man (incidentally, according to Psalm 51, this is exactly what the Lord wants to do!). The Spirit gave him the phrase, “You have endured.”
We weren’t sure exactly what that meant, so when in doubt, ask. “Lord, thank you for this gift. Would you help your children better understand how to use this gift?” Immediately, the man recalled 1 John 4:4: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [endured], because the one who is in you is greater than the one in the world.”
God wanted this man to know that he had not been smashed flat by all the eternal forces, like an un-inflated balloon, because the love and presence of God were within him, pushing back against everything outside– and the Lord is bigger and greater – and so the young man had remained upright. His endurance was not evidence of the young man’s strength or persistence – his endurance was evidence of the love and power of God abiding within him.
Wow, I hope this is a week when we all become aware of how the Lord is working within a believer’s life to push back against all that outside stuff.