God Helps Us to do More than We Can Think or Imagine

God wants you to do more and be more than you can think or imagine. How great is that?

I know he wants this for us because in 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us that God is preparing for us things so good that they exceed our imagination; and in Philippians 4, Paul says that the Spirit gives us the power to do all things. An invocation from my prayer book recently summarized it this way:

“Almighty God, through the power of your Holy Spirit, you enable us to do and be more than we can think or imagine.”**  

That’s some pretty top-notch motivational stuff. At least that’s the way I used to understand verses and prayers like this.

I used to think that these verses meant that God’s Spirit would help me to accomplish great things (and here’s the thing, I can imagine myself doing some pretty great things). This made these sorts of promises seem extraordinarily appealing. The idea that the Spirit would help me to do things that were even greater than I could imagine was intoxicating. To some degree this vision of personal grandeur fueled my faith for years.

But then life happened. I tried something new and failed. I stepped into an anxious situation and said something embarrassing. I asked for healing from God and received only silence in return. Not only were my great expectations not being exceeded; they weren’t even being met.

Now, I read these verses differently. Now, instead of seeing these promises and prayers as being about external success, strength, and super-hero like stamina, I see them as promises from God that the Spirit will help redeem my brokenness and empower me to love in divine ways. I see the great things that the Spirit helps me to do as the power to overcome unimaginable pain without inappropriately seeking escape from it through numbing. I see the unexpected things that God is going to do as a growing capacity to forgive someone who has betrayed me.

That means the unimaginable life of God in you might look like the mother of young children who is trying to love her spouse who is addicted and angry. For her, many days might feel unimaginable (but not in a good way).  She wants to give up and stop trying. However by God’s Spirit, she is made strong to endure and persevere in love through the pain. The unimaginable thing isn’t rescue from her hard and pain-filled world. It’s the capacity to love others in it.

It also looks like the out of work dad who is overwhelmed by the shame of being unemployed. Every rejection letter that arrives in the mail makes applying to another job feel more difficult than climbing a mountain. Every time he applies for a new job, it feels like he is waiting in line to get punched in the gut. However, by God’s Spirit he does the unthinkable…he fights back the shame and keeps applying to jobs.

For the guy raking it in at his finance job, the unimaginably hard thing that God’s Spirit enables him to do is playing trains with his 3-year-old. The shear inefficiency of those minutes just sitting on the floor pushing a wooden train around a track makes him want to get up and run for a task to complete, a chore, his smartphone…anything that will scratch the itch in his soul crying out for him to get something done. However, by the Spirit he grows into the sort of patient person who can do the unimaginable. He sits still and plays with his son.

When Paul writes these things and when we pray these sorts of prayers, we do so not dreaming about the glory of grandeur, but rather the glory of a soul transformed by love. It’s in the midst of life’s painful cross-like realities that God’s Spirit helps us to do the unthinkable and unimaginable.

With this knowledge, would you join me in praying this prayer?

“Almighty God, through the power of your Holy Spirit, you enable us to do and be more than we can think or imagine.”**

**A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants