A few weeks ago I was watching a cooking show with multiple chefs bantering about life as they were preparing some holiday dishes. One of them asked, “what is your word for the new year?” I think enjoy is my word, I am going to try to enjoy my life more this year.” For many years in the Christian world, people would come up with a word as well, “what is God saying to you about this year? Slogans would abound. There is more in 2004! Culture shifted and single words like Gratitude or Kindness reigned.
A few days later, I decided to ask the Lord if He had a word for me to think about this year–expecting to hear some inspiring faith thoughts or power words like Righteousness or Joy, I admit I was almost shocked to hear Him quickly say “what if I said the word, weak”? Weak? What do you mean weak? Immediately the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. NKJV
So my journey to explore weakness begins. Paul had some kind of debatable “thorn in the flesh” as he called it. Some think it was bad eyesight, some think it was his past remembering of his persecutions of believers, or even depression! We don’t know. But it was enough for him to implore the Lord three times that it would be removed. He called it a weakness. So instead of trying to figure out Paul’s problem, I knew the Lord wanted me to focus on mine. Weakness is revealed by circumstances and situations beyond our control. There is something about our nature that struggles with feeling out of control.
I realized my weaknesses are not something I choose to think about–Satan’s taunts remind me enough at times where I fall short. But as I explored more, I realized how ignorant I was about these verses. Part of me, if I am honest, figured I have not been taken up to the third heaven or done any of the other things Paul had done to need to be humbled, I needed to just focus on being strong! One of the things we do know is Paul is not excusing sin here. Conviction, confession and repentance or turning away from sin is how sin is dealt with. Recognizing areas where we are weak is another matter. It takes courage to consider our weaknesses.
Verse 10 lists some things where Paul had to deal with his weaknesses. That is why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Each of these areas were out of his control. Isn’t that where we feel our weakest? When we are not able to use our own abilities to effect our situations? We cannot control what others think about us (insults). We cannot control the hardships of life (death, difficult diagnosis, climate issues). We have limited ability to control persecutions related to our faith in our family, our job or life encounters. The troubles Paul lists in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 humble me in my own complaints: shipwrecked, jailed, imprisoned, hungry and cold are just a few of the things listed in this passage. One of them would have been enough for me, but he endured them all for the gospel’s sake.
Weakness is revealed: when our difficulties drive us to Jesus. When things overwhelm us beyond what we think we can bear–that is where we discover our weaknesses. That is where the Lord desires to show up and become our strength. Death of a loved one is one of those areas that cannot be changed. Once it has happened. It is over. Grief reveals so many areas of need. As I sought relief after my husbands passing, my dependency on Him grew. I had never walked as a widow, so all of it was new. Still is in many ways, but it drove me to Him. I honestly can say the effect of this weakness and my dependency on Jesus is wonderful, but I still don’t know I can say I take pleasure in them!
Weakness appears in faith dilemmas where you believe God’s Word, that He is our healer, and you watch a loved one suffer can either drive us to Him, or away in bitterness. The struggle is real. The feeling of weakness and inability to help is indescribable. But still you press in and forward. Your weakness gaining strength from Him as you trust His intervening hand and purpose.
Our weakness reveals our dependency. Our prideful nature rebels from showing vulnerability. For some reason, God does not seem to care about hurting our pride. Through trusting a situation years ago, Darryl and I had a car re-possessed. Someone else had promised to make the payments for us, and by the time the bank called for it to be handed over, it was too late for us to do anything about it. Humbling to be sure. Lessons of forgiveness, stewardship, compassion resulted. God was gracious and we were given a VW van shortly afterward. The next time we purchased a vehicle we prayed and prayed trusting God for favor, mercy and grace. We did not have any trouble of that sort anytime since.
Many people I know have gone through many battles in 2017. Maybe you find yourself entering 2018 feeling weak. Do not condemn yourself, do not give up, but acknowledge your weakness. In it you will find your dependency on the One who never grows weary or is weak. He will show up. He will show you how to walk weak, and therefore be strong. If you ended 2018 feeling Strong in Him, encourage your brothers and sisters. Help strengthen them. We need each other.