Strength in Weakness
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In our day and age, we are taught to be successful by exhibiting strength as we hide our weaknesses, by displaying confidence as we bury our doubts, and by showing boldness as we conceal our fears. When we live in this manner, we use our own resources as a means of perfecting our image, but when these resources fail, we become exhausted and burnt out. Why? Because we were not intended to live by our own resources but in the strength and power of the risen Christ within us.
If we are content with what we can do by ourselves, then all we are doing is magnifying ourselves. If our lives can be explained in terms of us—our skills, abilities, gifts, temperament, and personality—then there is only one person that will get the applause: ourselves. But the resources that Paul exhibited were out of his weakness. People saw strength out of his poverty, riches out of his vulnerability, and stability out of his uncertainties. Because the only valid explanation for Paul being who he was and doing what he did was the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ within him.
It was not his skills or his abilities that mattered. Paul had skills, but God had to break those because brokenness is more biblical than wholeness and brokenness is the only way to wholeness. Paul was very transparent about who he was. He called himself the chief of sinners and the least among the apostles. But Paul learned by experience that it is in our weakness that we discover that Christ is our strength: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”1
We only discover Christ as our resource when we stop trying to hide our weaknesses and limitations and begin to be honest about them. When we are weak, that is when we allow Jesus Christ to be strong in us. But as long as we are self-sufficient, we limit, inhibit, and hinder what He could do in us. Out of our weakness and poverty, Jesus Christ is magnified when we allow Him to lead us beyond what we can do and allow Him to make us what we know we are not.
Christ is in the business of exchanging our weakness for His strength, our dirt for His cleanliness, and our poverty for His riches. So the next time we find ourselves feeling weary and weak, may we remember that we are strong in Him.—Charles Price
Slowdown or meltdown
Our own weakness can be our saving grace, because Jesus’ strength is made perfect in our weakness.2 That concept is so contrary to our natural way of thinking. It’s human nature to want to be strong in ourselves, and through that strength, to push forward and make progress. But Jesus tells us that when we feel weak and helpless, that’s when His power can work in us!
Jesus wants to bring each of us to the place of full faith—that place where we continue to hold on to His promises and refuse to quit, even though we don’t have an ounce of our own strength left. When we get to this state where we truly know and accept that without Jesus we can do nothing, then He is able to take over. This is when what for us is impossible in our own strength becomes possible in His strength.
So, if you’ve been feeling like you can’t go on one more step, then that’s just perfect because you’re right where you need to be! But Jesus doesn’t want you to stay in that state. He wants to move you beyond that point, and He will. When you’ve come to the end of your own resources, that’s when Jesus can step in and His strength and power can work in and through you.
We tend to think we’re stronger and more capable and more indispensable than we are. And if we carry on in that frame of mind, trying to do everything ourselves, we just might find out how dispensable we are. When we collapse physically, mentally, or emotionally and can’t get anything done, we’ll find out that the world can go on without us.
Sometimes God has to dispel our delusions of grandeur, our feelings of self-importance. He knows we have our limits, and He knows how frail we are. “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”3 He just wishes that we would wake up and realize that too. The solution is to slow down, commit all our cares to Him, and go at a slower daily pace, trusting in Him for what we are able or not able to do.
In today’s fast-paced world it’s very difficult to slow down due to the many demands on our time, but finding that balance is something we should be doing constantly, because moderation in all things is one of the keys to physical health and spiritual well-being.—Maria Fontaine
The advantage of weakness
All of us are tempted to assume confidence in ourselves and not God. We could assume confidence in our physical strength, training, diet, sleep, education, gifting, or experience. We need a paradigm shift in our hearts: human weakness does not equal spiritual disadvantage. The truth is, we are all weak. But those who appear to be weak and rely on God are actually strong, because their strength comes from the almighty God!
Towards the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul writes (first quoting the Lord’s comforting word to him), “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.4
This is a complete paradigm shift from the world’s way of thinking. Contentment with weaknesses, hardships, persecution, and calamities—all for the sake of Christ—is strength. God doesn’t just use weak people despite their weaknesses; he demonstrates his perfect power through their weaknesses. … But this isn’t just Paul’s story, and it’s not just my story. It’s the story of the whole Bible. Joseph, Moses, Esther, Joshua in the battle of Jericho, David against Goliath. God uses our inadequacy to highlight his extraordinary power.
This truth about God’s power being made perfect in weakness is most clearly seen in the cross. In the book of Revelation, when John catches a glimpse of glory and sees the resurrected Jesus, the nail marks on his hands and feet were visible. … The literal, actual scars on Jesus’ glorified body are a result of the work he did to redeem our lives that have been scarred by our sin. All of us have sinned against a holy God. None of us could do anything to pay for our debt against our Creator. But God provided a way—through weakness and suffering. And we await his return in power.
Until then, God never promises us a pain-free existence. In a fallen world, our reality will often be a pain-full one. We can embrace God in our trials with faith that God is doing a work in us and through us that is beyond our limited comprehension. Until [our] final deliverance, it’s a privilege to point to Jesus’ scars through our scars.
Our broken bodies and trials can be a beautiful picture of God’s glorious redemption. God is accomplishing more for his mission in our suffering than we can see right now—not in spite of our weakness, but through our weakness.—David Furman5
We think of weakness and strength as opposites. To be strong is good and means to be without weakness. To be weak is bad and means to be without strength. Most of us want to be thought of as strong. We are concerned that people won’t think highly enough of us if we show our weakness.
Paul was seemingly a strong man with a fruitful ministry. His ineffable visions of heaven strengthened him to endure much hardship and motivated his extraordinary labor for the gospel. He had seen the glories of where he was headed and could say, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”6 But Paul did not boast in the details of his visions. He refused to boast in his strength, but boasted only in his weakness. Paul wanted people to think highly of Christ alone—to see his power.
Paul embraced suffering. His inability to rid himself of the “thorn” (whatever it was) or avoid difficult circumstances showcased God’s power working in and through him. Paul preached the gospel, but God was doing the work of saving sinners and building churches. It was God who was strong.
Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate display of strength through weakness. The weakness of Jesus, being abused, mocked, and reviled, required great strength. The Son of God “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”7 Jesus was strong enough to become weak for our sake, submitting to his Father, even to death on a cross. That weakness satisfied the wrath of God, brought the glory of the resurrection, orchestrated the salvation of a multitude of sinners, and resulted in ultimate power over sin and death.
Jesus shows his power through weak sinners. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead8 works within us through “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” to make us content for the sake of Christ9 and to conform us to his likeness.10 ...
Weakness and strength are not opposites but two sides of the same coin. When we are weak, then we are strong.11—Keri Folmar12
Published on Anchor July 2021. Read by Simon Peterson.
Music by John Listen.
1 2 Corinthians 12:9–10.
2 2 Corinthians 12:9–10.
3 Psalm 103:14.
4 2 Corinthians 12:9–10.
6 Philippians 1:21.
7 Hebrews 1:3.
8 Ephesians 1:20.
9 2 Corinthians 12:10.
10 Romans 8:29.
11 2 Corinthians 12:10.