When weak is strong

Have I mentioned that this season of motherhood is wearing me out? I know I'm not the only one feeling more weak than strong these days.

We all have our own brew of weaknesses made up of internal and external factors.

My recipe? Allergy headaches. Anxiety. Depression in the family tree. Introversion in house of chatty girls. Seven months of interrupted sleep.

Sometimes I wonder why God knit me together this way (Psalm 139:13). Wouldn't I be more effective strong? 

Over and over I am drawn to Paul's passage on weaknesses in 2 Corinthians:
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “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." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Why would God allow Paul, his star missionary to the Gentiles, to be hampered by a harassing weakness? In response to Paul's repeated requests to remove this weakness, God assures Paul that He is enough and that weakness is the perfect place in which to display His power.

But why would this be true? Here are a few thoughts (some from Charles Spurgeon's sermon on this text here):

Weaknesses can keep you humble.  Maybe you haven't been given extraordinary revelations and visions of heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-2) like the Apostle Paul, but there are plenty of things in our lives that fan the flames of pride. Pride is so insidious, so damaging, God may allow weaknesses to keep it at bay. 

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b

Weaknesses can keep you prayerful. When every day and even every hour is a struggle, prayers become urgent and desperate. In weakness, we realize independence and strength were only illusions made possible by the right circumstances.
"Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!" Psalm 130:1-2
Weaknesses can make you more compassionate. When you are weak, you are slower to judge others in their weaknesses. You know the grace and compassion Jesus has given you, so you can pass them on.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." Philippians 2:1-2

Weaknesses make you valuable to the Church. Wait . . . what? Well, see for yourself in this passage that compares the Church to a body:
"The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." 1 Corinthians 12:21-27
Weakness in a Church family member is an opportunity to show that we value our members, not for what they can do, but because they are just that--family and fellow image-bearers of our Father. If we are tucking our weaknesses away where no one can see them, we are denying our family the opportunity to act like family!

Weaknesses can set us up to be all His.  I love this quote from Spurgeon's sermon:

"Often, a man's sense of weakness arouses the whole of him; whatever there is in the man then comes out, it makes him intense in every part. Certain small animals are much more to be dreaded in fight than larger beasts, because they are so active and furious that they bite so fast. A man might almost as well face a hyena as a rat or a weasel, because these lesser creatures are all alive, and so intent on the attack, that they fight with their whole bodies; claws and teeth are all at work, and thus they become strong through that sense of weakness which causes them to use every atom of force which they possess. . . . Because I cannot do much, therefore I will do all I can. Because I have little power, therefore I will use all the power I have."

There is a strength is being stripped of the superfluous. You may not have an abundance of strength or time or whatever it is you think you need to serve God, but you can still be wholly His with what He has given you.

Weaknesses make us like our Savior. In life, Jesus emptied Himself of much of the advantages of His deity, taking on flesh. In death, He submitted Himself to the worst of man and gave up His very Spirit for us. 
Spurgeon put it this way:
"When was Christ strongest but when He was weakest? When did He shake the kingdom of darkness but when He was nailed to the tree? When did He put away sin for His people but when His heart was pierced? When did He trample upon death and the old dragon but when He was Himself about to die? His victory was in the extremity of His weakness, namely, in His death; and it must be the same with His trembling Church. She has no might; she must suffer, she must be slandered, and derided, and so the Lord will triumph through her. The conquering sign is still the cross."
If weaknesses can have such benefits, how then should we think about them? Paul wrote, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities" (2 Corinthians 12:10).  The phrase "be content with" (ESV) or "take pleasure in" (KJV) is "eudokeĊ" in the original Greek, which means "to think it good" or "think well of." 

We can think fondly of our weaknesses because Jesus is glorified right here in our mess.

We can think fondly of our weaknesses because God, in His great mercy, is lovingly hemming us in, graciously limiting us so we can nestle under His wings.

We may not enjoy being weak, but we can enjoy the ONE whose power rests on us in our weakness.
And so we can say with the Psalmist:
"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." Psalm 16:5-6


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2 comments

  1. Such a strong written article Mary. So blessed to have you apart of our Church Body. Weakness as stated above is where we experience so much Grace.

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