I don’t like feeling weak, whether it’s physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I just don’t like it.
Ironically, however, it’s been by learning to embrace my weaknesses that I’ve grown stronger. In the moments—the seasons—of life during which I’ve been made acutely aware of my weakness, I’ve begun to understand Paul’s words: “I take pleasure in weaknesses … for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Sounds like Paul was saying weakness is not something that needs to be conquered but rather something to embrace, doesn’t it? That’s exactly right. Here are three big, important truths from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 that give us reason to embrace our weaknesses:
1. Our afflictions may be expressions of God’s grace toward us.
“Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself” (v. 7).
Whatever Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, it was chronic and debilitating. Thinking the thorn was a hindrance to his ministry, Paul prayed three times for its removal. He learned, however, that his thorn wasn’t a problem that needed fixing; it was a gracious act of intervention by God to keep Paul from pride—a sin that would have destroyed his ministry.
God may send or allow adversity to come into our lives to accomplish something better in us. If Romans 8:28-29 is true, then God’s purpose for us is not to make us happy and comfortable but to make us like His Son. It’s a blessing whenever God chooses to deliver His people from suffering. It can be an even greater blessing—and a greater miracle—when God works through our suffering to accomplish His greater purpose in our lives. Paul learned it’s more important to seek the Blesser than the blessing.
2. Our needs are never greater than God’s resources.
“My grace is sufficient for you…” (v. 9a).
That God’s grace is “sufficient” means His provision is always greater than our need. Oscar Thompson, maybe best known as the author of Concentric Circles of Concern, died of cancer in 1980. The book’s final chapter, “Things I Have Learned,” is from a letter he wrote to cancer patients. He wrote of his illness:
“I knew that nothing could come into my life without God’s permission. If it came with his permission, then I knew that it surely came with his grace to deal with it.”
“[God’s] grace is poured out one day at a time. The person who has not learned this will not live victoriously. He will always be vulnerable to circumstances. In other words, I learned that God does not give dying grace on non-dying days.”
God’s grace isn’t something we store up for rainy days. He gives His grace a day at a time in proportion to our need on that day. Know that whatever happens tomorrow, God will give you the grace to deal with it—tomorrow. To worry about tomorrow today is futile and sinful. Rest, knowing His grace is sufficient and His mercies “are new every morning” (Lam. 3:23).
3. Our weaknesses are opportunities for God to display His power in and through us.
“[God’s] power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9b).
Paul’s thorn was a constant reminder of his need to depend on God. It wasn’t just one thorn that made Paul “weak”; it was every adversity in his life. (See 11:23-28; 12:10.) Every adversity and every weakness is a platform for God to boldly manifest His grace and His power in and through us. When we are weak, God’s strength becomes more evident.
That’s why I’m content to be weak, because my weakness forces me to rely on God’s strength. I will boast in the fact that I can’t handle conquer my fears on my own, because only in that recognition do I humble myself before Him and let God be God in me. In embracing my weakness, I embrace God.
Andrew Murray, in Abide in Christ, challenged believers to embrace their weakness. This is what he said:
“The Christian often tries to forget his weakness: God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it: God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness: Christ teaches His servant to say, ‘I take pleasure in infirmities; most gladly will I glory in my infirmities.’ The Christian thinks his weakness is his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God: God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success.”
I will gladly admit it. I am weak.