Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 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. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
We all have weaknesses. None of us are immune to struggles. This statement is often received in two vastly different ways. There are those who relate immeasurable more to weakness than strength, some to the point where they define themselves by their weaknesses. This mindset, where all you can see is your faults and shortcomings, leads to despair.
On the other side, there are those that define their lives by a lack of weakness. They never want anyone to see a chink in their armor. They run themselves ragged keep up the charade of invincibility. Pride begins to creep in and the ultimate end of pride is also despair.
Neither approach is how God calls us to respond to our weaknesses. Falling for the cultural trap of ignoring, covering up or overcompensating for our weaknesses has kept us from experiencing God’s strength in our lives.
Weakness is any place in our lives where our strength is not enough. If you feel boxed in, pushed down, held back, beat up or spread thin, you’ve collided with your weakness. Weakness can be spiritual, intellectual, emotional, circumstantial, relational and physical. Even the strongest of us have weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2).
In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul addresses a few issues taking place in the church of Corinth. Some individuals in leadership positions within the community were bashing Paul and boasting about themselves. Unlike the “weak” Paul, these “Super Apostles” were strong leaders worth following, or at least this is the message they were attempting to sell to others.
How does Paul respond to these charges against him? Rather than listing off his accomplishments and making much of himself, Paul speaks about a “thorn in his flesh” - a place where Paul’s strength isn’t enough. He doesn’t shy away from his struggles but admits his weakness.
Paul’s “thorn”, his weakness, was difficult to handle and he was desperate for it to be gone. Paul was at the end of himself. He was tired of the struggle, he was out of options, and he was desperate. So Paul pursued God three separate times asking God to do what only God can do - take this place of weakness away. God answers Paul’s prayer but not in the way one would expect. This answer was not what Paul was looking for, it’s not what he wanted, and it’s not what he was asking for. Instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul grace. He tells Paul that His power is made perfect in weakness.
Instead of being bitter and jaded, Paul begins to boast and openly acknowledges his weakness. If the power of Christ would rest upon his weakness, Paul was willing to expose his struggles. He understood that when others saw him being strong in his weakness that Christ would be seen as strong. The same is true for us. God gets the glory when we are willing to let Him be strong in our weakness.
Weakness leads us to the point of desperate dependence on God. Without weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities we will be, just like Paul, prone to think we’ve got everything under control and don’t need any help. Without weakness and difficulties, we are all prone to become prideful.
The grace of God in the midst of our weakness is that we are brought to a point of dependence on His strength. Faith is the act of turning away from our own weakness, to God’s perfect strength! Faith isn’t just the way to become a Christian, it’s also the way we experience the strength to live out the Christian life.
Admitting weakness is the first step to finding strength. If we’re going to be a people who find strength in our weakness we’re going to have to be a people who are honest about our weaknesses with God, with ourselves and with each other. Don’t cover your weakness up - allow God and others into those places.
Perfect strength is found in dependence on God. His power is fully realized, fully seen and fully experienced in our weaknesses. God wants to be strong for us in ways that we could never be strong for ourselves.
Our part in this is to first admit our weakness, allowing Him into the places in our lives where our strength is insufficient, but His strength is more than enough. Let us stop defining our lives by weakness or by a lack of weakness and instead let’s define our lives by dependence.
- God’s strength is found when we depend on Him in the midst of our weakness. Where do you need to confront and admit your weakness before you can begin to depend on God? Where is your strength insufficient?
God, where I am weak, You are strong. Rather than hide from or define myself by my weaknesses, may I freely admit my struggles. Give me the faith to depend on You for every circumstance that I face. Show Your strength in ways I could never imagine or hope for. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.