Admitting weakness is not always easy. It isn't easy to admit it to myself. It isn't easy to admit it to others. There is something in me that rebels against the notion of weakness. And yet, I think I am at my best when I am willing to own my weaknesses and inadequacies. Not in a self-deprecating and whiny sort of way. I simply mean that I am strongest when I am honest with myself about my weakness. Hiding from weakness is simply lying to myself. It doesn't make it go away, it just ignores it.
This was one of those weeks when I was fully aware of my inadequacies. No single event brought about my acute recognition, but a compilation of things coalesced to remind me. My wife and I spent the past weekend traveling for my sister-in-laws graduation from college. It was a great weekend, but we returned home to a new week already feeling a bit behind, so I stayed home a bit late on Monday morning to help get the house in order and then when I got to the office, I realized I had forgotten my computer at home. This resulted in me feeling behind most of the week at work. My wife works more than normal this week and we have some night and weekend commitments this week as well. I was also reminded through various conversations and personal reflection that the weight and responsibility of pastoral ministry is heavy to carry. No one did anything wrong. No single event derailed my week. All of these various things combined to bring about an increased sensitivity to my own weakness. It didn't feel very good right away. Although, it drove me to my knees before Jesus, which has ultimately produced a joy in me that is supernatural.
Each of you may have different contexts in life right now. Different things may bring about each of our own fears of weakness or inadequacy. Whether it be studying for finals, feeling like a failure of a parent or being overwhelmed at work, at times we will all be confronted with feelings of weakness. We can either be honest with ourselves about those emotions, or we can bury them and ignore them. I want to give you the liberty to be honest with yourself. I also want to give you some hope when you do feel week.
God is with us
When I need confidence in the mighty hand of God, I turn to a passage in Isaiah.
"fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
- Isaiah 41:10
What joy and confidence this brings to my soul. "Fear not," God says. Why? because "I am with you." There is nothing greater in times of fear and weakness than to know that my God is with me. The God who made the sun and the stars, the God whose voice the winds and the waves obey, this is the God who is with me. When I need strength, God promises to strengthen me. When I need help, God promises to give me help. When I feel like I cannot stand, God says that he will uphold me. This may not mean my circumstances change, but I renew my confidence that God is with me. God has done that for me this week. He has reminded me that when I am weak and overwhelmed, even in those moments, God is with me.
Jesus gives us strength
The Apostle Paul was very aware of his own weakness. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he was telling them about a thorn that was given to Paul "in the flesh." Scholars and theologians debate about what the thorn actually was - some say it was an area of sin, others that it was a physical ailment and still others that it could have been from persecution. The list of possible meanings could probably go on. Regardless of exactly what Paul meant by the thorn in his flesh, it was something that he desperately wanted removed. It was an area of weakness that Paul did not want to have hindering him any longer. He tells the Corinthians that Jesus responded with these words,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
- 2 Corinthians 12:9a
In reflection on Jesus' words, Paul goes on to say,
"Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ my 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 12:9b-10
When we are weak, then we are strong. This resonates with me. If I am aware of an area of weakness, I can either deny it exists, or I can be honest with myself and rest upon the strength of Jesus. Throughout the Bible, we see God chose some of the least likely people to accomplish His work. It is helpful to remember that admitting my weakness and celebrating Jesus' strength brings glory and honor to Jesus. His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in my weakness. I don't have to run or hide, because I can rest in the grace of God through Jesus.
These two passages have brought great joy to my heart this week. If you are in need of some encouragement or strength, maybe you will find it in these passages as well. Or, if you have other verses that remind you of God's strength in times of your own weakness, please feel free to share them in the comments section.