And [Jesus] hath said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
It is a general axiom that strength is good and weakness is bad. “Only the strong survive.” Humans idolize strength and figures of strength. Weakness is universally maligned. No one wants to be seen as puny, sissy, cowardly, or anything else that normally is associated with weakness.
Yet Jesus and His Kingdom turn many aspects of “conventional wisdom” on their head. In the Kingdom, if we want to be strong, we must be weak!
Strength, after all, has its down side: it often leads to arrogance and self-reliance. Weakness also has its value: those who are weaker are generally more humble and more dependent on others.
Paul himself needed to understand this reality, as is made evident in 2 Corinthians 12. So that he would not get puffed up on account of the revelations given to him, a “thorn in the flesh” beset him, even though he appealed to God for its removal. Whatever this “thorn in the flesh” was, it significantly weakened Paul.
And yet that is how Paul– along with every disciple of Jesus– learns the source of true strength. It is not within our own endeavors or capabilities. We only find strength through difficulty, duress, and weakness. When we have to face our own inadequacies and realize that we by our own efforts can do very little, that is when we humble ourselves and submit to God’s strength and God’s ability.
And that is when wonderful things happen. That is when we find the ability to persevere and grow (cf. James 1:2-5). When we give up our pride, our pretension of self-reliance, and ourselves, God can then use us for His purposes and His glory and imbue us with His strength (cf. Ephesians 6:10).
If we cannot imagine ourselves as weak, humble, lowly, and reliant on others, how can we picture Jesus, who was God in the flesh, and yet humble, lowly, and reliant on the Father (John 1:1; 14, John 6:38, Philippians 2:5-11)? By His weaknesses we are saved. We do not have the time or opportunity to pretend that we are strong and in need of nothing. Let us be weak so that we may overcome through God’s strength!
Ethan R. Longhenry