Turning weakness into strength

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9  (NIV)

The Greek word which is translated weakness in this verse is astheneia.  It is defined as an ailment of mind or body that deprives someone of enjoying or accomplishing what they would like to do.  That is why weaknesses in our lives are so despised.  They are joy robbers and frustrate us in our pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Weaknesses in our lives have a dichotomous effect upon us.  In whatever form they may take, they cause us to run the emotional gamut from being difficult to acknowledge to being an object of obsession and regret.  We treat them like someone who is a nuisance.  We start off trying to ignore or deny the fact we know them, and when confronted by them in a face to face encounter, we conjure up any excuse possible that will enable us to slip away from them in hopes of focusing our attention on more pleasant things.  But the lingering effect of the unpleasantness of our encounter with them is not as easy to shake off and readily dismiss.  Like being in a magnetic force field we are drawn into replaying the exposure of our weakness again and again.  We hate the fact they have such a debilitating effect upon us.  We desperately want to move beyond them and break free from their gravitational pull.

Much is being made today, both in the business world and in the church, about identifying, developing and working out of one’s strengths.  It could go without saying, but both intuitively and objectively, the idea of maximizing our strengths does promise the best return for our labors.  Many a case has been made for the extrinsic as well as intrinsic benefit and fruitfulness from utilizing our talents and strengths.  And that is true as far as our labors go. 

But there is another level of accomplishment that is both counterintuitive and much more subjective, and that has to do with maximizing our weaknesses.  In the natural we do not associate weakness with power or perfection.  Quite the opposite.  But Jesus’ advice to Paul, who was experiencing the perplexity of a weakness he could not overcome, is life giving advice to us as well.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a) 

Jesus draws back the veil here and reveals that in the Spirit, there is a redemptive dimension to weakness.  He encourages us that the depths of our weakness serve only to position us to tap into and plumb the subterranean aquifer of His grace, power and strength.  Like gold and diamonds, the rivers of His grace are often hidden in the darkest depths and only discovered when we are pressed to dig deeper to find them.

Paul’s response is instructive.  “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  (vs 9b)  Weaknesses do not naturally elicit a boast from us.  To the contrary they most often shroud us in shame.  We are embarrassed by them and would rather hide them than talk about them.  We want to boast about our accomplishments and not our failures.  But there is a truth here that Paul has discovered that we would do well to heed and it has to do with perspective.

Weaknesses are opportunities that God gives us to see things from a different perspective, His perspective.  But not in a way we would think.  Weakness is more an invitation to look through a microscope than a telescope.  Rather than looking outside, beyond our circumstances for understanding we are meant to look within and discover His strength hidden in our weakness.  Like the splitting of the atom, His power, literally the promised “dunamis” (Greek) power of the Holy Spirit, is released in the midst of our acknowledged weakness. (Acts 1:8).  Ironically and mysteriously it is triggered by our boasting in our weakness.  It is intriguing to imagine that boasting and taking “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties” as Paul did, can become the key for us as well in turning weakness into strength. (2 Corinthian 12:10a)

Weaknesses are ever our companions.  Some accompany us through each season of life, taking on new irritating characteristics.  Others pass away with time, while new ones introduce themselves along the way and join the ragged band.  But resident in them all is the strength of Christ, just waiting to be released, through our deciding to accept them and find delight in them.  Then from a clear and pure heart we can proclaim:  “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (vs. 10b)

What have you learned about accepting and maximizing your weaknesses?  How has Jesus turned your weakness into a strength?

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2 thoughts on “Turning weakness into strength”

  1. Most often, I find that the push or direction of the world is to become self sufficient and even so that of the individual. In one sense, that is a good thing because it forces you to become, expand, and push yourself into a greater measure of understanding and accomplishment in your life and or situation. Being single and a homeowner, I have had to do/learn things in order to survive and afford the costs of homeownership by tackling a problem/project myself which leads to a sense of joy in the accomplishment and pride. On the otherhand, finding myself in a situation where I am not able in my own strength to tackle-it causes me to rely on my Heavenly Father for help as well as to reach out to someone who might be able to help. In the whole of things, we do need each other and even more so, we need Heavenly help from above as well-which often comes to us in the form of a human being or an inspiration or idea.

  2. Thanks for the comment. You make a very good point. Weakness does foster dependence not only upon God, but also in relationship with others. It underscores that we are part of a greater whole, where ideally there is constant ebb and flow of God’s grace enabling one another in times of need.

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