Getting stuff done and pressing into everything God has for us are not without their challenges. The question we all ask ourselves is “Do I have what it takes to meet and conquer the task before me?”
strength in weakness
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)
I love this little poem written by Emily Dickinson more than 150 years ago. It conveys in such an unassuming way a deep spiritual truth. The Apostle Paul writes “There is no respect of persons with God.” (Romans 2:11) He is quoting here an Old Testament passage out of Deuteronomy 10:17 that says “God does not show partiality or take a bribe.” This is a very freeing truth. The basis of our relationship with God is not measured by accomplishment – by making ourselves or proving ourselves to be somebody.