…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may 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 12:7-10, ESV)
I have heard this passage from 2 Corinthians mentioned, preached, and taught many times in my life. The irony of a weakness somehow being a strength has always been thought provoking. This past week, a couple of things have happened that have shed new light on this for me. Without going into too much detail about how God broadened my personal understanding of these words from Paul, I want to share my thoughts here.
For a long time, I have seen how my tendency to analyze things has been both a weakness and a strength at times. Obviously, analyzing things often leads to stress and missed opportunities to enjoy things in the moment (weakness). However, the drive to dive deeper into things pays dividends as well (strength). Additionally, when I rely heavily upon figuring things out, I am dependent upon God to ultimately come through for me. My desire to figure things out leads me to Him because I eventually find out that I cannot figure things out on my own.
If you’ll notice, I have looked at this oxymoron of weaknesses being strengths only in the context of how it affects me alone. I have always been so self-focused when thinking of the verses above, I have never thought much about how they apply in relationships. God is helping me out of this box in which I have been.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (I’ll paraphrase instead of posting all those verses here), Paul speaks about the Church being the body of Christ, having many different parts. As members of this body, we all work together, but we all have different jobs. None are more important than the other, although, sometimes we may incorrectly view one job as of lesser importance. Though we may doubt a person’s role, maybe even our own, at times, we are all intimately woven together as Christ’s body. It’s really ridiculous to try to separate any one of us from the rest. I know we may tie this in with what this looks like in a “church setting”, but that’s not what I am talking about here. I am speaking much more specifically about each of our roles in the whole body of Christ, not just the local church. To minimize any of our roles to only one setting would be missing the much bigger picture of which we are a part.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:22 that “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable”. God made it clear to me through experience recently that mine and others’ weaknesses can be transformed into strengths when we share them with each other. I may think that when I offer my, often seemingly crazy, thoughts in a conversation that it gets us off topic, but God may choose to use that to get us on a more important topic at the time by addressing a particular issue with which someone else is struggling. On the flip side of this, when others play to their weaknesses, these can be strengths for me if I will allow them to be. A good example are people in my life who are spontaneous and really live in the moment. Although these tendencies may be weaknesses for them at times, when I allow myself to let down my guard in their presence, God uses these people to give me some freedom when I go too far with my over-thinking things. I am then free to enjoy things and not be so caught up in analyzing everything to death. Although I dearly love my friends that share in my desire to have deep conversations about things, I also need those that are different than me so God can use them to lighten me up! Life cannot be ALL about being in deep thought all the time and trying to figure things out. As much as I love it, it can be depressing! Solomon knows what I’m talking about (Ecclesiastes 1:18).
I know in relationships, we often complain about what we perceive as our own or the other person’s weaknesses. Perhaps we should open ourselves up to the possibility that God could work through that perceived weakness in our lives. Instead of rolling our eyes when someone makes a silly joke, maybe we could laugh along and enjoy the moment being lightened up. Instead of being mad at the overly serious dude in the group, perhaps we should listen for any gold nuggets of truth he may have to offer. Ladies, rather than beating yourselves up over not being the perfect “Proverbs 31 woman”, you could make it a point to begin seeking from God your own personal identity (the lady He created YOU to be), and what it looks like to just be yourself with others, with all your weaknesses and strengths. Men, instead of complaining about how our wives aren’t affectionate enough, maybe we could see it as an invitation to ignite that God-given masculine trait of pursuing our wives more fervently.
God likes to work this way. It highlights the One who deserves all the honor and glory. It also reveals the truth that we all are important to Him. He loves to work with us, through us, between us, and interestingly enough, He doesn’t require us to be perfect. He actually is thrilled to work through our weaknesses.