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 12:8-10, ESV)
Have you ever disliked something about yourself so much that you wanted to change it? Perhaps you prayed for God to change or even remove it from your life. It might have been an ailment, a habit, a difficult relationship, a regretted decision, or a perceived weakness. There have been many times in my life that I have wished I had made different choices. I often have wished I did not tend to overthink things and that I didn’t experience as much anxiety as I do at times.
Our weaknesses may not be the vices we think they are.
In the scripture passage above, Paul is talking about something in his life that he calls a “thorn in the flesh” in previous verses. When he asked God to remove it, he received a “no”. Instead, God encouraged Paul to see his weakness in a different way.
In our weaknesses, God gives us grace and power.
God says, in our weakness, we get to experience his grace and his power. This is an amazing truth. My wife and I were having a discussion this morning, and we found ourselves discussing this very thing. If we shun our weaknesses and attempt only to play to our perceived strengths, we can become self-reliant and miss walking with Him through life. We wind up in bondage. We miss seeing what He can do through us in both good and bad circumstances. Instead, we are limited by our own human potential. His power and plans for us far surpass what we can possibly imagine or conjure up through our best effort.
In our weaknesses, God frees us.
It’s not just grace and power we get to experience when we allow ourselves to venture into an area that we are weak. We also find freedom in that place: freedom from self-effort that always comes up short, freedom from addiction to something that never satisfies, freedom from behaviors and habits that we just can’t break no matter how hard we try, and freedom from feeling like we must hide certain parts of who we are out of shame.
Navigating our weaknesses the way God intends is always relational, not a task for us to complete.
But how do we do this? That’s a fair question, but it misses the point that God tries to make to Paul (and us). This is not so much something that we will do. This is something HE will do in and through us as we learn more and more how to trust him with ourselves. This journey is filled with surrendering the control we try to have in our lives that keeps us locked up in stress, bondage, and discontent. This grace, power, and freedom through our weaknesses is something that we will experience in relationship with him, not trying to do something FOR him. It’s not about trying harder, following the right religious rules, or figuring out what he wants us to do to unlock his blessings. He is already loving and blessing us, but we must trust him to experience his gifts of love and the blessings that come with it. No one experiences something they do not receive. We don’t get to enjoy a gift if we never accept that it is ours to open…and then open it!