Why is weakness such a bad thing?
It generally presents no moral issue; it’s not a sin. Someone who is weak is not a bad person due to his or her weakness. Weak people are only unreliable in the area of their lives affected by their weakness. (For example, if someone was only physically weak, one would not rely on them in regards to anything of physical activity, like playing a game of baseball or helping move into a new apartment. However, that same person’s mind and soul would remain fine and healthy. One could rely on them for advice or guidance.)
Synonyms for weakness include: powerlessness, helplessness, frailty, fragility, disadvantage, fault, and flaw. Weakness, in the simplest and shortest terms, is a lack of strength or power.
Maybe that’s why we don’t like it, because it means we’re lacking something. That never looks good. In a society where appearances are important, absolutely everything in most cases, it hurts us to not look or seem a certain way. It’s not just enough to keep up with the lovely Mr. and Mrs. Jones in terms of finances and materials. We want to seem just as healthy and just as happy too. We want to seem just as good as or better than them.
More importantly, lacking something never feels good either. It tends to make us feel inferior. We see others as they seem, not as they are, and start comparing ourselves to them. This leads to disappointment, which leads to anger or jealousy, which leads to our longtime pal, bitterness.
No, it’s not fun to lack something, particularly strength.
The word “strength” evokes many different images. A childhood hero, a superhero, a parent, a cancer patient, a soldier, a muscular man flexing, a CEO. Maybe it’s an object, not a person, like an oak tree, a brick building, a monument. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone thought of us when they heard the word “strength”?
I mentioned 2 Corinthians 12:9 in another blog post recently, and I’m going to use it again here. The NLT version of Paul’s words reads, “Each time [God] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
Whenever I’m not feeling terribly strong or powerful, I think of this verse and it comforts me. It’s nice to know that when I’m not at my best, it’s the perfect position for God to step in and do infinitely better than I ever could.
God’s power works best in weakness because it is evident who’s truly in control, who the power belongs to.
I’ve officially been at my job for a year now, so I’m up for review and hopefully a raise. Now, my job isn’t very hard. (I’m a bank teller.) I would say that I’m decent at my job, maybe good, but at the very least, I’m average. I mess up sometimes (Don’t we all?), but I don’t continuously mess up.
So let’s live in a weird, unrealistic world for a moment and say that when my manager’s manager comes in to do my review, not only do I get a big raise, I’m also offered a promotion. Since I don’t consider myself weak in my banking abilities, it would be easy for me to turn proud and take all the credit for what’s happened. It’d be easy, although wrong, for me to claim God’s power and glory as my own.
Let’s live in this same strange world for just a bit longer, but alter the situation entirely. In this fictional situation, I’ve been doing well up until a month ago. Since then, I’ve cashed a fraudulent check for over $3,000 and slept through my alarm, coming in two hours late. I head into my review and find that everyone is considerate enough to let me keep my job and they’re actually giving me a slight raise. There’s nothing powerful about my part in that at all. It’s all extremely humbling. God would get all the credit.
(I’m not telling you all of this so you’ll go into work and be awful employees so God will receive glory. We mess up enough naturally without doing it intentionally. Plus, doing our best and automatically pointing it back to God gives Him just as much glory.)
Do you see the difference in our two scenarios? Is it clear why He shines in our weakness?
If people know or see my flaws and faults, yet they also see that I’m thriving despite those imperfections, they’re looking at the power of God.
Out of the synonyms I listed earlier for “weakness,” the one that sticks out to me is “disadvantage.” I don’t typically associate the two words, although it does make sense.
It makes even more sense in the context of what Paul’s saying. Replace “weakness” with “disadvantage” in the verse. “Each time [God] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in [disadvantage].’ So now I am glad to boast about my [disadvantages], so that the power of Christ can work through me.” It becomes an umbrella statement for every miracle and blessing, an anthem for every underdog. It’s beautifully hopeful.
I would argue that it’s the very same without our little revision.
I find myself more comfortable saying “disadvantage” here because it references my situation, not me. So while it’s nice and sounds good, and I think Paul would dig it as well, it’s not entirely accurate for the purpose of the verse.
Like always, it falls to us to let it fall to God’s masterful, healing hands.
Don’t be afraid of weakness; don’t be ashamed of it. It’s part of life. Maybe it passes, maybe it won’t. (Paul is talking about a relentless thorn in his side when he relays God’s inspiring message.) Either way, don’t view it as you not being good enough. View it as God being more than enough and willing, wanting, to shine through you and your life.
By Carrie Prevette