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I have always admired strong people and have spent ample time trying to appear strong myself. Growing up, I was quite competitive and I hated being perceived as weak. Whenever I would play sports in school, I absolutely hated losing and I was ashamed if my grades were ever below the expectation of others. My younger sister has told me that I was a nightmare to play with as a child because I had this insatiable desire to win, to be the best. I think that at the heart of my desire to look strong was my fear of weakness.
As I look at the world around me today, there is no confusion as to where the ideals of my childhood came from. Society tells us to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient. We live by the idea of survival of the fittest. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. If we show any form of weakness, we are somehow deemed as failures.
When I first became a Christian, God redeemed me from my obsession with self-reliance and self-righteousness. I met Jesus when I was 16 years old and at the prime of my adolescence. By that time in my life, I had been suffering from anxiety for years and was constantly trying to please others. After hearing the gospel and becoming a Christian, I felt that I no longer had to suffer under the pressure of expectation. God didn’t require me to be strong or the best. He actually required the opposite. It was in my weakness and brokenness that I was able to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time. In my vulnerability, I found healing and freedom.
As I grew as Christian, I found myself constantly slipping back into the burden of strength and achievement. I realized that many Christians were struggling with the same things that I was. We were all trying to be stronger and better people but in new ways. After becoming a Christian, I felt freed from the pressure of being strong by the world’s standards but now I was trying to be strong by a new standard. I had to muster up the will to stay on top of my Bible readings and prayer time, attend and be involved in church regularly, stay away from sex, drugs, and alcohol, and be nice to everyone. I and everyone around me were Christians but we were still trying to be strong, the best, self-reliant.
God is constantly reminding me to delight in my weakness. It is strange to think that we should be pursuing weakness and brokenness but that is the only place we can meet God and have him change our lives. In 2 Corinthians Paul pleaded with Jesus to take his thorn away but Jesus responds by saying,
“… My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). It is a paradoxical response, almost contradictory. How can power come from weakness? Paul tells us that, for the sake of Christ, he is content in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. Not only is he content in them but he boasts in them. What is there to boast in when we go through hard times? When we fail. When we are weak. Paul tells us that is for the sake of Christ. So that his power may be made perfect in us. So that he is glorified.
In my weakness, I find myself fading away. There is no pride or self-promotion. I am humbled before God and a ready vessel for what he desires to do through me. In my weakness, he is truly glorified. We must learn how to pursue weakness.
In order to claim our weaknesses, we must be honest with ourselves. What are the insecurities, failures, and imperfections that we have not allowed God to shed light on? We must be able to set pride and fear aside. What are the weaknesses that we hold tight and closed fisted because of our fear and pride? Know that we are able to approach the throne of grace with open palms and arms because we are welcomed by the God who understands every one of our human faults. Finally, we must claim and boast in our weakness. Take ownership of your imperfections. In doing so we point others to the God who is made powerful in our weakness. Whose grace is completely sufficient. This is how we find strength in weakness. By handing it all over to a gracious, loving, and powerful God. When we are weak, we are truly strong.
Neena is a writer and does ministry on her home island of Guam. To find more of her writing you can follow her blog Pacific Daughter at http://neenacabarles.worwww.pacificdaughter.com