Strength through weakness
by Mindy Kiker
Who wants to be a weakling? Most people I know want to be strong. So this shocking revelation from Paul is perplexing:
I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
I looked through the door cracked open to see an upside-down kingdom of God that functions on opposite principles to the world. The counter-intuitive advice found in Paul’s bold statement of humility challenges my orientation of self-sufficiency, self-confidence, self-promotion . . . self-everything! Paul was not trying to cultivate his own personal powers. Instead, he willingly divested himself of strength.
What are the principles of this upside-down kingdom? I was enjoying the book of Isaiah one day when I stopped to re-read a description of Jesus that challenged my expectations, “. . . He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:2-3)
The magnificent Jesus who touched people with compassion and love, who cared for hurt and broken humanity with tenderness and compassion, was in reality just a plain, regular-looking guy, maybe even a little below average in appearance?
When I read the gospels, I do not envision a man who is unattractive. I imagine the love the exuded from Him would have been contained in a beautiful human package. Saul sounds more like my kind of guy, “Saul was the most handsome man in Israel–head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.” (1 Samuel 9:2) Now, which one of these men should be our role model? I hate to admit that I have lived my life aspiring more to be like handsome, powerful King Saul than unattractive, humble Jesus. Ouch!
When the Lord began to dismantle my simplistic assumptions about the connection between good looks and personal power, I responded with regret at the years I had spent grooming myself for greatness. In the midst of repenting, I had a moment of uncertainty. Could I learn to delight in weakness like Paul did?
Divine intervention would be necessary.
I breathed an urgent prayer: God, help me! I don’t know how to navigate my world without relying in my own strength and outward appearance. But I would like to learn another way.
Such fundamental re-wiring does not happen overnight, but I do detect a gradual shift away from self-reliance toward God-reliance. Matthew Henry says it well: “When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace.”
Not what you expected? My word for this year is “weakness,” but this is a roundabout way of becoming more fully the person He created me to be. Do you dare to trust Him enough to yield your powerful persona and choose the path of weakness instead? If you do, I believe you will discover more Divine strength and grace than you ever imagined possible.