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Embracing Our Weakness

Perhaps revealing our weakness is the only thing that many of us dislike more than being weak. We often are reluctant to share (or avoid sharing) our struggles with others, usually because we believe that it will make us appear stupid and incompetent. This natural inclination of ours is made worse by some among us who like to always appear strong and in control. “Never show any weakness!” seems to be their attitude. We all are weak and face struggles, but we often like to appear strong and in control: “Strong people tend not to reach out for help, because they think they don’t need it.”1 

It is generally true that people who think to be strong tend not to reach out for help because they believe they don’t need it. However, it is not true that all who struggle to reach out for help do so because they think to be strong or not to need help. Pride and delusion of strength have in some cases little or nothing to do with the chaos that weakness can bring in our life. Sometimes, the shock and damages caused by our suffering leave us hurt and confused (especially in the case of traumatic experiences), and we don’t know what to do, what to think, where to go. Our suffering hurts us; our weakness disables us. 

Yet, “weakness is not what you and I should be afraid of. We should fear our delusion of strength.”2 In fact, the Lord tells us not to trust in our own wisdom (Prov. 3:5; 23:4) as pride comes before the fall (16:18), while the cross of Christ gives us the freedom to embrace our weakness. Let me explain. 

The Son of God dwelled in perfect glory as the second person of the Trinity in mutual love to the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit. However, in the incarnation he assumed a human nature just like ours (except sin, Heb. 4:15). He made himself of no reputation, took the form of a servant in the likeness of men, humbled himself, and became obedient unto the death of the cross (Phil. 2:7–8). He came with no form nor comeliness, with no beauty, despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, despised, stricken, smitten, and afflicted (Isa. 53:2–4). For the ideal example of weakness, we have no better place to look than the cross of our Savior. 

Paul knew weakness well (2 Cor. 11:29). But by looking at the cross of Christ, Paul understood that weakness is his strength. He realized that weakness is not simply an accident that happens to us, but it is the way of the Christian life: “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27). The glory of God is revealed, not in spite of Paul’s and our weakness, but especially in and through our weaknesses. Thus the almighty power of his grace shines brightly against the background of our weakness so “that no flesh should glory in his presence…He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:29, 31). That’s why, far from being ashamed of our weakness, we can confess with Paul: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). 

Among many other blessings, the cross defines our own weakness and gives us the freedom to embrace it. Of course, we do not passively resign ourselves to our infirmities: there are lawful means to manage or cure our physical, mental, spiritual, or any other kind of weakness. But often healing takes a long time; other times the wounds will be with us forever, never completely healing in this life; in every case, saints will always have the weakness caused by the indwelling sin still present in their life on earth. Embracing our weakness means that, in the midst of that weakness, we look at the cross and accept our weakness by contemplating the truth that the Lord has chosen weak things to exalt the power of his grace in us.  

The Lord has confounded Satan’s and the world’s power by turning the darkest evil of all time (Christ’s crucifixion) to the salvation of his people and the manifestation of his wisdom! This is in principle what he does in and through the specific weakness of every believer: turning our darkness into a means to bring forth the glory of his saving light in us! This is why Paul could confess to “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 2:10): because nothing could delight him more than God being glorified in all things, even in him, even in his weaknesses! Thus, “instead of feeling shame, you can come to boast in all the things that remind you of how you fall short…You can boast in your weakness because you see them move you further along toward your goal of being dependent on God.”3  

Strong (or, rather, less weak) saints: take heed lest you fall (1 Cor. 10:12) because your strength is nothing but God’s gift (4:7) to be humbly used with compassion to God’s glory and the saints’ good (Rom. 15:1–3). Weak saints: rejoice! The Lord is mightily working in and through your weaknesses to your sanctification and the glorification of his name. Let us all run to the one who became the weakest to be exalted as the strongest and most glorious, even the King of kings Jesus Christ, knowing that all our sufferings and weaknesses “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). We have the sure hope of our future perfect blessedness, when all weaknesses and evil will pass away, for an eternity of perfect glory in the presence of the Son of God! 

 

Marco is a member of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church and works at the Reformed Free Publishing Association in Jenison, Michigan.