I’ll admit it—I hate even the whiff of weakness.
I despise looking weak or insufficient. I loathe being wrong and I particularly loathe it when the mistake I’ve made has public ramifications. I want to seem wise, well-heeled, in control, nicely dressed, cutting-edge, fully informed, theologically astute. I hate weakness, nakedness and shame.
The Example of Paul
Paul on the other hand, boasted in his weakness. He had experienced a “thorn,” a gift given to him, a messenger of Satan that “harassed him.” Paul recognized that this thorn had come to him from the Lord, that the Lord had sent it to him to keep him from “becoming conceited.” In response to Paul’s pleas for relief (so that he could rest in his own strength again?) the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul was learning to boast in weakness . . . so that the power of Christ would rest upon him (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Paul didn’t like feeling weak but he knew it was the pathway to grace and true power.
Paul didn’t like feeling weak but he knew it was the pathway to grace and true power.
The Example of Jesus
During his earthly life—even during the years when he labored in obscurity and mundane ordinariness—the Lord Jesus cultivated a heart that delighted to boast in weakness. It was a heart that didn’t despise sawing a piece of wood with a crude instrument (wood that he spoke into existence, by the way). He didn’t look down upon the weak and all-too-ordinary folks around him as he served them with his labors. He was poor, unknown, of questionable lineage, and after the death of his earthly father, he functioned as the single head of a household, providing for his mother and siblings. And then, just when you think it’s time for him to step forward and put all things right, grabbing power from the wicked, you see him hanging from a cross, humiliated and in complete subjugation to others.
But that’s not all.
He hung there with his reputation ruined—not only before the people he loved, but also before the Father he lived to please. Even then, as he fully obeyed, he remained weak and humiliated . . . and his Father turned his face away.
Power Through Weakness
But it was in that very humiliation and weakness we see the greatest demonstration of power the world has ever known. We see the Son bringing into being a race of people who will learn to boast in his weakness and experience the strength that comes from grace.
Jesus knows that true power only flows through weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. He learned by experience that when he was weak, then he was strong.
We, too, need to learn this lesson.
And on those days when we continue to strive for preeminence, when we cringe at our mistakes, or wish a thousand times that we could take back those foolish words, may we rest in the truth that Jesus continues to love us in our weakness and that even this conceit that militates against his weakness has been atoned for through the cross.
Boast in my weakness? I long to—because when I am weak, then I am strong in Christ.