I find the word “weakness” a comfortable word. Although embracing our own weakness is counter-cultural, I have had this core spiritual truth taught and presented to me from my early days as a child in church. Why is accepting our weakness a core spiritual truth? Because the first step in receiving Jesus as our Savior is admitting our need for a Savior–realizing that we have a need that we can’t fill in our own power. We have a need for forgiveness, freedom, rescue that exists outside of our own strength. We cannot climb out of the pit ourself or pay the debt ourself. We cannot cross the immense spiritual chasm alone, fully cleanse ourself from sin, or erase the record. So we have a need; we have a weakness.
Here’s a truth: When we can admit our weakness in our need of a Savior, we can receive salvation.
But I don’t believe admitting our weakness stops at the moment of our conversion. Weakness continues as does our need to recognize and embrace it. And it continues to serve a purpose. We know this from 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This also is a truth: When we can admit our weakness in our need of a Leader (or Lord), we can receive sanctification.
The world wants us to escape, avoid, improve or brush under the rug, any weakness. But God is different. According to this passage in 2 Corinthians, accepting and embracing our weakness leads to transformation and growth as a Christian. This radical approach safeguards us from pride — the number #1 tool of the devil. It allows for Christ’s incomparably great power (Ephesians 1:18-20) to fill and flow through us. And it strengthens us. Instead of life’s difficulties and blows knocking us down, we endure and triumph.
Yes, please! If I could just remember this on a daily basis. If I could just flip two switches labeled, “boast in” and “delight in” the next time life lands an upper-cut to my jaw. While I think it is OK, and biblical, to ask God to release us from pain, I hope my prayers stretch wider than that. I hope that my conversations with God start with the obvious cry for help, but ends with me on my knees, submitting my will, in a Garden like Gethsemane.
As we aim to boast in and delight in our weaknesses, I’d encourage us to really meditate on what weakness means.
In the 2 Corinthians passage, weakness does not mean sin. It is not willful rebellion, a bad or selfish choice, a caving in, a turning from God. Weakness here speaks more to the fragility of our human nature and that we live in a world where sickness, diseases, barrenness and death is a reality. It speaks more to the tribulation that comes from living in a world of dysfunctional families, broken systems, imperfect leaders and a lost world.
There is actually a perfect word that encompasses both the ravages of living in a messy, dark and sin-filled world as well as the consequences that comes from our own sin as well as And that word is brokenness.
Over the past two decades or so, brokenness has become a trendy buzzword in the Christian community. This word covers hurt hearts, emotional scarring and deep wounds.
The good that comes from this extra-emphasis on brokenness is a rise in honesty, vulnerability, authenticity. By embracing our brokenness, we can shed our unhealthy plastic persona — where everything in our Christian community is declared fine and needs to stay fine. And the beautiful outcome is a Christian community that offers and receives comfort well, and a revived evangelism that draws people to Christ through openness, relatability and connection.
And this word is biblical. God does not delight in our suffering and responds–He longs to bend down and gently bandage up our hearts. (Ezekiel 34:16, Psalm 147:3). But God is also purposeful — He allows a heart-breaking world to continue. Why doesn’t he swoop down and bring an end to all the heart-break? Because He works within our brokenness to draw us to Him.
However, just like with other things, there is a downside to our over-emphasis on brokenness. Yes, we find a connection and community with other broken people–a sisterhood and a brotherhood. But ultimately God wants us to not just look around, but to look up and see him, our Good Father. And that doesn’t always happen. Acknowledging our brokenness, we find relief in embracing who we are in the current moment. We rejoice that God accepts us for who we are. And we can escape from the heavy expectations that the world puts on us to hide or “get over” our brokenness. But ultimately, we shouldn’t relish and exalt the brokenness more than we glorify and exalt the Binder and the Healer himself. Sometimes we can sit in our brokenness and soak up the comfort found there for too long and miss the plan that God has for us to walk forward and find strength.
So today, you may find yourself needing to take your first step — to accept your fragility, to embrace your brokenness and to admit your weakness. Or maybe today, God is asking you to delight in your weakness and trust God’s work in it. Maybe God is calling you to find strength in enduring the hardships or maybe he is calling you to walk forward out of an identity based on brokenness and into an identity based on healing and overcoming.
But in all of those steps, the end-goal is to see God’s power made perfect in us, to shine in us, and to work through us. We do not boast only in our weakness, we boast in Christ!