I greatly dislike feeling weak. In fact, I often do what I can to avoid feeling weak, or at least appearing weak. Yet, these days, there is no denying it. I am weak to the core. My body is weak as it continues to be beaten down by Lyme disease and its devastating effects. My mothering abilities feel weak as I grow weary trying to care for 4 sick little children who are also being ravaged by this awful disease and acting out at the world (well, mostly at me) in response. My marriage has had weaknesses exposed as my husband and I carry stress loads that statistically leave 90% of marriages in divorce. Even my basic needs of life have been left feeling weak and vulnerable after my husband was laid off two weeks ago when his failing company let go off more than 60% of its sales force (leaving us with the financial burdens of normal life along with the treatment of 6 family members with Lyme disease). And if I’m honest, my faith has felt weak as I’ve wrestled with the Lord through my confusion, fears, anger, and weariness over life’s circumstances. In my flesh, I despise feeling weak. But in the Spirit, I have found a strength that has been both sufficient and deeply satisfying. These past two weeks, as I have been brought to a level of weakness I have never known before, I have come to understand Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 more deeply. If you are struggling with a sense of weakness (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual) in your life, I hope to encourage you with these three reminders.
Come to Christ honestly with your weakness and emotions, trusting you are accepted and loved.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this (Paul’s thorn in his flesh), that it should leave me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8, emphasis mine)
I admit, the day my husband lost his job, I went through a period of shock and didn’t want to speak to anyone, including the Lord. We were already feeling as though we were sinking and had been praying for deliverance, healing, and provision. Losing our sole income was not exactly what I had pictured the Lord’s answer to be. I’m not going to pretend that my immediate response was, “Thank you, Lord, for this new opportunity to trust you.” No, I felt angry and unsure of what to do with my anger, and confused about how to reconcile what I felt with what I knew to be true about the Lord. I felt numb, completely overwhelmed by the dire reality of what was in front of us. There are so many questions, so many fears, and so many unknowns. What felt like overwhelming weakness has become a feeling of utter helplessness. What do we do in a place like this? We have to throw ourselves upon Christ, even the messy, doubting, angry part of us. He knows our thoughts, emotions, and hearts better than we do, and we are believing a lie of the enemy if we think that we have to pull ourselves together before we can bring ourselves before him.
Friend, the Lord knows that we are ‘but dust’ (Psalm 103:14). He knows the multi-layered effects of trauma, pain, loss, fear, suffering, and the emotional ups and downs of life. And most importantly, he is the only One who can give us all that we need in these moments. I am learning on a deeper level that I am fully accepted by my Savior, even when I’m an absolute mess inside. And so are you. Why then do we often seek momentary comforts and solutions to temporarily drown out our pain, rather than throw ourselves down at his feet in dependence on his mercy, grace, provision, and strength? Jesus knows what we need and is able and willing to provide it, so let’s bring ourselves to him in honest prayer and a willingness to receive what he has for us in his Word. He will be faithful to meet us where we are - mess and all.
Come to Christ with your weakness, expecting to receive his strength.
“But he said to me,‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (v9a)
I am unable to fully understand or describe how the Spirit strengthens us in our weakness. It is beyond what my limited mind can comprehend. However, I know that I am experiencing it this very moment. Just as we can’t see the wind with our eyes, yet see evidence of its presence, we can’t see or always feel the strength of Christ flowing through us, yet see evidence of his power. The last two weeks, I have definitely not felt strong. However, as I look back, I marvel at how the Lord has infused me with his strength in my weakness. In my flesh, I wanted to run - but I didn’t. In my flesh, I wanted to be angry at the Lord, yet I found myself desperate to be near him and drawn to the Word as if it were my very lifeline of survival. I felt no desire to get up each morning to care for my kids (or myself), yet I somehow made it through each day. Although I don’t feel strong, I see incredible evidence of his strength in me. So I encourage you to draw near to Christ honestly and trust that he will give you the strength that you need. You may not feel it in the moment, but he will be faithful to equip you with what you need each and every moment - even if it’s simply to take your next breath
Come to Christ with your weaknesses, bringing glory to him as you find joy in his strength.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
I can say with confidence that as you experience Christ’s strength in your weakness, you will experience a sense of joy, even in circumstances that you don’t enjoy. Only the power of the Spirit can explain how we can despise our circumstances and yet feel joyful within them. This is why Paul was able to boast gladly in his weaknesses. His weaknesses drew him into a deeper love-relationship with and reliance on his Savior. Though I imagine he found no joy in the thorn in his flesh, his words express a contentment and joy within it as he experienced the strength of Christ infused in his weakness. As Paul’s love for Christ grew, despite and through the pain in his life, his joy grew as Christ’s name was glorified through his weakness. Oh, I pray that this would be true of you and me! Whatever trials we are entrusted with in this life, whether brief or spanning our entire lifetime, may we be so satisfied with Jesus that we can gladly boast in our weaknesses because of how Christ’s power is miraculously displayed through them. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t pray for relief, healing, or provision, but if the Lord chooses not to bring it, we have an opportunity to bear the evidence of Christ’s power shining through our flawed, weak, and broken lives.
The sweetness of experiencing Christ’s strength in our weakness.
As much as I have grieved, ached, cried, and sat in silence these last couple of weeks (and years), I have experienced a sweet, satisfying dependence on Christ that no words can sufficiently describe. While we have been blown away by the love that others have sacrificially shown us, ultimately it is Christ Himself who has sustained us, provided what we need, and carried us through this darkness. There is a strange sense of freedom that comes with knowing that God alone is big enough to save us. He has taken away all resources, allowing even our basic needs to be threatened. Yet, what an incredible opportunity to throw ourselves wholeheartedly on his trustworthy name and watch his power be made perfect in our weakness. My prayer for you is that you would see your weaknesses and trials as opportunities to draw nearer to Christ and experience the joy of seeing his strength shine through them. Though the pain may remain, our understanding may be limited, and our trials may continue, if we are in Christ, we can come to him honestly, fill ourselves with the truth of his Word, and trust that our weaknesses will become a vessel to display his strength.
Sarah Walton is a stay-at-home mom with four kids under nine years of age. She is the author, along with Kristen Wetherell, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). After a decade of trials and learning to walk with Christ as her entire family suffers with Lyme Disease, she shares how the Gospel speaks into all areas of our lives and gives hope to our suffering. Follow her blog at Set Apart: Hope on the Road Less Traveled.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/tommaso79
Publication date: April 3, 2017