In the Summer of 2015, the discs between my L4, L5, and S1 vertebrae had deteriorated to the point that sitting was no longer an option. Walking was reduced to a shuffled-limp, and sleeping meant I had to place a flashlight between my vertebrae to minimize the pain enough to sleep. My vertebrae were crushing my sciatic nerve and sending level 10 pain pretty much everywhere in my body. It was horrible. I remember doing my shuffled-limp-walk outside down the sidewalk and having a whole team of high schoolers from a local track team jog by me. I thought to myself, "I may never run again." It almost crushed me.
I realized something pivotal, though: I am far weaker than I thought. And my guess is, you're far weaker than you think too. There will come a circumstance, some surprising news, or some life-altering event that will change your life. You'll feel weak and powerless and realize you have far less control than you'd like.
But maybe it's not such a bad thing. Perhaps it's the perfect place for God to work.
Getting the Most Out of the Least of Yourself
The proper perspective on weakness. I so appreciate the Apostle Paul's writings, lifestyle, and honesty. As one of the significant contributors to the New Testament, Paul's theology, personality, strength, passion, and vulnerability is an amazing example of a life of faithfulness. Paul left a cushy job as a respected Pharisee to travel the world proclaiming Jesus in a multitude of hostile environments. He was ridiculed by his peers, pursued by his enemies wherever he went, beaten, and eventually left for dead. And yet he persisted, not because He was strong, but because He relied on the strength of God to sustain him:
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
Paul understood that even though he, and you and I, are the "jars of clay" that are incredibly fragile and easily shattered, inside us is the strength and treasure of God!
With that in mind, here are six things I learned through weakness that I wouldn't trade for anything.
1. Admit you're not as strong as you thought.
This is somehow the easiest to realize but the hardest to admit. For the last few generations, the world has told us to be strong, turn strengths into weaknesses, or never show weakness. Weakness has been seen as a way of opening the door to others taking advantage of us, putting us down, or treating us with contempt.
What we can and should do, is admit that there are areas of our life and our faith that are weak. Pretending or overcompensating doesn't make us strong; it makes us look fake and disingenuous and is unhealthy.
Admitting where we are weak causes us to seek help, avoid trying to lead or be strong in that area, and realize we really are more fragile than we think. We don't look down on fragile things, do we? We protect them, put them in places of honor, treat them with respect and care, and display them for all to see. There is, somehow, a beauty to fragility.
2. Rely on others more than you're comfortable with.
When we admit that we're weaker than we thought, we realize we need the help of others. I am quite bad at asking for help and even worse at accepting it when it's offered. Interestingly, God designed us this way, to rely on and use each other's gifts that He has given us so that we are "…joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grow[ing] and build[ing] [each other] up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:16).
It's exhausting trying to be good at everything, picking yourself up all the time, or trying to take care of yourself when you're sick, hurt, depressed, or recovering. Realizing we're weaker than we thought lets others use their gifts to compassionately and purposefully make up for how we are weak.
3. Don't focus on what you don't have.
One of the (many) reasons people don't admit or like to acknowledge their weakness is because somehow it means they are less than someone else. We focus on what we don't have rather than what God has given us.
We may not be big and strong, have control over our emotions, be able to give a speech in front of others, or have high energy like some people we know. So what? That doesn't make them better or us inferior. It simply makes us different.
You have gifts, talents, experience, and strengths they do not. You may be surprised to learn that others appreciate your strengths and seldom think about your weaknesses. Lastly, remember what Pauls we do have: "…. we have this treasure…the all-surpassing…power from God…" in us. Every Christian has that, including you!
4. Prepare for hardship, but resist being crushed.
Something will happen to you at some point that will make you realize you're weaker and have far less control than you think. It may be physical, mental, relational, financial, or something else. You don't have the power to control most things in your life, so getting used to it early is helpful.
I couldn't control whether the discs in my back deteriorated or not. It's genetic. But I could prepare for the consequences at the moment and ahead of me. I've done that by making changes in my life to address these challenges.
One of the best things you can do is make sure you're not crushed by it. Hardship is unique in the sense that it shows us how strong our faith is. It's easy to have amazing faith in God when things are going well, but our true faith in God is revealed when they aren't. I did this well for almost a year, but the pain and despair almost crushed me towards the end. I wouldn't want to go through it again, but it helped me realize that I need to hold onto the hope that I so regularly preach about, read about, and see others live out. My faith honestly helped me from being completely crushed. I had to be reminded by Paul that in Christ I can survive anything because: "We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed."
5. The harder you're pressed, the more you need to pray.
It's incredible how much more we pray when there are problems, right? When everything is going well, it's more of checking in with God, thanking Him, and asking for something new that would add value to our life. But when we're "We are hard-pressed on every side perplexed….persecuted… and struck down," God hears from us a lot more than He usually does, right? God probably didn't cause the suffering, but He'll absolutely use it to draw us closer to Him.
At the height of my spinal problems: I couldn't walk. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't get away from level 10 pain. I couldn't work. I couldn't pick up my kids. I couldn't hug my wife. I couldn't do the essential functions of life. But I could pray. And pray I did. And pray you should when you feel weak. In fact, it's the perfect time to pray.
Your prayers need to outweigh and outpace your worries and struggle to control the situation. Most fears never happen, and we'll never be fully in control — but we can fully commit to praying to the God who is in control and can alleviate our worries.
6. View your weakness as a way to see God's strength more clearly.
Lastly, and this is this biggest one, your weakness is the exact place God showcases His strength. Paul pointed this out in his second letter to the church in Corinth:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But [God] 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 I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul makes the case that, paradoxically, weakness itself is a strength. Not yours, not mine, but God's. When we realize and allow God to work in our strength, He gets the credit, not us.
When something amazing happens despite someone's weakness, we think and believe that it could only have occurred through God! When a timid person speaking in public moves us with their words, we give credit to God. When a couple on the brink of divorce stays together because they prayed that God would heal their marriage, we give credit to God. When you are rescued, comforted, or receive a blessing that you couldn't do on your own, you credit God too.
Surprisingly, it's in our weaknesses that our faith in God grows. So from now on, stop trying to be strong; you're not anyways. Let the strength of God, "Christ's power," rest on you. Look at your weakness not as a detriment but as the perfect place for God to showcase His power.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Gorodenkoff
Kile Baker is a former Atheist who didn’t plan on becoming a Christian, let alone a Pastor, who now writes to try and make Christianity simple. Kile recently wrote a study guide to help people “look forward to and long for Heaven”. You can get one on Amazon here. He also writes at www.paperbacktheologian.com. Kile is the grateful husband to the incredibly talented Rachel, Dad to the energetic London and feisty Emma and Co-Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Northern Nevada. He single handedly keeps local coffee shops in business.