Strength and Weakness

Just last Thursday, someone said something about God not using our strengths but our weaknesses such that when we come through a trial, there is no mistake that God carried us through and that God alone gets the glory. Indeed, the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 says that the Lord Jesus revealed to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” This is an awesome truth because it was driven home in the movie Facing the Giants. David, a soccer player trying out for the high school football team, asks his father: “Why did God make me so small?” His father answered: “To show how great He is.”

It’s easy to ask God – “Why did He make me so short / stupid/ ugly/ clumsy/ tone deaf?” And His answer from the Bible is the same: That God receives the glory. If anyone else but God was glorified, we would be miserable. We would be trying to get more glory the next time around. We would try to fill up our emotional needs with the need to be applauded and acclaimed. Ultimately, we realize how shallow that pursuit is. I don’t remember who won the Superbowl last year. I don’t remember who won the World Series last year. And chances are, the average reader will probably be hard pressed to recall. Trophies in the rack are thrown out to make room for new ones. All human glory is fleeting; even a Roman general at the height of his power during a triumphal parade through Rome is given a slave whose job is to whisper that this too will pass.

Nevertheless, I started to wonder: God, why did You make me this smart/ strong/ musically gifted/ athletic, if You prefer to act through human weakness? (I say this as a catch all because I am not thatsmart, strong, or athletic and I have no musically gifts.) When I was in India, I saw God act through my friend Chris. Chris spoke with a stutter and yet he boldly got up twice to give a message. Both times, Chris never once stuttered. That can only be through the power of God, nothing else. And yet, I who went to law school and got the best training to speak and argue and did speak on two occasions, will not be remembered as having made the most impact – and rightly so. It just doesn’t make sense to use our strengths and yet our weaknesses will make the most impact. There is a tension between strength and weakness.

Time and time again, my thoughts come back to the book of I Corinthians. In chapter 1, it says: God has taken the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. In chapter 13, it says if we have great faith, great knowledge, great acts and not love, then it counts for nothing and is just noise. I suspect that we often act on our strengths to make others love us, but we love others the most in our weakness.

There are dozens of books in the self-help and business management sections about actualize your, or your employees’, or your church congregation’s strengths and eliminate your weaknesses. They all talk about how you grow more in your strengths than correcting a weakness. They all have strategies to grow more powerful and stronger. I know. I have one such book, took the test, and sat through a series of lectures on this. And it has helped. It has helped me figure out what my career goals are. However, there is still a feeling of emptiness, a lack of fulfilled direction even though I’m doing what these gurus say. I suspect that I am using my strengths to love myself and make others love me, that when my weaknesses and inadequacies show up, I feel unloved or worthless. What a trap this is! Rather, through our weaknesses, we experience the most grace and thus the most peace that comes from that grace. We stop striving and start accepting God’s grace.

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