Becoming Strong Through Weakness
Recently I was trying to encourage a friend of mine who is going through a really hard time. I mentioned to her that sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving, even when you don’t feel like moving forward. She responded with a statement that I have been pondering on a bit. She stated that she wasn’t as strong as me.
My response was, “strong, my butt.” I wanted to use heavier language but hey, I’m a pastor and we aren’t supposed to talk like that.
I’ve had to be strong all my life. Coming from a divorced home I grew up quicker than I would have liked. I had to become a man faster than I wanted to but that’s just the way it was. I learned early on not to depend upon people. I learned that I could count on me. So I did. For most of my adult life I rarely asked for help. I wanted to be strong to prove to those around me that I had it together, that I could make it.
Then I entered full-time ministry. You couldn’t be weak there. I was taught to not allow people in the church to see your weakness. I was told that you couldn’t get close to people because when they saw weakness they would lose respect and you couldn’t lead them anymore. I saw ministers who seemed to have it all together, and who God used greatly, so I thought I had to have it all together to be used of God. More of the façade went up that I was strong and had it all together. I had myself deceived thinking that I was in control and could handle anything. This went on for 20 years.
Then, in 2009 my marriage began to fall apart.
In 2010, my marriage blew apart.
In 2011 I resigned from the church that I pastored and deeply loved.
My world crumpled.
I was not in control.
I fought depression, anxiety and fear.
I fought for dear life at times.
I didn’t think I was going to make it.
I was going through hell and didn’t know how to stop it. Before all of this my life seemed to be all together. For the most part I was happy and content with my little world. It was during this period of time that I began to realize that I wasn’t as strong as I thought.
I remember one day in the spring of 2011 I was painting the rental house we were about to move into as we prepared to move out of the church parsonage that we loved. I was listening to a song by Hillsong. I just broke and began to weep. I heard the Lord say to me, “Son, you don’t have to be strong for me.”
I realized in that moment that I was trying to hold it all together for God. That somehow I couldn’t let Him down by being weak and not having the answers. The problem was I didn’t have the answers. I couldn’t control the situation. I was as helpless as a newborn baby. And I hated that feeling.
Then God, out of His great love and mercy, showed me that I didn’t have to be strong. I could be weak and He would be there for me. I didn’t have to have all the answers. More importantly, it was okay to admit that I was weak and needed help.
Sometimes the best prayer that one can prayer is, “Oh, God please help!”
In the Church we are told to be spiritually strong. We admire people of great Christian strength. As a pastor I want the people in my congregation to grow strong. I want them to be strong in facing temptations; strong in facing adversity; strong in trials; strong in faith.
But there is a strength in weakness that we don’t hear about. In more than 30 years of walking with Jesus and attending church services, I can’t remember one sermon on how to be weak. And yet, there is a power in being weak. But that’s not the “American Christian” way. We see strength as a positive and weakness as a liability.
The Apostle Paul had something very interesting to say about his strengths and weaknesses. In asking God to remove a “thorn in his flesh”, God responded by not taking away the thorn. Rather God had a purpose in allowing Paul to suffer.
2Corinthians 12:9-10 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (emphasis mine)
Do you see what Paul is saying here? He is content with his weaknesses. He is proud of his weaknesses. That flies against everything I have been taught in pastoral leadership. That goes against what I hear from pastors. Unfortunately, that goes against things that I had taught as well.
Suffering has a way of breaking you. The things that I have suffered through have made me realize that weakness isn’t a bad thing. It has caused me to lean more upon Jesus than ever before. Through my weakness I have learned more about His love and grace. I have learned to reach out to others for help, which is something I didn’t do before my dark valley.
Like Paul, I have learned to boast in my weakness and in my weakness He is made strong. I am no longer afraid to admit that I am weak. I am no longer afraid to ask for help. I now see the power in weakness. It’s when I am weak that Jesus’ power is greatest. Therefore, I will boast in my weakness.
I want you to know that I am not as strong as I thought I was, but that is okay! I am weak and proud of it. I hope that my friend will learn to gladly embrace her weakness so that Jesus may be strong in her.
Have you learned to embrace your weakness?