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Weakness

I woke up this morning feeling just a bit discouraged. I guess there’s a fair bit of uncertainty in certain parts of life right now, the kind of uncertainty that tends to be on my mind late at night or early in the morning (or, worst of all, smack dab between the two). I’m facing a day in which I need to be sharp and creative; a day in which I’ve got to make some good progress on my book. That deadline is creeping closer and closer and I can’t afford to be complacent. And yet few things are more difficult than a day of concentration and creativity when faced by that discouragement. For some reason the thought of even trying to settle down to write today it is both terrifying and paralyzing.

When I got out of bed I found myself doing what I often do when discouraged–tidying the house. I don’t know why, but for some odd reason I find this therapeutic. So I prayed while I went, putting away the dishes in the rack, tidying up the kids’ toys in the basement, putting away the winter boots piled near the front door that, hopefully, we will not need again this year. I got breakfast ready for the kids, woke them up, got ready for the day and ushered them out the door to the school bus. I came up to my office and wrote a pretty good blog post which, with one errant touch on the wrong button, promptly disappeared, just like that. It’s been a long time since I made such a rookie mistake. This was probably not the best day for it.

Along the way, somewhere between tidying the house and making breakfast, I turned to the Bible, asking to find in it words of life.

Though lately I’ve been studying 1 Peter, this morning I just flipped through the Bible for a moment or two and started reading where I landed. It turns out that I was in 2 Corinthians 12. Could I have chosen better? There we find Paul coming to the credscendo of his long discussion of weakness; here he glories in his own weakness, realizing that God works through his weakness rather than despite it. “‘My grace is sufficient for you,” said the Lord, “‘for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ 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.”

Paul knew that his own weakness was the very key to anything God would accomplish through him. In fact, in order to keep him humble and to keep him from depending on his own strength and power, God gave him that mysterious thorn in the flesh, some kind of burden that hurt or discouraged or embarrassed him. Somehow it made him weak so that he would find strength only in the Lord. Kent Hughes points out that “power in weakness” is a thread through the whole letter of 2 Corinthians and that the repeated statements of power in weakness are meant to be forceful in capturing our souls and making such weakness the motif of our life.

Hughes goes on:

But what we most need to see is that power in weakness is shorthand for the cross of Christ. In God’s plan of redemption, there had to be weakness (crucifixion) before there was power (resurrection). And this power-in-weakness connection is what Paul reflected on when he contemplated Christ’s praying three times admist his weakness and powerlessness in Gethsemane before his death on the cross, which was followed by the power of the ressurection! Paul came to understand and embrace the fact that his thorn in the flesh was essential to his ongoing weakness and the experience of Christ’s ongoing power.

So maybe I need to turn to my book today in weakness, not in strength. Maybe this discouragement, this fear, is exactly what I need. If I were strong today, I might seek to go forward in my own strength. But instead God has shown me my weakness and his burdened me with that weakness. I think he is calling me to be thankful for it. And what a promise he offers. Paul says that he will boast only in weakness so that “the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Here he turns to the language of the tabernacle where God would “pitch his tent” with his people, tabernacling with them (see Exodus 40:34). God rests upon his people, giving them his strength to compensate for their weakness.

Once more Hughes has something to say. “Life is not as it appears to be. We are led by today’s culture to imagine that God pitches his tent with the especially famous and powerful–those who can speak of ecstasies and miraculous power and who command large crowds as they jet from city to city and enjoy the spotlight of center stage–but it is not so. Christ pitches his tent with the weak and the unknown, the suffering shut-in, the anonymous pastor and missionary, the godly, quiet servants in the home and the marketplace.”

This morning I am aware of how little I have to offer him and I am aware that if I am to do anything, to say anything, I will need his strength. I pray that today he will pitch his tent with me that his strength may become mine.


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