Finding strength through weakness
Most of you know I began a writing sabbatical back in November of last year. I was excited to have the time to work on the book that I believe God has led me to write. I was hopeful I could finish the book and get some rest as well. Over the past couple of years I have grown weary of being on the road, and the time at home seemed like a welcome respite. What has surprised me is how difficult it has been to find the creative space to write, and how I still feel worn out after four months off the road. This morning I was talking with God about all of it, and I want to share with you what I believe he is sharing with me.
I think I am beginning to understand how weak I really am, and that is a very good thing. I know that sounds odd, but let me explain.
I finished the rough draft of the book around the end of January. I was encouraged by the progress I had made. But then the distractions began to pile up, and I have been unable to finish the first rewrite. I have put off taking care of some physical issues. Now I am juggling doctor appointments and physical therapy appointments, working through several problems at the same time. At the same time, my Florida home has been a bed and breakfast with family and friends coming and going. I am also an Elder in my home church, and during the time that I have been on sabbatical, God led our church to permanently join forces with another great church in the area – an exciting move of God for sure, but an area that has required a great deal of work and focus. I also love my neighbors, and since I have been home it seems the needs around me have grown. At one point I even took in a homeless, elderly, widow lady who had been evicted from her home. I moved all of her possessions into my garage. She spent one night sleeping on my couch, and then I was able to find a Christian organization that would care for her. As I write this, her belongings are still stacked to the ceiling in my garage. What I thought was going to be a restful sabbatical has been exhausting. And always in the background, I hear this voice in my head telling me I am a failure for not finishing the book.
Which leads me to this morning. As the morning sun began to lighten the sky, I sat in my chair overlooking the back yard with a cup of coffee in hand and talked with God.
“God,” I said, “I don’t know what to do. I feel like such a failure. I guess I thought I could do this thing, this book project, and I am beginning to see how weak I really am. I just can’t seem to get it finished.”
In the stillness of that moment, God spoke to my spirit. “Tim, I never intended for you to be strong. It is not in your strength that you will accomplish my will. It is in recognizing how weak you are that my power is revealed in you. My power is made perfect in weakness, not strength.”
I was reminded of Paul’s words in the second letter he wrote to the church in Corinth. God had used Paul in powerful ways. But in his physical life, he was struggling. Three times he pleaded with God for healing, but each time the answer was “No.” In the end, this is what Paul had to say about being weak:
“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses…” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV).
Paul was content with being weak. He realized that the grace of God was sufficient for his moment of weakness. He understood that the power of God was displayed in his weaknesses, not his strengths. I am beginning to understand the same thing.
Here, then, is the challenge. When I see God at work in my life, I tend to think, “Wow, this is exciting! Look what God is doing. This is what I was created to do. This is my place in the body of Christ. I’m going to serve God and use the abilities he has given me for the sake of the kingdom.” And then, because I am a type-A personality, I go for it, giving all I can for the kingdom of God. Sounds great. But is this really what God intended? I’m not so sure.
God gives each of us abilities and expects us to use those abilities for the kingdom of God. But he is the power that enables those abilities to be used. He is the hand. I am simply the glove. We don’t have the power in ourselves to do anything for the cause of Christ. He alone is our strength. I needed to be reminded of that truth today.
I do believe God will help me to finish the book when it is time. But I also know that God wants me to understand how weak I really am. Oddly enough, there is a peace that comes when I understand I cannot accomplish the work of God through my human effort. I am pitifully weak. But God is powerful beyond my comprehension. Because I believe he is in control of every event that comes into my life, I believe he has orchestrated these past few weeks and months to bring me to this understanding. Once I understand that being weak is really what God prefers, I can let go of the desire to be strong for him. I can also let go of the self-condemning voice that whispers, “You’re a failure.” After all, it is in the failing that I realize how weak I really am. And that, my friends, is actually a very good place to be. I find strength when I understand my weakness.
Friend, where are you at in your relationship with God today? Are you weak? God understands. It may be that he is bringing you to the understanding that his power is revealed in your weakness. Can you be content with that? I pray that you will. Consider these verses:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26, ESV).
“But he 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses…” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10, ESV).
As you read these words today, you may find yourself in a place where you feel helpless to do anything. Your weakness is staring you in the face and mocking you with reminders of your personal failures. In the stillness, you’ve reached a point where you don’t know what to do. Perhaps you need to have a talk with God over a cup of coffee. May I suggest a simple prayer for you?
“God, today I am weary. I am weak. I don’t know what to do. But I believe you understand my weakness. I believe you have orchestrated the circumstances of my life to bring me to this place. I come to you today in my weakness asking that you would help me to be content in you alone. Your grace is enough for me. I will rest in that understanding today.”
Friend, God never intended for you to be strong. It is not in your strength that you will accomplish his will. It is in recognizing how weak you are that his power is revealed in you. His power is revealed in your weakness, not strength. My prayer is that someday we would all be able to say with Paul, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses.”
He is the hand. I am simply the glove. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
This article was originally published in the April 2014 Newsletter.