A fellow missionary and friend buried his infant son earlier this week. I can't imagine a more debilitating event. Undoubtedly, this sucked all the emotional oxygen out of his life, making it almost impossible to breathe. This set me to thinking about our weaknesses.
Weakness is defined as a lack of strength, a frailty that could give way under pressure. Weakness is not something we would recognize as a viable strategy. We would surely not pursue it as a means of victory. Yet it is precisely the strategy that Jesus used to conquer his and our enemies. Jesus’ disciples and his enemies both expected that he would seek to employ the “ordinary” means of gaining victory for his cause – connecting with the wealthy and powerful people, gathering a large following, leading an insurrection, overthrowing the cruel Roman oppressors. Satan, in his temptation of Christ, tried to lure Jesus into showing off his power by making bread to relieve his suffering and to show off his connection to God by jumping off the temple building; he also offered him the opportunity to rule over the earth; these offers display a fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus’ plan to use weakness as the means to achieve victory. Paul says in II Cor. 13:4 that Jesus was crucified in weakness.
We would never think to employ weakness as a route to victory, but our leader did exactly that. If Jesus is our example, should we not at least consider how our weaknesses might become the strategy and the means of our victory and God’s victory through us? In II Cor. 12: 9,10 Paul says: “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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This seems to me to say that God is better seen in our weakness and frailty than he is in our strength and power.
I don’t know about you, but I normally don’t go around thinking about how my struggles with sin, my difficulties in life, how my infirmities might be the very thing God would use most in my life to show his power to others - at least not until recently. As of today, weakness is about all I’ve got to offer. I once had (or at least I thought I had) some skill, some facility in teaching and training people, some place of power in God’s service that he might be able to use. That’s all gone. I am standing at the threshold of a new understanding: my weaknesses and struggles are not something to be managed and to get beyond as soon as possible, they are the essence of God’s strategic plan – first in Jesus, now in me. If God can use a bumbling weakling and struggler like me to help break down the gates of hell, it will be to the eternal frustration and defeat of our enemy and to the eternal praise and glory of our God.