God is always ready, waiting to meet us in the middle of our struggles, with an extra measure of His strength. Times of weakness or struggles can form part of our journey towards trusting and relying on Him as we find we are unable to do things in our own strength. Our “weakness” allows us to lean on His hope and peace to sustain us.
Even the greatest victory in history, our Saviour’s victory over sin and death, looked a lot like weakness that Good Friday. He specialises in using human frailty as a backdrop, to more clearly display His love, grace, protection and power. He declares,
“My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
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OUR WEAKNESS IS HIS STRENGTH
Well we’ve certainly been waking up to a very surreal situation over the past few weeks, haven’t we? Each one of us has been facing a completely new situation in the world around us, which is now right on our doorstep; causing us to completely change our daily routines, forcing us to adapt rapidly to an environment we’ve never encountered before.
Even viewing this new paradigm through the eyes of faith can be somewhat confusing for us! We know the Bible says not to fear, that we are God’s precious and beloved children who are always under His protective care. And yet we can’t escape our human frailty and vulnerability in the face of this unpredictable, rapidly evolving landscape. For many, incomes which seemed stable and steady two weeks ago have disappeared overnight. For every one of us, decisions that we made quickly and easily a week ago are now agonised over. On top of all this, we can tend to compound our anxiety with guilt that if we are struggling to cope, this means our faith is somehow lacking.
The wonderful thing about God’s Word is that it never oversimplifies or glosses over the difficult, painful parts of life. Paul, the same apostle who wrote, through the inspiration of God, that we are “more than conquerors” in Christ, also wrote these words:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8
Yes, this is the apostle Paul we’re talking about; the man of faith renown for singing in jail, surviving shipwrecks and snakebites, not to mention performing miracles through the power of God. And yet here in this passage we see His humanity, his weakness and vulnerability. He doesn’t gloss over or hide the extremity of the situation he was in or the way it affected him, as he describes the fear, despair and sense of foreboding he experienced. These words could easily be those of a doctor in Northern Italy right now. And yet Paul does not apologise for his dire feelings, or in any way indicate that they are at odds with a strong, robust faith. And so, I want to assure you; if you are feeling unsettled, worried or even crippled by anxiety in the face of this pandemic; you are simply human, and this is certainly no slight on your faith.
The wonderful reality of our Christian hope is that we do not have to deny our weakness and human vulnerability. God is ready, waiting to meet us right in the middle of our struggles, with an extra measure of His strength. Paul goes on to say:
“But this happened so that we might rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope, that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” – 2 Cor 1: 9-10
In God’s Kingdom, recognising our weakness is actually an essential part of our journey towards trusting and relying on Him, and allowing His hope and joy to be our strength. Even the greatest victory in history, our Saviour’s victory over sin and death, looked a lot like weakness that Good Friday. He specialises in using human frailty as a backdrop, to more clearly display His love, grace, protection and power. He declares, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
Elsewhere in this profound letter to the Corinthians we find this gem:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body”. 2 Cor 4: 7-12
Dr Mark Stephens puts it this way: “Right now we feel this vulnerability acutely. To name that, to confess that, is not a downer on your faith, it is at the centre of our faith. We are hard pressed, we are perplexed, we are struck down. But we are not crushed, despairing, abandoned or destroyed”.
So, as you face this perplexing and uncertain time, I want to encourage you to lean into your Father’s strength. Tell Him your fears and concerns, give him your sorrow and your anger. Let Him carry your load – he longs to lighten our burdens, just as we all long to shelter our own children from shouldering a burden of worry at this time. Keep looking to Him to guide you, as you seek to reflect His light to the troubled world around you. Don’t expect all your emotions to fall immediately into line… our weakness is always present this side of heaven.
But as Dr Stephens reminds us, “You can be hospitable at the same time as being hard pressed. You can be generous and still feel vulnerable”. If we allow every twinge of fear, insecurity and doubt to push us further into the arms of Christ, and into deeper relationships with each other, this tough time will indeed have a purpose. Perhaps we will reach a deeper understanding of these paradoxical words of the apostle:
“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.” 2 Corinthians 12:10.