“When I try,
When I trust,
-Corrie Ten Boom
I often feel overwhelmed by my own shortcomings. They crop up at every turn of life like stumbling blocks. Then I fall flat on my face and wonder why God doesn’t answer my prayers to make me a better person already. Usually, He will gently direct my attention to Philippians 1v6, reminding me that I am a work in progress. But another answer to my pouting and impatience is revealed in this passage from 2 Corinthians:
“…but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast 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.”
-2 Corinthians 12v9-10
I am doing wrong to both myself and my Creator when I look at every personal weakness like a stumbling block. The Message translation of the beginning of this passage (the bit about Paul’s thorn), reads:
I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.
The gift of a handicap. Think about that. Our insufficiencies are not meant to be considered insurmountable forces that hold us back from an otherwise meaningful existence. They are gifts, bestowed by a kind and gracious heavenly Father to remind us of our dependence on Him. They are opportunities for God’s grace and power to be demonstrated in our lives.
We do have to be honest about our weaknesses in order for this to work. This is not a popular attitude in the self-centered culture we live in. We are told to believe in ourselves, be true to ourselves, follow our hearts. One catchphrase that I see everywhere is the buoying “You Are Enough“. The only reason I hesitate to savage that slogan is that it is typically used by those ministering to victimized women. Any soul coming from a situation of violence and abuse truly needs to be encouraged and uplifted. But a sneakily perilous message of self-sufficiency and self-reliance is not the best way to do it.
The sad truth is, I am not enough. You are not enough. We aren’t going to get anywhere until we are able to admit this, to acknowledge our weaknesses. We must be willing to sacrifice our notions of self-reliance, and instead rely on the Father of heavenly lights (who does not change like shifting shadows). Only when we accept His unfailing strength can we truly be strong, worthy, enough. God cannot give us what we won’t take.
We must open our hands to accept the gift. We must open our eyes to see them for what they truly are. The purpose of my life is not to live it for myself and my own glory. It is for Him, and His. My detriments (whether physical, psychological, or spiritual) are not detriments at all, unless I reduce them to such. They are foundations upon which He is waiting to build, just like any other gift.
“Have you never heard? Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”