2 Corinthians 12:9. 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.
It’s nice to think of Christianity as a religion of power. Miracles. Changed lives. “Thorns” removed. And it is. But true Christianity is a religion of paradoxical power. Power through weakness. Through need. Through desperation and dependency. As long as we are not self-sustaining gods, as long as there is sin, as long as the goal of humanity is to possess the character of Christ and his cross, then there will be weakness.
Our life’s goal is to glorify God, and God is most glorified in the display of his grace. Therefore, the Christian life is all about our dependence upon and receipt of that grace. This is why when Paul prayed three times for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh,” he received this answer – My grace is sufficient for you. Was God being cruel? Did he run out of power? Or was he giving Paul the answer his heart needed most? Was he teaching Paul to receive grace in weakness as power, rather than to just ask for power itself?
Christian, God will only ever meet us in weakness and humility. A drowning man that is flailing and fighting cannot be saved. Only when they submit to the rescue can they be pulled to safety. Of course, God is our rescuer and redeemer. This is the heart of the gospel. And yet every day we resist his rescue. We fight like drowning men to save ourselves. To do more, be better. To not be like “them.” And so we mask our weakness and our desperation. But our transformation into Christ-likeness never comes from your own virtuous efforts. It only ever comes when we admit defeat. Salvation is for those who are sick not healthy. It is for those who need saving. In some ways the church should feel like a recovery group. Everyone’s an addict. And we know it. There is no difference between the girl who is one day sober and the one that is 25 years sober. They both carry the same weakness and need the same grace.
But Paul doesn’t stop us at admitting weakness. He takes us even further – boasting in our weakness.
We’re not talking about the weakness that we choose, or the weakness that we use to get sympathy votes at work or church. This isn’t about your “humble bragging.” Being so exhausted from working on the report for work, or going to the gym, or taking care of your children. This “weakness” is actually all blessing – you have a job, you have a gym, you have a family.
The weaknesses we’re talking about here are things we are actually powerless over. Things that themselves we would and should never brag about. The unending pornography addiction. The collapsing marriage. The need for medication just to get out of bed. The rejection by the girl. The failing grades. The chronic illness. The ministry trials that lead to great opposition, accusation, and rejection.
Also, the weaknesses we are talking about here are never chosen. This is not a theology of martyrdom. We don’t seek out weakness. We don’t try to fail, or get addicted, or destroy our lives. We must never invite a “messenger from Satan.” This is not about “the more I feel weak, the more I will experience the power of God,” as if weakness is now some sort of super spiritual experience. We aren’t trying to imitate Christ BY suffering. We are called to become like Christ IN suffering. Big difference.
The truth is we don’t have to seek out weakness. Weakness is our natural state in this life. We are born into it. Evil surrounds us. If you don’t feel weak today, just wait until tomorrow. It’s coming. The spiritual battle is raging all around you with or without you asking for it. Are you human? Are you alive? Does sin still rage in you? Do you live in a fallen world? If yes, then you are weak. Welcome to the group.
So why do we boast in our weakness? So that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
And what is the power of Christ? Love.
God is teaching Paul, and us, to love. That’s why the thorns remain. That’s why the weakness stays. That’s why we boast in weakness rather than strength. Because it makes us more loving. More kind. More gentle. More compassionate. More grace filled. Paul says that without the thorn he would have been conceited, proud, uncaring, self-serving. But weakness purifies our love by placing us on the same level as everyone else. The level of the cross.
“To live is Christ” means admitting weakness. And it means receiving grace. A grace that allows us to boast in our weakness that we may learn to love with all the love of the cross.
Can you identify your weakness today?
You in Christ
How does union with Christ allow us to admit and face our weaknesses?
Christ in you
How might your weaknesses be used by Jesus today to teach you to love others?
Playlist: Power in Weakness