I’m one of the more broken down, needy people that I know.
I don’t say that in a “feel sorry for me because I’m a loser” kind of way. I’m not looking for handouts or hugs or Kleenex with soothing aloe (regular Kleenex works just fine). I’m just being honest. I don’t have it together. I’m not exactly living the life of constant spiritual triumph.
I struggle a lot with physical anxiety, which in turn limits what I can do. I know some people who seem to have an infinite capacity for doing. They are constantly serving, constantly giving, constantly making noise for Jesus. Their serving engine is constantly running at peak capacity. I wish I was like that, but I’m not.
I’m not Mr. Awesome Brave Kick-Butt Christian. I’m not Captain Missional, leaping cultural boundaries in a single bound. I’m not throwing punches for Jesus (not sure if that analogy works, but whatever). I’m me. Weak, tired, seeking to serve effectively but often falling short, me.
So I’ve got two options. I can constantly feel like a low-grade loser because I’m not as good as my fellow Christians, or, I can glory in my weakness.
There are times when I choose the first option. When I wallow in my weakness, feeling sorry for myself because I can’t live the hardcore life that other Christians live. When I get frustrated that God has allowed me to be hamstrung by physical weakness.
But I’m starting to realize that there is something really beautiful about being broken down. When I embrace my weakness I can also embrace the sufficiency of Jesus. When I embrace my emptiness I can also embrace the complete fullness of Jesus. I can’t be fruitful for Jesus in my own strength. I simply can’t. I don’t have the willpower, fortitude, or intelligence to create spiritual fruit in myself. I can’t cause myself to be more loving. I can’t save any souls. I can’t get the whole parenting thing on track. I can’t put in herculean hours of serving.
But it turns out that my weakness serves to glorify Jesus. I firmly believe that Jesus is going to continue making me like him, in spite of my weakness. He is going to continue shaping me into his image, helping me put to death my sin and grow in holiness. He will carry out his purposes in my life, and my limitations and weaknesses cannot stop him. When he does all these things, he will receive all the glory, honor, and praise, because clearly, I wasn’t the one who engineered the change.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Lord spoke these words to Paul:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
God’s power is not made perfect through feats of strength. His power is not made perfect through strategic plans or steely resolutions. His power is not made perfect through killer Christians who have it all together.
God’s power is seen most clearly when it works through weak, fallen, jacked up, messed up people. Through the weak. Through the weary. Through those who are just trying to keep up with the rest. My weaknesses strip away any boasting I might do. My weaknesses show me just how insufficient I really am. And my weaknesses show me just how great and powerful God is, because only he could bring something good out of the mess that is me. I can say with Paul:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Honestly, I really wish I didn’t deal with physical afflictions. They can suck pretty bad at times. But it seems that God has chosen weakness to be one of the primary platforms for his strength. It’s not that God achieves more through weakness – he achieves whatever he wants through whatever he wants. No, it’s that God’s power is seen more clearly against the backdrop of my weakness.
When people look at me, they won’t say, “There’s Stephen, super Christian.” At least, I hope they don’t say that. I hope people will say, “There goes Stephen. It’s amazing how God has worked in him, despite how messed up he is.”
God can use inferior persons for grand purposes. He has often done so. Go into his armory and see how he has worked by flies and lice, by worms and caterpillars, by frogs and serpents. His greatest victories were won by a hammer and a tent pin, by an ox goad, by the jawbone of an ass, by a sling and a stone, and such like. His greatest prophets at the first tried to excuse themselves on the ground of unfitness. – Charles Spurgeon