Sunday, November 11, 2007

I'm a Weakling, and Proud of It!

Being weak isn't exactly something our society looks on as an asset. We want others to see us as strong, self-sufficient, confident, intelligent, capable. We're not likely to list "can't do much on my own" on our resumes.

But there's just one little problem...for Christians, this "I can do it myself" attitude is the exact opposite of what God says! In fact, Jesus said that we can't do ANYTHING without Him...He said He is like the vine and we're the branches, totally dependent on the vine for everything...we simply can not even exist apart from the vine.

But we are really good at persisting in this attitude that we must present ourselves as strong and self-sufficient and even as Christians, we tend to admire that in others. We put the focus on the individual and not on the God who gave them their gifts and talents.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about this concept of weakness, specifically about Paul's "thorn in the flesh," because of my own physical struggles. Like Paul, my preference would certainly be for God to take this away from me, and I've certainly prayed to that effect...WAY more than three times!!

But God has not chosen to remove my physical ailments from me, and so I have to look at why He allows such "limitations" in our lives. In the grand scheme of things, my disability is not that bad...I have the full use of all my limbs, I have my sight and my mental capacities are about as good as they've ever been. The doctor tells me that my hearing is completely normal for an 80-year old (yeah, okay, so I'm in my 40's...but at least I CAN hear, and most of what I miss I probably didn't need to know anyway).

But, I'll be honest...having motion sickness when you're not moving can get really old! Having it get progressively worse for two years, so far, can just flat wear you out. Add to that the constant ringing in the ears and the occasional feeling that you're about to fall over on top of your fellow choir members during a prayer, and it sometimes seems like it's just not worth getting out of bed in the morning!

It's easy to sometimes ask "why, God?"--well, in this case, God has an answer (okay, He always has an answer, He just doesn't always reveal His reasons).
My weaknesses are a constant reminder of His Strength; there are days that I literally cannot get out of bed in the morning and get going without His help, and that reminds me that I depend on Him for everything. It is a constant reminder that I am weak...and that that is a GOOD thing, because it means I must rely on the One who is Strong.

I have a problem with pride. We all do, it is one of the most rampant sins and is the root of many of the other sins we commit. I want people to admire my talents and abilities, I want to be short, sometimes I want the glory that is due to God. When others commend my teaching skills, or applaud some other gift or talent I've displayed, the tendency is to let that build up our pride, "puff us up." But the truth is, that the credit simply doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the One who made me, who gave me the talent, the ability to do everything I do.

Paul said that when he prayed for God to remove his thorn in the flesh, God told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." See, Paul was incredibly intelligent and capable, and I'm sure he heard a lot of compliments in his days about his wonderful would have been pretty easy to let the focus fall on himself. But because of this "thorn in his flesh," whatever it was, Paul was constantly reminded of his utter dependence on God, and that helped him remember to always give the glory to God for what was being done through him.

This is important--God's power is made perfect in our weakness.
When the world sees me as strong and self-sufficient, as capable of handling my problems on my own...well, then they see ME, but nothing else...I'm not revealing the true power in my life, I'm just taking the credit due to God.
But when I'm willing to admit my weaknesses and problems and struggles, and when I'm willing to be vocal about the fact that I'm incapable of handling them on my own, and must rely on the strength of God for every step...well, then the glory of God is revealed for those who are willing to see it.
Your weakness may not be a physical ailment, but we all have areas of our life where God is reminding us how much we must rely on Him for everything we have. He does this, not to make us feel small and incapable, but to help us see how much strength and power we have available to us, given by the very Creator of the Universe. He reminds of our limitations so that we will understand more clearly that we "can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens us."

John's gospel records a very simple, yet very profound statement spoken by John the Baptist after Jesus was revealed to him as the Messiah. He said, "He must become greater, I must become less. (John 3:30) This is the greatest desire of my life, that I would seek more and more to show Christ to the world, and not myself.

I admit it...I still pray that this "thorn in the flesh" will someday be removed. But as long as I have it, I pray that God will be glorified through it, I pray that it will be evident to others that I must rely on the power and grace of my God just to get through the day. I pray that the way I live my life, the way I handle this illness will keep ME in the shadows and bring glory to God.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

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