I loathe making mistakes. I’m not necessarily a perfectionist, but I don’t like looking incompetent or weak. So wouldn’t you know that the week of Advent where we focus on weakness would be the week I found a major typo in the reading plan. The scripture reading was supposed to be from SECOND Corinthians, not first. (insert all the eye roll emojis here)
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. Who likes appearing weak? Who delights in the fact that they can’t do it all? Who enjoys being feeble?
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
The Greek word Paul uses for content (or delight in some versions) means to be well pleased with, take pleasure in. It’s the same word used when God said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) Follow me here just a minute, because I think there’s debate over this whole “rejoicing in our sufferings” idea. Some will say that rejoicing doesn’t mean do a happy dance and a jig over the hard stuff of life. But honestly, I feel like that’s what Paul is saying here. He’s saying that he takes pleasure in and is well pleased with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties.
The truth is we weren’t designed for perfection. It’s unattainable. Our lives won’t be perfect. Our ability/skills won’t be enough. If we were capable of doing it all perfectly, we wouldn’t need God and we wouldn’t need each other.
We were intentionally designed with weakness.
Paul says he is pleased with weakness, because that’s where his strength lies v9). It’s countercultural. It’s not natural to respond that way. The only way we can respond with delight and pleasure is in God’s strength.
There are two purposes in our weakness:
Weakness Shows Our Need
There’s a myth out there that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but in John 16:33, Jesus promises we will have trouble in this world, but gives hope: He has overcome the world. The freeing truth is that we weren’t meant “to handle” this life alone. God gave us a Helper.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27
Once you profess faith in Christ and make Him Lord of your life, The Holy Spirit (the Helper as Jesus calls him in John 14:16-17) lives inside you. According to Romans 8, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. The Greek word for help means to lay hold along with, to strive to obtain with others, help in obtaining. It’s a word derived from two root words meaning with and embrace. He is embracing, coming along side to walk with you through your weakness. And not only that, He prays for us. Constantly. He’s not far off saying a quick prayer. He’s inside you right now, searching your heart and interceding. I love the Greek Word used for interceding. It’s also derived from two root words that literally translates exceedingly abundantly praying. No matter where you are in life, no matter how great your needs, you have a prayer warrior, one who knows your heart intimately, constantly bringing you before the throne of God.
Weakness Shows His Power
Paul references this idea several times in his letters. He was no stranger to weakness. What he learned through this thorn is that when we are weak, it gives God a chance to show His strength. It’s the same idea behind a good Cinderella Sports Story. We love to see the underdog win, and the Bible is full of examples: David vs. Goliath, Gideon’s army of 300 vs. massive army of Midianites, Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal, Moses vs. Pharaoh.
When the weak prove strong, God gets the glory. (see Judges 7)
Paul rejoiced in His weakness because He knew that made Him a vessel for God’s strength.
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:3-5
This verse brings me comfort. I don’t have to have the perfect words or the perfect answer or the perfect circumstances or the perfect scripture reference on an Advent card. His power is greater than my weakness. In that, I will rejoice.
We have one final week in our Advent reading: Rejoice Always! Grab a girlfriend or two or three, enjoy an iced coffee (hello again, 82 degrees), and have a conversation about the Truth of His Word. Merry Christmas!