Through eternal perspective and faith we can see God’s goodness in our weaknesses and rejoice that our weakness provides a platform for showing his strength.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,” Paul wrote, “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).
As a teenager who had just come to faith in Christ, I read this passage with perplexed interest. I believed it because it was God’s Word—but it made little sense to me. Now, forty years later, it makes a great deal of sense. As an insulin-dependent diabetic I have lain helpless, stiff as a board, not in my right mind, needing my wife to get sugar in my mouth. My once-strong body grows weak. Low blood sugar clouds my judgment and leaves me with a memory of having said stupid things, like a drunken man. Several times a year I have severe reactions in which I don’t know what’s happening to me.
This humbles me, but I can honestly say I am grateful for it; yes, I even delight in it, because I recognize the value of being humbled, for “when I am weak, then I am strong.” My weakness drives me to greater dependence upon Christ. I wouldn’t begin to trade the spiritual benefits I’ve received.
As a young pastor I loved God sincerely; but like my tavern-owner father, I was independent, self-sufficient, and prone to do things on my own. Christ’s words, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), rang true—but I did a lot of things without drawing on his strength. So from eternity’s viewpoint, those things amounted to nothing.
Seventeen years ago I sat in a courtroom and heard abortion-clinic employees tell lie after lie, all under oath. When I heard a judge tell the jury they must (it was a directed verdict) find us guilty and impose severe financial punishments on us—all for peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience—I knew I had no power to get what I wanted. None. Yet despite the difficulty and injustice, what God did in that situation was wonderful. I delighted in my weakness, for I found joy in depending on Christ.
During that thirty-day court trial, I often recited to myself God’s Word, including the assurance that the Judge of all the earth will do right (see Genesis 18:25). Like Jesus, I needed to entrust myself to a faithful Creator who will work all things together for good. (And I have subsequently seen amazing ways he has done just that, none of which I could see at the time.)
God uses my weakness and inadequacy not only to build my character, but also to manifest his strength and grace to me and through me. That’s why I see his goodness in giving this weakness to me to accomplish his good purposes. Not only will I celebrate those purposes in eternity, I am celebrating them now.