I’ve been away from the blog for a little while because I’ve just been super busy with a number of projects. But during the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about a couple of verses from Paul that I’ve finally figured out for my own life – and perhaps yours.
In Romans 7, Paul admits that he is troubled by his sin life. Here’s what he says:
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…. [18c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing… 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
How many of you can relate to that? If we’re honest, all of us want to do what God would have us do but we don’t…and we hate it. We hate the fact we can’t seem to control ourselves and have the self-discipline to do what God commands, but instead we rebel against Him all the time through our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
But don’t get depressed and stop reading yet! Here’s the next part of Paul I’ve been chewing on:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 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(b)-10)
See, Paul was just like us – he struggled. He struggled to do the right thing; he struggled with guilt because he did the wrong things; and he struggled with whatever this thorn is that he couldn’t shake – perhaps a recurring sin he just couldn’t break.
When I’ve read these verses I always thought that God saying His power was made perfect in weakness meant that when I was weak God was going to swoop in through the Holy Spirit to empower me to overcome my weakness. But that’s not been my experience nor the experience of others I speak to.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the years, but just two days ago it hit me or should I say the Holy Spirit revealed it to me.
If you’ve been reading this blog or have read my book or even met me in person you know that I am a pretty transparent person. What God has taught me during the past few years is that I am more helpful serving others when they see the real me – the transparent and vulnerable me – the sinful, imperfect, struggling-just-like-them me. So that is what I show people, at least I do to the best of my abilities.
And here’s how the Holy Spirit put it to me the other day: “You show them your weakness so that God’s power can be made perfect in their lives.
Now let’s admit it – none of us likes to be weak. We feel out of control, dangerously vulnerable, and fearful of rejection and humiliation. But it is in those very places that God can do His best work in your life and the lives of others, because in your weakness His power is perfected because in your weakness you must rely on Him!
Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15 that of all the sinners he is the worst. But by saying this he’s letting everyone else around him know that if Jesus loved him enough to die for him – the worst sinner – then certainly Jesus loves everyone else enough to give them grace, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation as well! In his weakness, God was powerful showing others the way to salvation!
I do a lot of lay Christian counseling and nearly everyone I’ve worked with starts out thinking that they don’t have much worth because they’ve either done bad things or have had bad things done to them. And I always start out in the same place – after listening to their story I tell them a little about mine – all the bloody details. Then they don’t feel so bad!
And it’s not because of some tit-for-tat my sins are worse than theirs kind of thing. It’s because like them I have done bad things and have had bad things done to me yet I have hope and joy and peace and love because, as I tell them, in my weakness God is strong. His grace is sufficient to cover me and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me to understand all this and to simply rest in the Lord when I need Him to be my strength, my rock, and my fortress. By showing my weaknesses, others can see that they are not alone; we all are hurting and every one of us needs Jesus in our lives.
So like Paul I am going to boast about my weaknesses so that God can use me to the full! No, He’s not going to come into my life and give me the power to overcome my weaknesses by myself. Instead God’s going to use me through my weaknesses to reach out to others so they too can learn to boast about the strength of their God in the hardest places in their lives!
How about you? Are you ready to boast about your weaknesses if it can help God use you to help others? I’ll be the first to admit that it takes a lot of courage to admit your faults to another person or in front of a group. But when the Holy Spirit reveals to you that what you consider weakness God considers an opportunity to minister you just may start to understand our buddy Paul.
Give it some thought and I’ll be praying the God reveals His plan for you in your darkest places.