“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
OFTEN WE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO TOLERATE WEAKNESS FOR A WHILE, BUT WE’RE NOT CONTENT TO REMAIN WEAK FOR VERY LONG. If we have deficiencies or inadequacies, we want them removed as quickly as possible. We don’t like being weak. And we adopt an almost demanding attitude about the matter: God had better get rid of our neediness! In our lexicon, “dependency” is the ultimate bad word, and “self-confidence” is the ultimate good one. If serving Him leaves us still weak and needy, what good is God?
Spiritually speaking, however, the attitude we call “self-confidence” can be a dangerous thing. What feels like strength may be little more than pride. If we’re not careful, we can fall into the error of thinking that we’re getting by on our own. As long as the good times roll, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we need no help. Yet without God, we would perish in an instant, and it’s sinful to forget that fact. Not only is it sinful, it’s ridiculous. If we ever suppose that we can get by without God’s help, then we are simply, and quite seriously, out of touch with reality.
It’s true, of course, that by self-confidence we often mean little more than optimism, and optimism is certainly preferable to pessimism. But even here, our optimism needs to be grounded in what God can do, not what we can do. There is no doubt whatsoever as to the eventual outcome of the war between good and evil, and we need to confront our daily problems in the confidence that God’s victory over His enemy is certain. The war has already been won.
Paul had to learn that God’s strength “is made perfect in weakness,” and we need to learn it too. Although it sounds contradictory, an admission of our weakness is the only way to be strong. Not only that, it’s the only way to make progress. We can’t really be useful to the Lord until our pride has been broken, perhaps by some lifelong “thorn in the flesh,” and we’ve been helped to understand that God’s grace is all we ever really have to have.
“Christ is never strong in us until we are weak. As our strength diminishes, the strength of Christ grows in us. When we are entirely emptied of our own strength, then we are full of Christ’s strength. As much as we retain of our own we lack of Christ’s” (William Tyndale).