I Am Strong When I Am Weak

July 22, 2018

We all have our portion of challenges in life. While we take the easy ones in stride, the difficult ones can come to shake our faith to the core. When they come, we are quick to seek the Lord’s help and we are helped. But there are challenges that are stubborn. When they linger, we find ourselves in the same situation as that of the apostle Paul. In his particular case, he said, “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’" (2 Cor. 12:8-9). Indeed, there are cases when we only need to rely on the grace of God for deliverance. No amount of effort on our part is enough to overcome these challenges.

But what could this thorn in the flesh be? Many believe that it could be a physical ailment that he was dealing with. However, if we listen further to his testimony, he gave us an idea of what this thorn consisted of. He said, “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 Cor. 12:10). This thorn in the flesh had to do with his ministry more than anything else. As he served in his ministry, he had to struggle with preaching to those looking for eloquence (1 Cor. 2:3-5). He was insulted for his person (2 Cor. 10:10) and he went through hardships (1 Cor. 4:11-12), persecution (Acts 13:50) and difficulties (2 Cor. 11:25). These had come to oppress him and became a thorn in his flesh, which Satan used to discourage him.

In confronting these issues (the thorn), he was helpless on his own but found hope in God. He concluded, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This statement seems paradoxical but the underlying truth is that our weakness can be overshadowed by God’s strength. As can be gleaned from Paul’s testimony, we can be strong in our weakness for the following reasons. Firstly, God’s grace is sufficient – we do not have to struggle on our own. He honours our faith in him, we only have to trust. The apostle Paul encouraged us to find this grace when he said, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). The Lord is both gracious and merciful. He gives blessings that we do not deserve and he withholds punishment of sins that we do deserve.

Secondly, God is the source of our strength. When we are weak, we can draw strength from the Lord. The prophet Isaiah said, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isa. 40:29). However, we must let God do the work. For as long as we insist on doing things our way, God will not lift a hand to help us. But as we surrender our lives and our challenges to him, he will empower us. In the end, Paul testified, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13).

Thirdly, the sovereign will of God will prevail. Our situation in life might seem hopeless but God can turn it around to be a blessing in the end. Looking at seemingly hopeless cases, the apostle Paul assessed the situation and found hope saying, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Therefore, we should not despair when things are not working the way we expected. God’s will shall prevail and as we align ours with his, we shall find strength to overcome our weaknesses.

Lastly, the yoke of the Lord is easy. Knowing that we do not have to carry our load on our own gives us special joy and strength to overcome our challenges. It makes our burden lighter. Let us then respond to the Lord’s invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). Indeed, our strength comes from the Lord and we can be strong in our weakness. Praise the Lord!