Boasting in Weakness
Lessons from 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
As the apostle Paul writes his second letter to the church at Corinth, he shares a testimony of an encounter with God that reminds him of his weakness. Instead of that reminder knocking him down or discouraging him, God reassures Paul of his grace and his unending ability to rectify our brokenness and repurpose it for his glory. Similarly, I write this post from a place of restored brokenness and weakness.
This semester has not exactly gone according to plan, although that seems to be thematically woven into most of my life - especially this year. Still, things that should have happened fell apart, while things that I never expected came crashing into me, pushing me into darkness, depression, and a seemingly-constant spiral of confusion. In the midst of chaos and a multitude of gone-wrongs, I found myself crippled by the weight of my weakness: thoughts of my inability fueled an instability that furthered the cycle of self-deprecating fragility. And, thankfully, the story doesn't end there.
God is so faithful to use the “least of these.” He chose fishermen to support Jesus - not kings or prophets. God chose us - the broken, sinful children whom He adopted - to serve His Kingdom and plant seeds. He chose even me - Christopher - to know Him, to bear his name, and to glorify Him in all that I do.
We should revel in our brokenness because, as Paul points out, we benefit from it in three very important and practical ways:
1. Our weakness keeps us in check.
It's all about perspective: man was created for God’s own glory (Isaiah 43:1-7). Not for man's glory, not for his parents’ glory - for God's. Our weakness first and foremost reminds us of God's infinite strength, wisdom, glory, and perfection. It also forces us to be less conceited, because of the marvelous and glorious God we serve. Maybe the most important, though, is that it requires that we depend.
If Adam could do everything by himself, God never would have created Eve - and from her, friends, family, and community. In Genesis 2, God declares that man is not fit to be alone, and gives him Eve, a helper. As important as it is for Christians to fall back on community, our brokenness also forces our dependence on God.
We can't do it alone. This universe would not exist without God - and we weren’t designed for that, either. Our dependence on God, our need for grace, and God’s gifts to us are all absolutely necessary for life. Our weakness keeps us in check and sets us up to learn from others and from God, to grow and walk alongside each other, and to support each other. (Check out Romans 12 for some marks of a Christian that knows how to depend.)
2. God’s grace is sufficient.
Our inadequacy, brokenness, and lack is covered by God’s grace. This ties back to the idea of dependence, in the sense that we cannot achieve forgiveness and salvation without God, but God's grace is so much more than just enough. Paul writes to the church at Corinth explaining that God fills in the places we can't - and he's freaking undone, because that's a big deal.
The price that Jesus paid on the cross was so much more than just his mortal life - He paid the price of all my failures, my let-downs, my mistakes and my inadequacy. The slate was wiped clean and I was restored to relationship with Christ. Every time I've ever missed God's mark, Jesus’ grace was more than enough to redeem me - and that same grace is yours to claim.
3. God reassures us with His promise of power.
God promises us that His power is perfected in our weakness - just like a key is perfected for its lock. God has a pretty masterful way of working all things together for good - and He even uses our weakness! He perfected His power in us, meaning that when we invite Him into our mess, He is able to help us through the impossible, and even to do the impossible through us.
Paul teaches us that in our weakness - in our most empty and broken places, on our worst days when we can't keep going - God is ready and waiting to work with us, in us, and through us to get us through. Why would God do that?
Well, He loves us, He wants the ultimate best for us, and He wants us to exude his glory. What better way to show all of those than to scoop us up at our lowest and help us to our highest? God wants nothing more than to use his power for our good.
Trapped in a world stained with my failures and marked by my brokenness, the last thing that I would ever have expected to do would be to rejoice - and yet, that’s what God has called us to do! Paul doesn’t tell his story out of a place of pride - and he surely wasn’t writing to capitalize on fame or fortune; he writes to reassure us just like the Father reassured him: God’s grace is sufficient for all of our shortcomings and our downfalls - and so much more that He can use our brokenness for our good and for His glory. For when we are weak, then we are strong.