“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” —1 Corinthians 1:26-29
Weakness gets a bad rap. We hear that all cruelty stems from weakness, that it creates cowardice, that it’s a sign of poor character. When stories are told of weak men, they become synonymous with venality, cheapness, bitterness and vulgarity. Weak people are described as small, mean, scrawny or chinless, while strong men are tall, straight, healthy, and for some reason, possessed of fabulously lantern-jawed profiles. It’s as if it were possible to become Weakness by displaying a weakness, as though it were a cancerous thing, spreading around the body and multiplying until there was almost nothing left of the person that had been.
The truth is that we all have weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Every one of us has things that we’re better at, things we’re not so good at. The whole concept of community, millennia-old, exists to provide partnership between people of different strengths and weaknesses, people who can help shore up a lack in each other and create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, given this, why is it that weakness is so disdained by so many cultures across the world?
We don’t deal with weakness well, which is odd given that we have to deal with it so often. Weakness is our stock-in-trade. Weakness is our business. We should have better strategies for coping with it… but traditionally our only management technique is to pretend it isn’t happening. We deny a weakness within us; attempt to remove it, to cut it out. We insist on seeing weakness and strength as a progression, a line on a graph moving from negative to positive. Given that mindset, moving backward on that graph can only be seen as a negative.
But it’s ok to accept vulnerability in ourselves. The fact is, God chooses to work with the weak. God has a history and an inclination to select what some would — and have — referred to as the most inappropriate people to exercise Himself through. Jesus hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, the destitute and the poor because those were the people that needed Him, that welcomed Him into their homes. The so-called strong, the Pharisees and Sadducees, the elders of the synagogue and their Roman rulers, wanted nothing to do with Him for the most part. Suspicious of Christ’s teachings, in fear of losing their grip upon position and authority, the strong in the time of Christ certainly didn’t act like people in a secure place in life.
And that’s part of the strength of weakness. It’s the admission, stark and terrifying though it can be for us to get to do it, that we need help to get to where we want to be. It’s the willingness to hand ourselves over to someone else to help us out of a bind. When you’re sinking in quicksand, the best course of action is also entirely counter-intuitive… not to struggle, to claw your way out, but to relax, lie back and slowly extend an arm to be saved.
God is so confident in Himself that He can easily afford to choose the weakest and worst examples of humanity to represent Him in the world. He delights in rescuing and salvaging people who’ve been written off by everyone else, because He sees in us what no one else can see — the parts of us that are wonderful, and the parts of us that are not so much, and He loves us regardless. There’s no limitation on that love, no statute whereby we will lose it should we fail to deliver the goods. But in extending His hand to us in our weakest moments, the Father is empowering us to become greater than we are. He sets loose an actualizing spirit in us, to display our potential to us, to have us achieve things we’d been told were outside of our reach. Do you think that He would be able to work with us in this way if we felt that we had nowhere more to go and nothing more to prove?
Strength in the Spirit is not the same as strength in the world. The world teaches strength through control, through growing hard and tough. Strength in the Spirit means accepting weakness, relinquishing control, and opening instead of closing. As Christians, we’re tasked with becoming more like Christ — it’s in the name. Spiritual maturity only comes with facing adversity and passing the tests set to us, and this can only be achieved through intimacy with the Father, a letting down of barriers. Now, in admitting weakness, the temptation is to constantly retreat from adversity, to ask for the burden to be lifted from us. We have a direct line to the Almighty, after all — and He loves us. What better way to show it, and to show us His favor, than by removing the trial from our path, the thorn from our foot?
But the fact is that an unwillingness to face adversity removes any possibility of entering the crucible through which actual change can occur. True, sometimes we are delivered from our circumstances. Christ’s like that — a Deliverer. Sometimes, however, we are set free from within our circumstances. There’s the old adage, never more appropriate — ‘give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ We must stop simply asking for adversity to be removed from our lives, just as we must accept that our weakness is a strength in the Spirit.
We need to develop the same attitude to life that characterized Christ in His walk with the Father. But we have plenty of good company on that road. David pursued intimacy as a way of life, and was called ‘a man after God’s heart’. Caleb was called ‘a man of a different spirit’ because he trusted in God absolutely, in a moment when almost everyone else doubted — when ten out of the twelve spies sent to Canaan became panicked over what they’d seen and counseled abandoning the land that had been promised to them, only Joshua stood by Caleb’s side and spoke from a place of confidence in the majesty of God. They were shouted down that day, and cowardice lost the people of Israel their inheritance.
We must learn how to turn our weakness into a joyful vulnerability to the sovereignty and supremacy of God. In displaying weakness, our admission of powerlessness and helplessness, we are actually displaying spiritual strength of a kind that the world cannot match. We must learn to be glad about our weaknesses, because they allow us to move into a position of maturity in Christ that might not have been possible without them. Remember the story of Job, that great and virtuous man, who was tested in horrendous adversity, and eventually found that his pride in his strength were preventing him from taking the next and biggest step in the Kingdom? There’s no shame in weakness when it can bring us joy like that.
All heroes of faith performed great feats and exploits because they discovered who God was for them in the circumstances that they faced. Heroes are not people of great strength, they are people have been sharply tested, often to the limits of endurance, and become greater through entering that crucible. Like Caleb and Joshua, heroes of faith refute the idea of strength in the world in wholehearted reliance on the majesty of the Father. Ask yourself about your feelings about your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities. Are those nagging doubts louder than your joy in God’s majesty? Now ask yourself… how would a potential hero of faith turn that on its head? Because we’re all potential heroes in the eyes of the Father. He sees us as we are, as we were and as we could be, and He knows that we’re strongest at the broken places.
– Ben at Team Brilliant