True strength is the innocence of not knowing the restraints of your weaknesses. Weaknesses are something to be embraced. Otherwise, how would we ever turn them into strengths?
Paul had it rough. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, he chronicles his hardships which included numerous arrests and whippings, 39 lashes no less than five times, three beatings with rods and a stoning. If that were not enough, he was shipwrecked three times, had been adrift at sea, faced wild rivers and wilder robbers, and even took on the elements in deserts, on the seas, and in dangerous towns. He was even bitten by a poisonous snake!
Paul had lots he could brag about – specifically his knack for survival. He had a story for every scar. But what he told the Corinthians prior to his third visit was to use their weaknesses. It’s through our weaknesses, we learn to be strong. We learn to endure.
After having a vision from God, Paul said he was given a “thorn in his flesh” to minimize his pride. He asked God three times to take it away. God chose not to.
9Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
The pain of the thorn was not as sharp as God’s point. This was a valuable lesson for Paul, and should be to all of us as well. He was able to realize that sometimes, your weaknesses can be your strengths because that’s when God works through you more often than not. Paul even acknowledged he was unskilled as a speaker, though not lacking in knowledge (2 Corinthians 11:6). If Paul was a weak speaker, he developed it to be a strength – especially if his oratory skills were anything like his writing skills.
Look for how God is using you in ways that are simply not obvious. The things we consider weaknesses are often some of our greatest attributes. When we see character flaws in the mirror, God may be using the reflection as a tool to make us stronger. There is always something to be learned through our mistakes and weaknesses. It’s like the skinny girl who says she is fat – her perception of herself is not how others perceive her. Her perception is skewed by her weakness of insecurity and low self-worth.
This may be difficult, but think about it over time. You may want to talk to those who know you well. An outside view often becomes a new view.
Here’s a to-do list when it comes to embracing weaknesses:
- Inventory your weaknesses
- Accept your weaknesses
- Ask God to work through your weaknesses
- Embrace your weaknesses
- Actively turn your weaknesses into your greatest strengths
Paul chose to embrace his weaknesses because he knew this is where God would work through him. Are you brave enough to do the same?
Dear Lord, I ask you to help me identify my weaknesses. Work within me to accept those weaknesses not in a way that leads to sin, but in a way that leads to being open to your dynamic power and grace. Paul said “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Make me strong. Make me a messenger of your will and an emissary of your eternal glory. Through you all things are possible, and through you, I will use my weaknesses to strengthen myself and others. Amen.
Personal inventory time: List three things you consider your biggest weaknesses that keep you from full-blown Spirit-filled leadership.
What weaknesses in others have you seen turned into strengths? Think about how you can do the same in your life.
*This post is from an unpublished manuscript I have written titled “Lead Like the Lamb: Spirit-filled Leadership.”