If you spend any time on Facebook or other forms of social media you will catch a glimpse of various quotes or memes that might seem inspirational or encourage positive thinking. One that I see on a regular basis (usually posted by women) is “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the ONLY option you have.” I’m not sure who is being quoted. I have read that the author is unknown, some say it originated with reggae artist, Bob Marley. Either way, the saying sounds good in theory, but is being strong the only choice we have as Christians? When you are faced with suffering, should you tell yourself “I have to stay strong?” Not too long ago, I would have told myself this.
The world defines weakness as a negative quality. I was raised by Italian women who taught me from an early age to show no signs of weakness. Crying, admitting you need help, or sitting down to relax were off limits. I can't even think of a time that I saw my mom or grandma extremely ill. I'm sure they were, but they kept going and showed no signs of being a wimp. It's taken me a long time to realize that this kind of thinking is self sufficient - it places all your trust in yourself. Since becoming a Christian and reading through the book of 2 Corinthians, I have become more aware that the apostle Paul wants us to consider weakness as an option.
What is weakness?
The Bible defines weakness in a different way- one that goes against the world's view. As Pastor Jonathan Parnell has written, “Weakness means we don’t have what it takes. It means we are neither sovereign nor omniscient, nor invincible. We are not in control, we don’t know everything, and we can be stopped. Weakness means that we desperately need God. And the plea for my own soul, and for yours, is that we would embrace weakness, not despise it.”
Be content in your weakness
Weakness can come in all shapes and sizes . In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul speaks of a few experiences that a Christian can be faced which can cause them to become weak:
None of us likes to suffer from, or experience pain. When my back is aching I want instant relief. I run for the medicine cabinet to grab Tylenol so I can eliminate the pain. I'm so weak when it hurts and I am not content until I am pain free. This doesn't work when we are in the trenches of suffering produced by mockery of the unbelieving world, the hardship of a broken marriage, physical pain that never goes away, or a job loss due to the company closing. These are often circumstances that we cannot fix. We may cry out to God and ask “ How long, Oh Lord?” As hard as it seems at times, God wants us to be content in the weakness and not try to escape it ( 2 Cor. 12:10). He wants us to say “ You know what? I might be afflicted in every way by this chronic pain, but I'm not crushed; The doctors may be completely perplexed as to why I can't have children, but I am not going to be driven to despair; my family is persecuting me for my faith, but I’m not forsaken; my mother abused me when I was young, but I am not destroyed( taken from 2 Cor. 4:8-9). The suffering we experience can sometimes be so unbearable,but God wants us to not loose heart. God has purpose in pain, but if we try to run from it, we miss the big picture. Be content where the Lord has you and know it's for your good and His glory.
Through your weakness, God is made strong
Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to remove what or who was harassing him. We don't know what that “ thorn” was, but it was causing Paul to feel weak. As the Apostle appealed, the Lord answered him in a way that would upset most of us. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." The Lord, in His kindness did not remove Paul’s thorn.. He could have taken it away, but He didn't. Why? So His power can be seen and made perfect in our weakness. His power is what will get you through the suffering. God does not propose that we become self sufficient, self reliant, or strong. He desires that we stay weak and needy so we call upon Him for strength.
Don't buy into the worlds lies that staying strong is the only option you have. If you are a believer, there is another choice. Become content in your weakness, and display to others that your God is the one that strengthens you. Through our weakness, God is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13