by Alastair Sterne
November 7, 2011
3 min read
The other night at a viewing party, a friend prayed for Julia and I that “we would never cease to thank God for our weaknesses” to which I gave a resounding “Amen.” But why would I so emphatically declare “So be it!” to such a prayer? Dan McCartney wrote an article in the Westminster Journal titled No Grace Without Weakness. The thrust of his argument is stated clearly in his conclusion: “The posture of weakness is the posture of faith.” I couldn’t agree more. Why?
1. Paul boasts in his weakness, and so should we. In 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 we see that Paul’s initial reaction to weakness is to ask God to take it away. This is often our own reaction. The moment we face struggles and pain we ask God to give us a quick fix. Yet our scriptures continually assure us that we will face troubles and that our lives will not be lived in plastic domes of divine protection. We live our lives in frail vessels that are prone to pain and decay (2 Cor. 4:7-10). When Paul asks God to take away his weakness, God responds with a firm and clear ‘no.’ Although we do not know precisely what Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was, we can presume that it was likely physical and uncomfortable. It is in his weak and vulnerable state that Paul receives Christ’s word of comfort “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” How can Jesus say such things?
2. Jesus identifies with our weakness. The incarnation shows us that God identifies with us in ways that should make us uncomfortable. He does not remain at arms length. Jesus, the Son of God, takes on the weak form of humanity. We often think the incarnation began in a manger. However, one of my professors and mentors, Bob Tuttle, writes in his book Shortening the Leap, “It hurt God to be squeezed into a sperm and implanted into a mama.” The incarnation began in frailty and weakness in an embryo. It continued with cries and blood in a manger. It ended in nudity, shame and exposure; with a bloody Savior pierced and nailed to two crooked beams of wood.
We must see that Paul came to terms with his weakness, because he realized that it is his weakness that allows him to lean into Christ, the one who in human weakness overcame all adversity: temptation, sin, and even death. If in Christ’s suffering the Spirit of God gave him strength to endure, should we not also trust the Spirit will help us endure our weakness as well? It is for this very reason that Paul boasts in his weakness. He is finding the strength that only Jesus can give; strength that he gladly gives to the weak. This is faith.
A friend of mine has had a very rough year (you can follow her journey here). She has been in and out of the hospital. The other day she asked me if her theology was sound because despite everything that she has been going through she is coming to a deeper understanding of Christ’s love and pursuit of her. Her suffering and weakness has allowed her to dive into the depths of God’s love.
Her theology is sound because faith is the posture of weakness, and it is in our weakness that we see how Jesus is our strength because of what he experienced on our behalf; and also what he offers having walked through the other side of death.