Saturday, May 1, 2010

What does 'when I am weak, then I am strong' mean?

Many wonder what “when I am weak, then I am strong” means. At first glance, the statement does not seem to make any sense and even seems to contradict itself. How can someone possibly be weak and strong at the same time? Surely we can be one or the other, but not both?

The apostle Paul wrote these words when he was struggling with an issue that he described as a ‘thorn in the flesh.’ We do not know exactly what was troubling him, but the severity of this trial was obviously so terrible that it greatly weakened him.

‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [a thorn in my flesh] away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. NIV.

When our lives are running smoothly and devoid of trials, we have a tendency to rely upon our own human strength – strength that cannot compare in any way to Christ’s almighty, divine strength.

However, when our life is beset with difficulties and storms, our strength fades away and we become weak. Yet in these times of personal weakness we can turn to Jesus and rely upon His divine strength, and through that strength, face and endure those storms. And when we are relying upon Christ’s almighty strength instead of upon our own inadequate strength, we are really strong.

The Amplified Bible’s expansion of this Bible passage, explains it perfectly:

Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).

I have endured much in my life, with a sickly childhood, rejection, bullying, epilepsy and deafness, but it was when I was severely depressed that I was at my weakest. Here are some things I wrote in my diary:
I wish I had the wings of an eagle,
for I grow faint, physically and emotionally
I feel so inadequate, so helpless, so full of fears.
Irritation, frustration and anger rise up and consume me,
and I’m so weak I can’t even fight them.


Yet in spite of this weakness, I sought Jesus throughout the ordeal with every fibre of my being, praying, worshipping and praising Him, waiting on Him, and standing upon His word. And although I could not feel His presence during that time, when I look back at those days, I can see so clearly that He was there, carrying me and giving me the strength to persevere.

I would also like to draw our attention to another very significant aspect of allowing Christ’s strength to empower us during our trials. Paul talks about being glad about his weaknesses and even delighting in them.

It is imperative that we do not fall into the trap of grumbling against God during such trials, nor fight or fear them. We need to keep in mind that God uses such trials to strengthen our faith and develop our character, and then thank and praise Him in, through, and even for such trials. We need trust in Christ completely, reminding ourselves that He is sovereign and in control of all things. I remember reaching this point during my journey with depression - and how different the journey was from that point – I was able to get back out there and live an increasingly normal life while awaiting full recovery.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

15 comments:

  1. Amen and Amen. When we get to the end of our strength (when we become weak), God gives us His strength (then we are strong). His strength is uncomparable to ours. I just love your blog. As a Psychologist it's right up my alley. As a Christian, it is right in my soul and spirit. God bless.

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  2. Super post Peter. You are always an inspiration to me with your writings from your heart. I can so very much relate. Blessings to you and your family dear one.

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  3. This is where I am, right now. I cannot control the circumstances and have to take authority over my busy mind continually and live in scriptures right now. Need prayer, dear brother, for my family situation.

    I so appreciate you and your testimony!
    Mary

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  4. Peter -

    I want to give you something. Because I have been blessed by your blog, I am giving you an award. Come by my blog to check it out!

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  5. Great post, Peter! Very enlightening. I can truly identify with your experiences. Many times I feel very weak, especially in time of severe depression, and it is then that I am most sensible that it is God sustaining me as I would not have go on without Him. Each experience, painful and awful as it was, was a growing experience for me, to know the Lord and His love better, and His abundant mercies and His grace which is sufficient for me.

    Thanks for your sharing. I love your writings. You are so gifted in writing and able to articulate very well. Take care and have a very blessed Lord's day and week ahead.

    In Christ,
    Nancie

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  6. Just what I needed. So glad I found this through searching for a particular scripture.

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  7. Thank you- just what I needed in a very very dark place you have shined some light. God bless you

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    1. Thank you Ali, and I am very humbled that the Lord is able to use my writings. May the Lord carry you and sustain you through what you are going through.
      God bless
      Peter

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  8. Thank you Peter. Like those who have posted before me, I am grateful to have found this at such a low point in my life. Will be sharing this with my wife. You are now on my favorite list. I will be returning. May God bless and protect you brother.

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    1. You are most welcome JM, praise the Lord for how He uses us to encourage and support one another, with the comfort that He has given us.
      God bless
      Peter

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    2. Thanks peter for providing a ministry of hope thru depression. I to currently suffer
      8 months now but know that god will bring me thru it. I have been at that edge of darkness and gloom only to realize that god was sustaining me with his mighty arm. Like others on this post who feel they are suffering alone i say persevere and keep trusting jesus. God is good and knows our weaknesses even at this very hour. Thanks peter for your obedience and love for the brothers by providing this ministry that has helped sustain me and i know others. Lv jeff m

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  9. The Lord brought me to your site on purpose just now to tell you, you are not alone and to tell you that it is "The way of suffering" and we Christians ALL will suffer simply because we follow Him. But we suffer for the right reason!
    The Lord led me to write this since my Mom just passed:
    All day long I ponder the wonder of your words. It came to my mind: Why does God keep every tear we have ever shed in a jar? I think there are many reasons but the biggest reason is that our tears matter to Christ! One passage reveals that Jesus wept in the midst of his own suffering and the loss of his friend. Furthering the truth in my heart and in my Bible, that each tear I have ever shed for others is NEVER in vain. Think of it: Our tears are safely kept in a jar! What a wonderful and thoughtful thing He does here! I beleive He uses some of our tears to rain down love to heal the broken-hearted. I just lost my Mother and am trying to fight the pain again after just having a HUGE breakthrough in this area. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts Peter.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,
      You have my heartfelt sympathies about the loss of your mother. Thank you also for sharing with us how the Lord has been helping you through this, and the remember that our sufferings in Christ never go to waste.
      And you are welcome, so glad that my writings have been able to encourage you as well.
      God bless
      Peter

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  10. Thanks so much Peter. You are a wonderful blessing to hurting people everywhere and I know the Lord is using you and your family to help people. Isn't it wonderful to know that God uses us in this manner! Last night I was led to write this for you and for myself and everyone visiting your site.I call it "I wonder how Jesus felt: It totally changed my depression to joy last night. Thank you for stirring up my soul. It is through the painful times when God shows up the most!I wonder how Jesus felt while He was on this Earth? Do you think he was a happy man? Do you think he was sad or happy most of the time? He had a huge job to do and his life was filled with joy, heartbreak, sadness, love, peace at times, but the darkest and most horrible of fears came against Him. We are Men and Women who are following His way and His way is: The way of suffering. So while we are all depressed we can remember that Jesus felt every pain known to man, and in our darkest of nights we should picture Him and place our own hands symbolically above our heads and just imagine the severe pain of the first nail going through, the second, the third, then the fourth. Only to be spat upon and denied and hated and loathed and scourged all while still holding on to the powerful revelation that He knew that His Father would allow this in order to save Mankind. Jesus was a man of many sorrows and so we can identify all of our sufferings with His. Imagine if you just healed a blind man. Do you think that would make you Happy? God gave His Son Jesus plenty of joyful moments, and they are all over the Gospel. I urge you all to identify yourselves with every moment that Christ had on this earth, and understand that anyone who follows Christ WILL suffer. But, they will suffer for the right reasons, and not the wrong reasons that unbelievers surely must be tormented by. I am so thankful I have always known Christ even when I suffered as a little girl. I met Him while hiding in a closet. And I have known Him ever since. There will always be many fights and sorrows , but we have the PROMISE of everlasting life and a Mansion in our Fathers house. Streets paved with gold. My Oh my who can even imagine or dare to try and understand the glory we have after this life. If we all concentrate on helping someone else learn about Christ, then we can never truly despair, no matter what comes against us. I have suffered a lot in my life and Christians everywhere are suffering, but we all suffer together and Jesus draws near to the broken-hearted.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. And you are so right, Jesus was called the Man of Sorrows, and with all He suffered while on the earth, He can truly sympathize with all that we go through. And He said that we are to take up our cross and follow Him, and like you said, what waits for us in heaven must be so amazing! So wonderful for you to meet Jesus in such an amazing way as well. And I love that verse about Jesus drawing near to the brokenhearted.

      "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18.

      God bless you :)
      Peter

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