Strengths, Weaknesses and an Upside-down Economy
by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey
…Therefore most gladly I will boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in hardships, in persecutions, and in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ Paul of Tarsus
Recently I wrote an article about how absolutely ‘other’ Jesus of Nazareth is from us. So much so that I believe it would have been impossible for humans to invent such a character. That article got me thinking about the Kingdom that Jesus ushered in, and how completely upside down it is from everything the world values and sees as strong. For instance, Jesus said in Matthew 10:39 that the secret to finding our life is to lose it, and in Matthew 20:16 that in His Kingdom those who are first will be last and the last will be first. He taught us (John 15:20) that a servant is not greater than his master…but in our world they would not even be considered in the same league!
While all of that is challenging enough, then we get the teachings of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about his famous ‘thorn.’ He says this thorn tormented him, but it did so to teach him humility and to rely on God’s strength instead of his own. In our church culture we have made a big to-do about that thorn. We have speculated what it is, taught about it as an object lesson about how sometimes it is not God’s desire to heal (a view I completely reject, and a lesson based entirely on speculation!) and we use it to talk about how sometimes God says no. But in all that speculation about the thorn, aren’t we totally missing the point? What Paul was telling us here is another key to the Kingdom of God, and that is to glory in our weaknesses, because our weaknesses make us most dependent on God.
Isn’t that just like Jesus, to teach us to value something we loathe and to despise something we long for? Think about it, who doesn’t love a good strength? We love our professional athletes, whose natural abilities earn them the adoration of millions and fat stacks of cash. We love a gifted singer, so much so that shows like American Idol have dominated the air waves for years. We love the gifted singers, but love making fun of the not-so-gifted ones even more. That shows that we despise weakness as much as we love strength.
But most of all we love our own strengths. We go in to careers that cater to our strengths, we make hobbies around them and they become our ministries. We feel most comfortable when we are doing something that taps in to our natural abilities. Unfortunately, due to human nature, when we are relying on our own strength, we are usually not involving God in the process. For instance, if I am a naturally gifted lawn mower, I can go through my mowing task completely on auto-pilot, never having to ask God for help, and probably not thinking too much about Him, or the task at hand. Those lawns just whiz by effortlessly, as does my life when engaged in this task. After it is over, I wonder where the time went.
However, if I have a disability or impairment that makes lawn mowing a struggle, I am focused not only on the task at hand, but on calling on my Jesus to help me through it. Chances are that Jesus and I will be mowing that lawn hand in hand, talking about it throughout the process. I would be calling on Him, chatting with Him about the missed spots, and thanking Him at the end of the task. I would know that I could not have done it without Him, and I would be grateful and aware of His presence in my life. I also would have been fully alive and engaged throughout the ordeal. And my weakness had, in His economy, just become my strength. My personal belief is that anything that drives us to our knees and makes us seek our Savior is a far more valuable than what we realize.
So what’s your thorn? Many of us do not have to look further than our own homes to find our area of greatest weakness. If we were truly honest, very few of us would say that we are the spouse, parent, or family member that we want to be. We see our weaknesses, often realizing that we respond in anger instead of love, and we feel guilty and condemned. This causes us to feel distressed and discouraged around the people that God intended to be the biggest blessings in our lives. I believe this is what keeps so many of us at the workplace or in ministry more than in our homes. We shine in other places.
Maybe, just maybe, our homes are the biggest area of weakness because that is where God wants to shine the most. After all, He is consumed with the idea of relationship, and He lives to love. Maybe He wants our reliance and dependence on Him so He can love us best, and love our families through us. In other words, we need to be like Paul, revel in this area of weakness, and invite God to be our strength and love through us. Receive Him like a little child, and admit that we can’t do this without Him. One thing I have recently discovered is that I cannot ‘work’ the principles of Christianity in my life and home without making a bigger mess. I must receive God’s love, and from that source, give to others. Freely we receive, freely we give. He is our life source and our strength in times of need. Go ahead; invite Him to be huge in areas you feel small. Let the Lion of Judah roar and spring to life within you!