Retreats with God
He leads me beside the still waters...He restores my soul...
I admit I often feel weak. Whether it's through battles in my mind, such as struggles with impulsivity, worry, or insecurity, or even feeling physically weak through chronic illness in the past, weakness is something I have certainly experienced.
Every time I find myself in those situations, regardless of the cause, condemning thoughts start to arise. The usual lie that I am tempted to believe is that I am too weak to be used as God's vessel. If I am struggling with sin, I tend to think that there is no way God can use me and I might as well continue being weak because I can't seem to get past it. When I'm feeling physically unwell for a period of time, I tend to tell myself there's not much I can do to serve God because I am just not able. The enemy tries to prey on our weaknesses. However, God graciously reveals His truth to me to combat these lies through His Word.
Combat the Lies With Truth
The truth is that God's Word reminds us that we are sinners and we do fall short of His glorious standard (Romans 3:23), yet we're more loved than we can even fathom (Ephesians 3:18-19). We are made worthy through Jesus, fully forgiven, and His righteousness becomes our righteousness (Romans 3:24-26). Nothing can separate us from God's love (Romans 8:38-39). We are weak in our humanness (Psalm 103:14) and dependent on God through all things, yet empowered to serve through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11). As believers, there is no condemnation for us because we belong to Christ (Romans 8:1) and His blood covers our sin (Romans 3:25).
In physical illnesses, when we have prayed for healing and we don't receive it, God is ultimately still shaping us to be more like His Son (Romans 8:28-29) and maturing our faith despite the hardship. Just as He never abandoned Jesus when He suffered and died, God will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
I have to remind myself of these truths regularly when my weaknesses lead me toward those lies that I am useless and inadequate. It also helps me to think about how God is displaying his own glory through my weakness.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks about how he prayed three times for a "thorn" to be removed from his flesh. Scholars debate on what the thorn was. Some say it was some type of physical illness, others say it was a psychological struggle such as grief, sorrow, or temptation, others say it was actual people who opposed him, and finally, some suggest it was demonic harassment. Regardless of what it was, the bottom line is that Paul was suffering from a debilitating problem.
Paul received an amazing consolation from God in 2 Cor. 12:9-10 when he prayed about this issue, and you can check it out below. I love the way the Amplified version puts it.
How God Works in Our Weakness
There are several angles to consider about Paul's situation.
#1 Christlike Character
He received a stronger character as a result of the thorn, because in verse 10 he says that when he suffers for Christ and he is weak, then he is strong. This shows that he was fully dependent on the Lord and His power.
He received God's amazing grace. "My grace is sufficient for you..." lets us know that God gave him the grace and strength to cope with the thorn moment by moment.
God taught him humility as he was not doing God's work on his own, but instead fully leaning on him to be empowered for ministry.
God gave him an ability to empathize with others going through similar sufferings. See 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.
#5 A Closer Walk
His worship was deepened. In admitting his own weaknesses, he affirmed God's might all the more. His intimacy with God was strengthened as he depended on God more and more.
#6 The Benefit of Others
Others were likely able to see how God was using Paul's weakness to deepen his walk with God and experience His grace, and they benefited. And of course, we get to see that too through God's Word!
#7 Power Perfected
God promises that His power is most effective and complete in our weakness. So His power is not just present in our weakness, it's perfected in our weakness. That changes the whole perspective, just knowing that God gets the glory in all things, even our weaknesses!
It is refreshing and encouraging to see how God can work through our weaknesses through the example of Paul.
Treasure in Jars of Clay
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh."
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV
In verse 6, just prior to this passage, Paul talks about the knowledge of the glory of God shining in our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ. This same knowledge of God is the "treasure" referred to in verse 7, the amazing truth of the gospel that allows us to know Him. The "jars of clay" show our frailty, our weakness, and further show how God's power is displayed in us.
This makes me reflect a bit on my own weakness. I think about all the scattered "pieces" of my own "jar" that He is steadily and skillfully putting back into order as I lean on Him. He uses the weaknesses to refine me to become more like Him. Sometimes I get so impatient with my progress that I think I know better what type of "glue" to mend myself with, and the process takes all the longer because I keep messing with it. But He is full of compassion, and He patiently covers my feeble efforts and works to restructure me once again. My own sinful flesh hinders me, yet He never forsakes me.
He continues to mend my brokenness out of love, and so that others will see evidence of his restorative craftsmanship. I will always need Him. After all, He is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1). My "pieces" will continually crack, loosen, and become misplaced. But His infinite love drives Him to look at me and see His Son, and He always holds me fast, as he polished me with eternal "sealant," the Holy Spirit.
I always end up coming to Him humbly, as I'm fully aware of my stumblings and how I've messed up my own "jar," yet I can boldly approach His throne because I know His redemptive work allows me to, as unfathomable that unmerited favor may be.
Draw Near to the Throne
What about your own weaknesses: chronic health issues, temptations, struggles? We can rest in Hebrews 4:15-16, posted below. Draw near to the throne with confidence, a confidence based on Jesus' finished work alone. Remember that His grace is sufficient and ever-present for our every need.
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Hi, I'm Tessa! I suppose I could sum myself up by confessing I am a crazy cat lady, amateur sewist, nature lover, bookworm, fabric fanatic, mental health advocate, craft enthusiast, tea addict, and an 'old soul.' Jesus is my all in all, and I'm so thankful that His love NEVER fails.