Weakness or Strength – Can Weakness Make Us Strong?
Numb. That’s where I found myself the other night. The last two months have been spent dealing with sickness in our house. Not horrendous sickness, just pestering sickness…that won’t leave. I’d picked up the phone to hear my husband’s voice on the other end confirming that our little one had strep again. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Starting in January, first it’s the colds, then strep & other ailments, followed by tummy sicknesses, then colds and back to strep, again. Taking care of a special needs child is sometimes difficult. One of our difficulties comes in the shape of a thumb, one that our daughter still sucks. Because of her thumbsucking, she consistently ingests germs and shares them. I hung up the phone, tired & upset. I was spent. Numb.
Realizing just how tired I was, my understanding husband told me, I’ll handle things today. You need to get away. It’s not always possible, but at this moment, it was. So I packed myself up, seeking refuge and perspective. Running away to hide in the shelter of my God. I didn’t just run away, I ran to God. I spent the day, after driving in my state of numbness, saturating myself in His word. Praying and journaling. Getting out into the brisk cold of nature, the kind that slaps you in face, wind whipping up and tearing a hole in your heart, a good hole, breaking through as you take a deep breath. Setting your heart free, once again. Nature is powerful. Not surprising, since it’s God creation. It’s not the first time, I’ve felt His presence through it. I know it won’t be the last.
Then, when I opened my e-mail this morning, I came across an article congratulating someone I admire greatly – Joni Eareckson Tada. I wrote about her briefly here. She’s an amazing woman, who has lived life as a quadriplegic for the last 45 years and has spent a good deal of those years helping others through her ministry, Joni and Friends. To read her words, you get the clear sense she’s deeply rooted in her faith, almost unshakeable. Can I just say, God’s timing is so perfect. The article celebrated her acceptance into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In it, I read these words from Tada:
“Some people tend to believe that I’m a strong believer, a strong Christian but that’s not true. I’m not a strong believer. I’m very weak.”
“When I wake up in the morning, I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness 45 years of paralysis.’ I just don’t know if I can face another day of having someone come into my bedroom and give me a bed bath or do my toiletry routines, get me dressed, sit me up in a wheel chair, push me to the bathroom, brush my teeth, feed me breakfast – oh the routine seems so overwhelming and sometimes I just feel like turning my head on the pillow and closing my eyes on the day.”
“If I have any secret to being content, it’s that I recognize that my weakness is an asset because it drives me into the arms of Jesus.”
Now, in no way, am I comparing my ‘difficulties’ to what Tada has gone through. I am, however, enormously grateful for her honesty. The knowledge that someone so ‘strong’ in her faith, who’s been an encouragement to so many, struggles with discouragement is a breath of fresh air.
What to Celebrate
After hitting bottom, I often struggle with the fact that I became discouraged in the first place. Somehow, I should be able to overcome and have strength to face any and all circumstances. I’m so grateful to Joni for her honesty. I’m reminded of Paul, who after suffering one difficulty after another ‘despaired’ of his life. Yet, he spoke the words:
“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 12:9-10
I used to think Paul was just celebrating the weaknesses here. Throw a party, things are difficult. Now, I think he was celebrating God’s strength, which he experienced only because of them. Indeed he was grateful for them, for the opportunity to experience God. The words of both Paul and Joni make clear that weaknesses are not to be hated. They are the very things God works through, on our behalf. In them, we receive strength we’d never experience, attempting to go it alone.
Rather than beating myself up for not being enough or able, I will choose, like Joni and Paul, to be thankful for the difficulties and my own shortcomings, because they are the very things that throw me down at the feet of the God who loves me, where I get to sit quietly and watch as He moves powerfully. He gives the strength, the leading and the joy in the rough patches. Gifts I never want to miss out on.
Thank you, Joni for your honesty. Your words continue to encourage and draw me nearer to God. Congratulations!