– Henry Ward Beecher
When We’re Weak, We’re Strong
I know a friend who battled the powerful addiction of pornography for decades, trying everything he could imagine when finally he just surrendered it to God. He gave up trying to fight it, but the amazing thing is that it was when God enabled him to overcome it. He surrendered his will to God, and God took that desire out of his heart, so this verse came to mind: “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Of course, Paul wasn’t writing about a battle over pornography but the severe persecution he faced. But the thing is, when my friend surrendered and gave it all up to God, God helped create in him new desires and took away the old desires of lusting and pornography. He didn’t overcome this in his own strength but in God’s strength, and that’s where the true greatness lies.
Power Perfected in Weakness
Paul really struggled with this “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was. He was weakened by it, no doubt, but he knew that God’s grace was sufficient for him to endure (2 Cor. 12:9), which is why he wrote, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9b-10). The irony here is that the only time he could be strong was when he was weak because God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9a). It’s like saying there is victory only when we surrender, not to the enemy but to God, because only then can He show Himself strong in our weakness. In this way, He gets all the glory, as it should be.
Greatness in Failure
The psalmist wrote a lot about failure and failing strength, but he never stayed there. Sometimes the Psalms start out in a dark, foreboding way, but they almost always end on a high note, praising God, as in Psalm 73 where the psalmist as at the end of his own strength, writing, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26), and saying, “I cry to you, LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5). When you are weak and your heart feels overwhelmed and grows faint, let it lead you to the Rock, as He is your strong tower and your refuge (Psalm 61:2-3).
Surely, greatness lies not in being strong but in the right using of strength, and that strength is not found in us but in God alone, Who is shown strong in our weaknesses. For those who feel strong, God cannot show Himself mighty, but when our hearts overwhelm us and we are in a weakened state, this is when God is shown strong, and by this, He is more glorified because when I am weak, only then am I strong (2 Cor. 12:10).