Our culture today has the idea that the problems we face are always negative.
The self-made man is an icon in today’s world and those who need help are considered weak, and weakness is bad news.
But the belief that weakness is a bad thing is a lie from the devil himself.
Christ made it clear when he said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
But Satan has convinced many people that weakness is a bad thing. It is a lie that must make him laugh his head off as he sees its success.
From the moment that Satan raised his fist against God, he has been seeking to indoctrinate humanity with various forms of this lie, and he has succeeded all too well.
This lie says, “Christ’s blood is not really enough.”
This lie says, “I still have to earn God’s favor in some way.”
This lie says, “If things are going badly for me, I must be guilty of something.”
This lie says, “I just have to try harder.”
This lie is carefully, carefully masked. The last thing the devil wants is for us to catch on to what he’s doing.
If he can keep us believing and acting on some form of this lie, he can keep us from true intimacy with God, either because we subconsciously believe that we don’t really need Him, and are doing okay with our own efforts, or because we believe that we can’t ever be as good as the “super-saints” and we’re afraid to face a God we believe does not really want us.
His goal is to separate us from our Life, our Savior, our Hope, for only then can he conquer us.
Look with me again at the statements from earlier. What is common to them all? Do you see the subtle “I?”
I always have to do something. I have to have more faith. I brought this on myself. I have to do it right. I have to do enough/ do more.
But what is the gospel all about? Us? God forbid.
It is about Christ and Christ alone. Do you see where this is leading? Do you see the end game of this venomous lie? It can only lead to one of two things.
First, for those who have tried hard enough, they seem to be rewarded for their efforts, and end up in a sort of “super-spiritual” club. They feel smugly self-righteous, though they probably don’t realize it, and condescend to “lovingly” try and help the weaker members.
Unfortunately, in their minds, many of those weaker Christians just don’t really want to try hard enough, they’re full of excuses. Why can’t they just see that if they would buck up and take responsibility for their actions, things would get better? Their health would improve, their finances stretch to more than fill their needs, their wayward child return to God’s arms, their addiction be broken.
“It can be done, just look at me. I’m no different than you, it’s all your choice.”
Meanwhile, there are weak Christians who believe this lie, but still struggle under the load of illness, physical, emotional, or mental deficiency, family struggles, prodigal children, pernicious addictions, debilitating poverty, one calamity following another.
They wonder, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I do what these others have done? Why can’t I muster up enough faith? Why can’t I overcome this addiction? Why do I struggle like this when others in similar situations don’t? What have I done wrong with my parenting that my child will not surrender to God? What sin is God punishing me for with this illness? How can I show God that I’m sorry enough? How can I try harder?
Eventually, many succumb to despair. “I guess I can’t do it.” “God must have made me to be an example to others of what not to do, or be.” “There’s no hope for me.”
Or, conversely, they may realize they haven’t surrendered to the Lord. So, they repent. And then they start doing all the things they should’ve been doing all along, never realizing that in so doing, they’ve left behind the childlike faith that knows nothing they do or keep themselves from doing is in their own strength.
Can you imagine how God’s heart must break when He looks at us, His children, in either of these states?
On the one hand, he sees a lot of “good” Christians, who have great self-discipline and are committed to obeying Him. These are the mature spiritual leaders, whose strong faith has kept them afloat through life’s storms and blessed them with health, or good finances, or obedient children or freedom from past struggles.
Or so they think. But what our grieving Father sees is children who have let go of His hand, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and think they have somehow accomplished or earned the blessings that He freely bestowed on them in pure love and mercy.
They think they are living by faith, but in reality, they are living by a Christianized self-sufficiency. While it is unintentional and unrecognized, their faith is more about themselves, than about God.
On the other hand, He sees broken, burdened Christians who believe that they are subpar, struggling to keep up, to keep trying on their own strength, thinking they must not have been sorry enough for their sins, must not have truly surrendered to God. They think they must not ask for help with their struggles, because they are their own fault and God is chastening them. They must learn their lesson, and change.
All the while, our Father longs to hold them close, to make them see just how clean and faultless He has made them through Jesus Christ, to reveal to them that the illness, or the problem child, or the financial difficulties, or the stubborn addiction, or childhood trauma are to be redeemed by the pure love and mercy of His good plan.
How can this be? Paul explained Jesus’ words: “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Haven’t you ever wondered what exactly this verse means? I certainly have. Many times I have thought I understood it, only to again and again be unable to live it.
Later on, he goes even farther: “Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and difficulties for Christ; for when I might be weak, then I am strong.”
He takes pleasure in his problems? Or even “delights” as the NIV translates it. How?
Wasn’t it also Paul who said “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me?”
Does that not mean that faith makes it possible to overcome anything? That no addiction can continue to tempt us, if we believe God is able? That any illness can be healed as long as we are willing to obey whatever God commands? That any child can be taught the ways of God if we only follow His principles? That weakness is expunged when we have faith in God?
I don’t think so. You see, the focus from this perspective is still on “I.”
But that wasn’t Paul’s focus. It was Christ. It wasn’t what Paul could do, through Christ, but what Christ was doing through Paul.
I think most of us would agree wholeheartedly that this is the truth. But is it possible, that even while mouthing the right words, we have been infiltrated by that most deplorable lie?
I am one of those weak Christians. I have struggled with chronic illness from childhood, and I always believed, at least partially, that my illnesses were somehow my fault.
I am an emotional, sensitive person. I have always felt that I am not good at much, and while I have longed to be patient, courageous, and joyful like the saints in the missionary biographies I read, my heart has fainted with the realization that I could never be such a person.
This is exactly the point. If this is you, as well, if you look at the wonderful Christians around you, and wonder how they ever got there, if you believe God must be done with you, this is for you.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Blessed are the poor — the weak, the tired, the sick, the struggling, the hurting, the broken. Blessed. These things are blessings. How?
Can you get through the day without help? Can you continue to hold up your head for even one morning on your own strength? Can you be okay throughout one night of torturous loneliness?
I can hear your tired heart crying out “No. Oh no, I cannot.” Neither can I. And, here is the punchline. Neither can any of the good, strong Christians you see. None of us can. We weren’t made to.
And here lies the blessing.
You and I, in our weak condition, in our sickness, our emotional meltdowns, our grief, our struggle with old sin patterns, our budget gaps, our burdens, can never forget how much we need Jesus. We cannot get up in the morning thinking “I can do this today!” Our infirmities have shown us time and again that we cannot.
And that is exactly the point.
Here is a novel thought:
Those who have been blessed with good health, or more than enough money, or well-behaved children, or a good upbringing, or a sunny season of life, have perhaps been given the inferior blessing. For, you see, they cannot get through the day without Jesus any more than we can. But what they can do is forget that they can’t.
So, what will you do today?
Will you continue to struggle on, trying to do what “they’ve” told you to do?
Will you huddle in the dark, turning your shame-filled face from God?
Or will you, with me, run into our loving Father’s open arms, thank Him for His immeasurable blessing of cleansing through His own Son’s shed blood, and continue to rest there, drawing each breath from His own breast, taking each step under His own shadow, allowing Him to pick us up when we fall, and guide us on by His own Hand?
You see, orderly children, or savings, or weight loss, or well-rounded budgets, or good health, or freedom from strong temptations, or healing from trauma, are not, in fact, an evidence of our faith, but an evidence of a good Father’s hand of blessing and mercy and love over our lives.
And so are all the infirmities that we all face.
Would God grant that all our eyes be opened to the lie that we can do anything alone.
Would that we all find refuge and merciful grace to seek His Face and lean on His Everlasting Arms no matter which blessings He favors us with.
Because, in God’s eyes, weakness never makes you inferior; it just makes you dependent. Let us be dependent on the God who created and sacrificed for us.
Surely, He is worthy.