Why God Lets Us Stay Weak

Image: oliveromg / Shutterstock
Image: oliveromg / Shutterstock

During a late-night conversation a few years ago, my husband and I realized that any time we commit to doing service for the kingdom, we seem to get slammed. The days leading up to ministry are full of mini-disasters. The kids get sick. We get sick. The car breaks down. The water heater conks out. Jon’s insomnia kicks in. Our budget takes some unexpected hit. My stomachaches kick in. And everyone in our support network is simultaneously out of town. Sometimes the disasters aren’t so miniature, and the pain is amplified.

Many friends of ours describe this kind of barrage as spiritual attack. If so, we wondered aloud that night, what exactly is the point of the attack? Is the Evil One trying to prevent us from finishing the ministry at hand? That rarely works. Does he want to distract us, so that we won’t do it well, or so that we won’t abide in the Lord while we’re doing it? Or is the point to discourage us from saying “yes” to anything like this ever again?

That night, we concluded that if this is Satan’s tactic, it might just work.

There are many reasons that kingdom work is so often surrounded by personal difficulty. But that week the Lord highlighted one particular reason for me, and it was the one I most needed to see.

Shortly after our late-night conversation, I was reading 2 Corinthians 12. It felt like the Lord had delivered it to me by carrier pigeon. In this passage, Paul describes not the Enemy’s but the Lord’s purpose in allowing hardship to surround kingdom service. Paul discovers that the Lord is allowing his troubles in order “to keep me from becoming conceited” (v. 7). While Paul’s mysterious “thorn” may be the Enemy’s work (he calls it a “messenger of Satan”), God has repurposed it. He is using it for his ends, namely to rescue Paul from arrogance. Often my depletion coming into ministry has had the same humbling effect.

But Paul’s hardship has a double purpose. Not only is God using it to work in Paul, he is using it to work through Paul. Jesus tells him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). Paul’s difficulty paves the way for God’s power to be at work, perfectly, through his life.

So, our personal troubles can accomplish two things. Trouble thwarts our conceit, and trouble lets God show off his strength. In both ways, it disabuses us of the notion that serving God is all about us.

In fact, Paul wasn’t the first one to discover these truths. The Old Testament is crowded with people who saw God work powerfully in their weakness: Abraham the childless, Joseph the trafficked, Moses the stutterer, David the shepherd kid—the list goes on and on.

But my favorite is Gideon the wimp. I identify with his sheer incredulity at what God asks him to do. His story, which appears in Judges chapters 6–8, is perhaps the clearest visual aid demonstrating God’s strength in our weakness. The New Testament speaks of Gideon as one “whose weakness was turned to strength” (Heb. 11:32–34). In his story, I see both roles of weakness at play: weakness makes space for God’s power, and weakness curbs our conceit.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Lebhar Hall