Okay, knowledgeable Christians, I need your help. You know that famous verse in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, where he says, “When I am weak, then I am strong”? The one that everyone always quotes like they totally understand it and this is a guiding principle of their lives?
I don’t get it. I never have.
Well, that’s not completely accurate. Like with so many other things, I get it in theory. It is when we are weak that we stop trying to do things of our own accord and actually rely on the Lord. As Paul says in that same letter, God’s grace is sufficient for him. He doesn’t need his own measly human power when he has the power of God almighty.
I always nod when I come across this passage. “My power is made perfect in weakness, ” says the Lord. Yes, yes. That makes sense.
But in practice? I’m pretty sure that God’s power is not being made perfect in my weakness.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, I can fill you in on the past few weeks: I’ve felt terrible. “Morning sickness” for me means that I feel like I have a bad stomach flu and I haven’t slept in weeks. And, despite the misleading name, it lasts all day. So I’ve been trying to go all 2 Corinthians 12:9 and turn this malady over to the Lord, letting my physical weakness become an opportunity to glorify him. But, umm, I think I’m doing it wrong.
The other day I was at the grocery store, and the checkout employee tried to engage me in friendly conversation about Christmas. Normally I would have responded enthusiastically, perhaps even working in a mention of the joy I experience at Christmas as a new Christian. But instead I just grunted one-word responses because I was trying not to throw up on the conveyor belt.
Around the house, it’s all I can do not to snap at the kids every ten seconds. Feeling so bad for so long has made me really irritable, and I’m tempted to blow up at even the slightest annoyances. Though I’ve mostly managed to rein in my grouchiness (living by my adage for when I know I’m in a bad mood: “When in doubt, SHUT YOUR MOUTH”), I certainly haven’t been a font of holiday cheer for my family.
Not that I’m a living St. Therese even when I feel good, but, I have to say, the light of Christ would seem to shine just a little more brightly through me then than it does now. God’s power might not be perfected in my strength, but it’s at least there. But when I am weak, I am just…weak. Physically and spiritually. (I keep joking to my husband that I need to find the switch that I can flip to go from wallowing in my misery to letting God’s grace be sufficient for me.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What am I missing? Is Paul only talking about embracing spiritual weakness (i.e. admitting that we cannot achieve holiness through our own power alone)? Or is there some application to physical weakness as well? And, if so, how do you let God work through you even when you feel like a nauseated blob? Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!