When I am weak, then I am…weak

December 8, 2010 | 138 comments

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.

Some examples:

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!


  1. the cottage child

    Did you know that Paul’s thorn is supposed, by some, to have been malaria, and that malaria causes delusions?

    Sorry, St. Paul, it’s my own weakness talking, I’m sure. But I don’t get it either. I suppose it speaks to brokenness, and a shift in spiritual paradigm. Or not?

    I sure hope you feel better soon – it goes without saying it’s a worthy suffering. So worthy, I’m envious of it. Peace!

    • Tiffani

      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.

      I can personally attest that, as a person who has spent her entire adult life ill – even paralyzed – it is more that He is strong when we are weakest. The smaller I get, the more feeble, the greater Christ strength is needed to hold me up. I can also personally testify that sometimes we (humans) do not in fact ever get stronger. Sometimes we get even weaker, sometimes the night even gets darker, and sometimes we do not conquer in the physical sense. We remain weak, but the weaker we become, even a small grain of faith – a tiny seed – is enough for Christ to bring peace tonour hearts in the midst of suffering. Suffering can be our means to salvation, paralyzed, sick, depressed…whatever our infirmity…is only worth something if we are looking to Christ for our relief. Even in the dark night of the soul, there is light inside us if Christ dwells there. It is like the song, Jesus Loves Me – little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.

      That’s the trick – to realize that He is the strong one and you are the human with a corruptible body and attitude that fails you, but He will never fail and He lives in you so you are strong. Good luck. Feel better.

    • Christina

      There is also a theory that his thorn was bad vision – that the blindness was cured enough for him to see people, but not enough to read and write. At the end of one of his letters he signs it “And now I sign this myself, see how messy my writing is!” Thinking goes that a student of one of the greatest Rabbis and a Roman citizen you would expect him to be educated enough to write at least as well as a scribe.

      I’m interested in hearing others’ comments on this as I have the same problem of seeing just the ways I’m failing and how much better God could work through me if I was physically, emotionally and spiritually more healthy.

      • priest's wife

        I thought it was epilepsy!

      • the cottage child

        Christina – that’s so interesting – I think I’ve heard that possibility also, but had forgotten. It sounds familiar, and plausible.

  2. Ann

    Well, I know next to nothing about the bible…but when I read “How do you let God work through you even when you feel like a nauseated blob?” I just thought ‘You are already’. To quote your fabulous self, “Maybe it’s not about you at all. Maybe it’s about the tow truck driver”. I know it doesn’t make you feel less sick or less snappy at the kids, but you are growing someone fantastic, congratulations for your growing family, and you are letting God work his plan through you simply by being.

    • Michael

      Ann, what an awesome reminder. My wife is pregnant with our 4th, due in May, and she often laments how she isn’t able to do more, take care of more, have more energy, etc. However, this pregnancy is an opportunity for me to try to break some of the bad, non-productive habits I have and to serve my family better. It is an opportunity for our girls, though the eldest is only 6, to become more generous with each other and with the family by doing the small things that they can do- clear the table, put away clean silverware, etc.

      Jen, as an aside, perhaps God is using your weakness and you just don’t realize it. I know that often I don’t recognize how God was using me or reaching out to me until well after the fact. God bless, congratulations, and I hope you have a wonderful Advent and Christmas.

  3. Marilyn Rodrigues

    I think Ana might be on the right track. Paul’s words apply beautifully to pregnancy. Maybe for you his power is being made perfect in your current emotional/physical weakness during early pregnancy. You are growing a new life and it is totally NOT your doing – you know you are too weak (you’re being painfully reminded of it every day!) to do it for yourself.

    • Missy

      I like what Ana and Marilyn have said – you are beautifully sharing your strength with the little child within you, which naturally, makes you feel weaker. Yet to carry in your body another human being! In this you feel weak, but you are very strong (physically and otherwise) for doing so!! And isn’t it wonderful to be able to unite yourself to Our Lady as well during this season of Advent, experiencing (maybe not in the same trimester as her) what it is she too would have felt carrying Christ within her very womb. As we near Christmas, we can imagine this must have been a time of great turmoil for her (and St. Joseph!), both physically and emotionally, as the unknown loomed in front of her in her travels to Bethlehem and then with the birth of the *Son of God* by her! Whoa!
      Many prayers for you and your family during this beautiful time!

  4. Tami

    For me, it’s prayer, moment by moment prayer. I’m not saying I have it all figured out (and I forget my own advice more often than I’d like to admit), but when I remember to say a short little prayer in all those little moments of struggle it really does begin to help me press on. It’s funny you mention struggling with this because there is a description you once wrote of a struggling day in motherhood in which you lean against the wall in exhaustion almost feeling like you can’t go on (forgive me if I’ve gotten the details mixed up). That is my mental image in those moments of desperation prayers. God is my wall, my tower of strength and refuge, Who I lean on and Who gives me the strength to go on to the next moment.

  5. Marilyn Rodrigues

    Sorry, didn’t finish my thought!

    So I’m thinking in this context (ie. pregnancy for a christian) maybe the perfection consists in the fact that while you and your husband are ‘making’ this new little person (which is awesome), because of your weakness you can’t have any false illusions that you can take all or even most of the credit. Your power is made perfect in your weakness, because you know that it is really God’s power.

    I’m very bad at articulating this stuff – you do a much better job!

  6. Serena

    I have no answer for you, I just want to say that this is something that I’ve been struggling with greatly for a long time, and especially lately. So, thank you for bringing it up. You and Ann Voskamp…I don’t know where my brain would be without you. I’m looking forward to reading the responses you get.

  7. Sarah

    I don’t interpret this passage as necessarily requiring a physical action. Maybe I’m misinterpreting Paul, but it seems more like a mental/spiritual action.

    For example, I’ve been debilitatingly ill for about a year and a half without a diagnosis, and I’ve been through a gamut of emotions- depression, anxiety, etc. And I’m not pregnant, so I don’t have the benefit of knowing there is some good coming out of it. But realizing that I don’t have control over even my body (healthwise), let alone my salvation, is somewhat freeing because God is so powerful and merciful. It illuminates the difference between Him and I, and allows me to accept my frailty and his power. And I’m thankful for it. I can release my illusion of control.

    And on a sort of unrelated note with no biblical evidence to back this up, sometimes I think we need to be receivers of love rather than always the giver. If everyone was perfect and just gave love, there’d be no one to accept it. I think in our moments of weakness it’s ok to be the receiver. But feel free to correct me on this if I’m totally off-base. But your moments of weakness give your family an opportunity to show you love and grace.

    • mandamum

      Sarah–I think “having” to receive someone else’s care, esp as a care-giving mother, is its own type of ministry. I’ve heard it called Elizabeth ministry, after the Visitation story.

      And I second all the people who say when we are weak, it is then easiest to keep in mind how God holds us in existence and without Him we wouldn’t even be weak…. When I feel capable on my own, it is easy to focus on *my* goals, but when I am weak, I can still get done *exactly* what God has planned for me (but not one bit more) so He is strong-enough, as long as I am listening 🙂 Maybe His plan for you one day is to be silent a lot (as you said) instead of grumping–that’s between you and Him, and if that’s what He wants, it’s enough for the day 🙂

  8. Leslie

    For me…it seems when I’ve been at my weakest (physically, spiritually, emotionally or all of the above) I eventually hit rock bottom. I find myself completely on my knees, whether or not I think I want to be there. It really is a powerful moment when I finally am forced to acknowledge that I can of my own self do nothing…I need Him. I cannot control everything. I *need* Him. I don’t just want Him as a way to brighten my life. I am nothing without Him…That moment doesn’t happen until I stop trying to fight the weakness and control/think it away. And, when that wall of control I’ve put up between me and Him finally crumbles, the strength pours in above measure.

    I love the comments about how this relates to God creating life within you. Pregnancy has always been a time of great personal weakness, and grace-floods for me. You will be in my prayers! 🙂

    • Anna

      I hesitate to post because, sheesh, who could read every one of these properly? But I want to second what Leslie said. For me, it’s about humility. I *think* that I’m submitting to God and letting him be in charge of my life, but then I have a bout of weakness – sinning in the form of snapping at my kids and so on. And it drives home, like nothing else, how incapable I am of being the person I want to be, and how much I was expecting myself to be in control of making myself holy. Weakness is the ultimate antidote to pride. It was a bit of a revelation to me to think that maybe God thinks it is more important to take down my pride than to protect my kids from being snapped at by me.

  9. Leslie

    Oops..accidentally put the wrong profile info on my post….sorry…

  10. Judy Farrell

    I want to sit you down and talk to you as if you were my daughter, Jennifer. I want to tell you to notice that the phrase is “MADE perfect in weakness”, not “is perfect in weakness”. This implies passage of time, small steps, maybe some of them going backwards sometimes. Be content, in fact, be happy that you didn’t throw up on the conveyor belt, that you managed to keep your mouth shut instead of spreading doom and gloom. Since you are physically weak, try to be content that the Lord is letting you suffer in this way, and that your sufferings can be added to His. (I know this is in no way easy, but the attempt is valuable.) And try to be content that the meaning of this difficult phrase from St. Paul will take time, years, maybe decades to unfold for you. Maybe one day there will be an aha! moment, and you will suddenly see what it means *for you*.

    Please look kindly on my attempt to give advice. I am 69 now, and in looking back I can see how slowly some aspects of spiritual growth developed for me. I was all eager and focused, but frustrated that I didn’t seem to make much progress. Looking back, I see it very differently now. Please be kinder to yourself.

    • Shiela

      I like the way you describe it, Judy. It sounds like spiritual evolution. As for me, I have heard that suffering is a great source of power if it is applied properly. When we offer up our suffering for a worthy cause, it is like putting batteries in the cause. I have offered up my labor pains for my priests, in particular, and the priesthood in general. I cannot tell you what relief I experienced during childbirth. I remember the pain but in each moment, I made a conscious effort to send it up as energy for our priesthood. In doing so, I found relief and stamina.

    • Kelly @ Love Well

      This is a great observation, Judy. It would be just like us, in our instant-gratification culture, to skip over that all important word “made.”

      It’s a process, one that isn’t very measurable in the day-to-day. But looking back, it’s possible that we’ll see how that miserable first trimester deepened our understanding of what it means to depend completely on God.

    • Elizabeth

      This is great advice, and applicable in a lot of other situations as well, I think. I certainly find that whenever I think I’ve made a bit of progress, I then go and lose my temper or snap at a loved one and seem to have taken several steps backwards. It’s made more difficult by the fact that when I do something that I think is spiritual progress (keeping my temper, doing something kind for someone who doesn’t know I’ve done it), it necessarily involves not tooting my own horn so the small victories go un-noticed but the fails seem much more frequent. No one in my family is Catholic (or religious) and I always fear that I am just a terrible example of Christianity for them….

    • DeAnn

      Thank you, Judy. Your perspective is invaluable. I needed to hear this as well…being on the other side of the sickness, with the newborn induced sleep-deprivation.

  11. Andie

    Oh Jennifer, I understand how you are feeling. There is much wisdom in the comments of the others, it was helpful for me to read them. I would say that you are being too hard on yourself. It’s not an easy time for you right now, don’t expect too much. You are trying and that is all that counts. You feel sick, you are tired, God knows that and he wants you to just give it all to him. Let him ‘wash your feet’. My advice would be to just give it all to him and then take a moment to ‘lay your head in his lap’. Don’t expect too much right now because that will only lead to frustration and feelings of failure. He is there and he is working even if it doesn’t feel like it. So, be honest with him and wait patiently for ‘brighter days’. Keep the focus on him and just give it all back to him, he can take it.

    • Love2learn Mom

      I don’t know about this quote in particular, but I read Caryll Houslander’s *The Reed of God* while on retreat (for the first time in 20 years!) a few months ago and it’s really been helping me deal with this sort of thing.

      She talks about how we’re supposed to bear Christ to the world, like Mary did, by “being Him” to the world (I know, duh!) but the way she explained it was particularly helpful to me. What was a revelation to me is that we can ask Christ to suffer a particular difficulty (even a feeling of distance from Him, wow!), pain, whatever *in us* and that that’s exactly what He *wants* to do. I’m afraid I’m not explaining this very well, but I hope you get the idea – it’s been extremely helpful to me in being more peaceful about difficulties. And I highly recommend the book!

      I don’t have the particular quote I’m thinking of in this post, but these quotes might give you a bit of the flavor of the book. It’s an easy read:


      Also, I should mention that I was reading a second book at the same time. The two went together so well, that this concept was probably at least solidified by the combination and I would be remiss in not mentioning it: *Does Jesus Know Us? Do We Know Him?* by Hans Urs von Balthasar. That one was a bit heavier, but its short length (under 100 pages) substantially alleviates its “heaviness”. 😉

      • Andie

        Great book…I love Caryll Houselander. Such a real person with an incredible gift – a true mystic.

      • Lauren

        Indeed, I am about to post a reflection on the last chapter of Reed of God! My blog hosted a book study of it! It was AMAZING and I’m sure you would benefit from Houselander’s words.

        When I am faced with my weakness, I am forced to depend solely on the Lord- to cling to Him for my every breath. Instead of becoming increasingly proud as I think I am doing things on my own, I suddenly realize EVERYTHING depends on the Lord. Through this attitude change and humility, His power is made perfect in my weakness. He transforms me day by day, hour by hour, as I bend my will to His and let Him slowly mold me into His image. HOW I WISH it was an overnight thing! But I think that’s by design as well. If I encountered a sin in my life and was able to change it overnight, I would take credit for it. Instead I repent OVER and OVER again, inching closer to Him all the while.

      • Sarah

        So interesting that you brought up Caryll Houselander, because she had SUCH a difficult life, full of mental illness. For her to write such beautiful poetry AND be so ill is a perfect testament to Christ making strong that which is weak.

  12. Barbara

    There is a lot of wisdom in what Judy wrote. It reminds me of the old saying, “Give me patience, Lord, and give it to me now.”

    All change takes time. I think that being able to continue doing what you have to do while feeling like you are going wretch, is a grace.

    My heart goes out to you because I was so sick during the first three months of my pregnancies – all five of them. But the rewards, as you know, Jennifer, are so worth it.

  13. sara

    No time to read all the other great responses—you have a great readership—but I’d say that part of the power, aside from relying more on God, comes from stripping down your life to the essentials. He helps you to see what is unnecessary in your life that you can let go of. Unfortunately, cooking and diaper changing never seem to be on that list!

  14. Chris D

    One teacher said, “You will always have difficulty. With practice, you will not have difficulty with your difficulty.”

    It sounds like you’re engaging directly with your suffering, and the only problem you have is thinking you should be experiencing it some other way. =) Moment by moment, we do the best we can to stay present and involved with what’s happening, even when it’s unpleasant. We do what we can, and find a way to keep doing better without beating ourselves up about it.

  15. Michelle

    I think your simple awareness of how you feel and how it impacts your family and others around you is most likely enough to let God work in you. If you have the grace to “when in doubt, shut your mouth” then God is lifting you up. Just think if you didn’t have that grace? Often times, I find that once I am past whatever trial where I wasn’t feeling like I was glorifying God, I can look back and see how I did just enough to let Him work through me. It’s a lot easier to see in hindsight.

    I do hope you feel better soon. pregnancy sickness can be so terrible for some. I will pray for you.

  16. Susan

    Ok, so I just looked this passage up and one thing that I noticed is that Paul says he will glory in his infirmities. So maybe that’s the key, to accept weakness instead of fighting to overcome it. You are weak right now, so be weak. Do what you can when you can and let the rest go. I know that this is blasphemy for many but the rest can include homeschooling for right now. I have home schooled three through high school and I can tell you that that’s OK. Instead, invite your kids to snuggle with you in bed while you read to them or watch a video. Yes, I said the V word.
    Also, sit when you can sit, lie down when you can lie down, sleep when you can sleep. Let cereal and milk be breakfast and sandwiches be lunch for a few more weeks and let you husband make dinner. When you have a little energy, pull a chair up to the sink and wash dishes that your six year old brings you from the table. Then let him help you dry them or put them in the dishwasher. Do as little laundry as possible.
    Jen, remember why you are home with your children. You are training up saints for God to use as He sees fit, especially when they are weak. Now is your chance to model that.
    We’ll be praying for you. I wish I could bring you a casserole.

  17. Lisa V.

    Dear Melissa! Sounds to me like you got down the meaning of the verse. What you need is to just cut yourself some slack and know that THIS WILL PASS. I had 3 full months of feeling awful and all I kept reminding myself was that very thing. Now in my 5th month, I’m much better. I just had to also remind myself to be kind to me and recognize that all the crazy emotions weren’t “me” but a product of pregnancy. And I have to admit I let my house go a bit. It wasn’t pretty but for my sanity I needed to do whatever I had to do to make it through a day. Really doesn’t answer your question, but I do love that verse. It always reminds me when I think I’m in a moment of feeling like a failure, I know that it will — indeed it will — get better and having nothing to do with me. Only Him. Hope you will take it easy Jennifer and ask your husband and the kiddies that you just need them to “love on you” much more than usual.

  18. Lisa V.

    OH I’M SORRY I called you Melissa! I know it’s Jennifer! It’s baby brain!

    • Diane

      So much wisdom in these wonderful wonderful comments. I especially liked Susan’s comment-“You are weak right now, so be weak.” Sometimes I find it helpful to just pray “Here I am Lord”, with no qualifiers, no dwelling on failures and frustrations, nothing more than just this simple statement. You are in my prayers!

  19. Sandy C.

    Jennifer, I read your thoughtful post and didn’t think I had anything to add to the excellent comments. I was blessed with two easy pregnancies. I’ve been blessedly healthy most of my 50 years. What do I know about being strong when I am weak (other than spiritually and emotionally, that is!)? About 30 minutes after reading your post, though, I came across this letter from the recently deceased Bishop of Fresno about his battle with cancer. The section “The blessings of cancer” reminded me of your current struggles. I know cancer and pregnancy are vastly different, but when you are worried about throwing up on the grocery checkout I’m not sure the cause of the nausea is of much concern. Sick is sick.

    I’ll be praying for you, your pregnancy, and your family. http://www.dioceseoffresno.org/letters/20101001_affliction_of_cancer.htm



  20. Colleen Duggan

    Jennifer, God is very much pleased with our small efforts to love Him, especially in pregnancy when it’s all we can do to refrain from yelling at our kids, snapping at the sales clerk, etc.

    Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan writes, “God rejoices in our little sacrifices like a father who asks a child to share her candy. At first the child withdraws her hand and refuses to share, but on the father’s insistence the little child, feeling very sorry, puts out her hand, gradually opens it, and gives some of her candy. Overjoyed, the father kisses the child for her generosity and for conquering her selfishness—and then gives the child even more.”

    For myself, in pregnancy (I just had my fifth) I am like the little child with her Father! I know what He calls me to but I close tight my fist to what He asks because it’s hard–I don’t feel good and I can’t. Then, after some time, I slowly, begrudgingly give Him what He wants and He loves me all the more—despite my initial reticence.

    The thing is, right now, Christ knows you’re suffering. Instead of living perfect sacrifice can I suggest trying to live joyfully in the moment? (I think it’s hilarious I’m offering this advice, by the way. I am a total failure at this!) The scriptures say, “Instead, rejoice in so far as you are sharing in Christ’s suffering, so that when his glory is revealed you may rejoice and exalt (1 Pet. 4:13).”

    Suffering and happiness can’t be separated. Look at the Beatitudes—‘Blessed are the poor; blessed are those who weep; blessed are those who suffer.’ The scriptures tell us those who are happiest are those who carry crosses. Right now, your cross is hand-carved by Christ Himself. He knows you’re struggling but He also knows the great merit earned by the difficult journey—the glory of heaven awaits you plus a beautiful bundle of baby! Look at Christ—His suffering led to the Resurrection. Look at Mother Mary! Jesus loved her more than anything yet He still endowed her with the title ‘Queen of Martyrs’. Mary suffered but her reward, her joy, was great.

    In I Believe In Love, Father d’Elbee says, “Sanctify yourself with the duties of your state in life, your daily life with all its thorns. Accept all the duties, all the responsibility, with a smile on your lips, a willing smile-a smile that is willed. The most beautiful smiles are those, which shine through tears that we give in spite of ourselves.

    Accept the unexpected crosses—they are the most painful: the sickness which immobilizes you, the feeling of being useless and a burden to others, of knowing that while you are needed you are being prevented from doing what you ought to do….Put up with yourself, with your thousand physical, intellectual, and moral miseries. Accept without complaint the anguish willed by God…”

    I hope this didn’t overwhelm you. These are some things that help me when I’m pregnant but I am NOT an expert. In fact, I feel so far from these wise words I’m almost afraid to even offer them to you for fear of being a hypocrite. If you knew what I was like with-child, you would shudder. 🙂

    Count on my prayers.

  21. Love2learn Mom

    Oops – I didn’t mean to reply to a particular comment – just the thread in general. And Happy Feast Day, by the way!

  22. autumn

    And don’t forget….for all things there is a season. You are in a season – a very joyful yet uncomfortable one. You aren’t expected to be all things in this season. Its not like you are complaining and being awful — you just aren’t your normal self. Umm…its not time for you to be. Give yourself a little grace.

  23. Debbie

    No advice here, just an acknowledgement that it is HARD to be chipper when physically you don’t feel well. It is just HARD. My story: I was diagnosed with cancer this summer and have a good prognosis (but, hey, it’s still cancer–Who knows?). Happy, chipper through first three months of surgery, chemo, etc. Why not? Feeling fine! Then, second surgery, immediately followed by stronger and higher doses of chemo. Felt TERRIBLE. For 3-4 days. Only 3-4 days. Oh my the pity party began! Crying, feeling sorry for myself, cancer, cancer, cancer–even though it’s the CHEMO making me feel bad–the cancer was removed (for now). My lesson: When the next treatment comes in less than a week, I will TRY to be focusing on why I’m feeling bad and TRYING to trust in God’s plan for me and TRYING not to be such a baby. So many people have it so much worse than me. Not sure how I’ll do, but I’ll TRY. And THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity to think this through! There! Look at you–indirectly helping others! Congratulations on your pregnancy and prayers coming for your health and comfort.

  24. Kelly

    All the comments are so excellent! My only thought is that sometimes I think God strips us of all control over_anything_. So all we can do is say, “I can’t, Lord, You have to.” I totally agree also with those who said it is a process, and that perhaps it is not one that can always be seen, at least right away. Maybe because we have yelled at our kids, the opportunity is there to apologize and teach them empathy and patience with people who are suffering. Just my 2 cents.
    Blessings and Peace, even in the midst of your trial!

  25. Christy

    I want to echo what Judy said, with a story from my own experience. My last (third) pregnancy was difficult all the way through — morning sickness to bedrest. I used the time as best I could to pray and pray and pray, but I was miserable and I know I made my family miserable too. It’s only now, looking back, that I can see the enormous work of grace that was happening. The pregnancy was my long dark night, but God used that time to break open my heart to Him in new, deeper, lasting ways. I am a cradle Catholic who was confirmed as an adult, but this pregnancy was my second, and much greater, conversion.

    A few things that helped me:

    * Use Advent, in particular, as a crutch. All the imagery, prayers, and philosophy of “waiting for the light” was incredibly helpful to me. We actually referred to that in our daughter’s name after she was born.

    * The Liturgy of the Hours was also amazingly helpful, especially Psalm 51 on Fridays and the Canticle of Zechariah.

    Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

    In the tender compassion of our Lord
    The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
    to shine on those who dwell in darkness
    And the shadow of death,
    And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

    * Remember how you view and treat your children when they are sick and suffering. You don’t expect cheerfulness or good works. You work harder than you usually do to help them move through it, and your love and tenderness strengthens your relationship with them incrementally. You are God’s child.

    I will be praying for you, and watching with interest as my husband and I discern family size. In truth, God may be working through you to convince me I can handle another miserable pregnancy, with His help. I am impressed and moved by your leap of faith, so don’t forget to count the value of your openness and writing among your little graces.

  26. Agnes

    First of all, I haven’t been reading this blog regularly and did not know that you are pregnant. Congratulations!

    I know you’ve read some St Francis de Sales before. Did you know that he has letters of spiritual direction written to pregnant women? There are books of his letters in Google Books, but I couldn’t find the letters particularly pertaining to expectant mothers. I know they’re in a book entitled “Thy Will Be Done!” and probably in other places as well. He also has many letters written to people in times of illness, which you may find applicable. (Many of these are available for free online.)

    • Melanie

      The book to which you’re referring is the collection of letters of spiritual direction between St. Francis and St. Jane de Chantal. I’m actually reading it right now because I’m struggling greatly with the same type things, except that I’m not pregnant but post-partum hormonal. He has some great advice for St. Jane that resounds through time and really hits home on how I’m feeling and how I should be feeling and what I can do to push past myself and look toward Our Most Precious Lord. I have a spiritual director but unfortunately we have sporadic and spaced directions because of the ages of my children and workload of my husband so this is where I turn when I’m in desperate need of some immediate words to lead me past my weakness into the strength of Christ. Pray for us, Sts. Francis and Jane!

      • priest's wife

        One edition is called “Introduction to the Devout Life”

    • Elizabeth

      Ironically I just read this post today and received a copy in the mail of “Thy Will Be Done”. There is one written “To a pregnant women, on loving God in her suffering”. A quote I thought you might find helpful “I beg you to put yourself in the presence of God, and to suffer your pains before Him. Do not keep yourself from complaining; but this should be to Him, in a filial spirit, as a little child to its mother. For if it is done lovingly, there is no danger in complaining, nor in begging cure, nor in changing place, nor in getting ourselves relieved. But do this with love, and with resignation into the arms of the good will of God.” The whole letter is quite good. I think he is basically saying to cut yourself some slack. = )

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! We are expecting our third in June.

  27. Kate

    My understanding is that when we are weak (in pain), we are more likely to be strong (in faith). I think that when we are in pain, it is just another reason to pray, to rely on God, and to demonstrate our faith in Him. In other words, growing strong in our faith is what results from being weak.

  28. Sarah

    “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
    I think the struggle you are going through in your weakness is helping you grow in holiness and making you stronger even though it isn’t obvious now. It sounds like you are really fighting to be charitable even though you feel miserable and even if you are losing that battle in the short term you may find when you are strong again that you have made considerable progress. And remember, God doesn’t necessarily require us to want/like the suffering! just to accept it and do our best with what we’re given. Even Jesus said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” So yeah, it sounds like you’re on the right track even though it’s a tough one. Maybe just try to be as patient and gentle with yourself as you would be with others in your situation. :o)

  29. Erin

    I think this is it!!! When we fully let go and realize we are and can do nothing without Him, it’s then that He can step in. He has trouble while we are holding onto Ourselves so tightly.

    Having said that, I too, have extremely difficult pregnancies and it is even more difficult to pick myself out of myself at those times.

    – Morning offering – If you don’t say a morning offering, I would highly recommend saying one every morning. Before I started daily giving my day to Jesus, I would be “venting” to my husband, and he always said, “Did you give your day to Jesus? At least it (the suffering) was worth something” Jesus can take that suffering and use the graces for any number of things.

    – Let others help you. This kinda goes along with letting go. God will send people into your life to help you out and Let Them. Then pray for them. Don’t cut off their opportunity to do God’s will by helping you out. That includes your husband, b/c this is his path to salvation as well. Don’t feel guilty, just accept and pray.

    – Lower your standards and expectations (for a short period of time). Keep putting your family in the hands of Jesus and Mary and you will find at the end of this, your faith has grown, your family and friends have been blessed with so many graces, and you will have cooperated with God in brining a new gift of life into this world.

    Praise God! Oh one more thing. “This too shall pass”. You won’t be in the state forever. It will come to and end.

  30. sara m

    Well, at the very least, when you feel this bad you can’t congratulate yourself on how well you’re doing. There’s very little opportunity to be proud of your own accomplishments when you haven’t got any.

    It seems to me that Paul is all about boasting in what Christ has done on the cross – there is no boasting about anything else.

  31. Kris, in New England

    I don’t have children; couldn’t have them. So I don’t understand how it must be to feel this way while preparing yourself for the joyous addition to your family.

    I can however relate to something that commenter Judy Farrell says above:

    “Since you are physically weak, try to be content that the Lord is letting you suffer in this way, and that your sufferings can be added to His.”

    Judy is absolutely correct. In a much smaller, infinitesimal way compared to you, Jennifer, I see this. I have a very bad lower back; when it “goes out” it’s excrutiatingly painful. Every movement hurts, even blinking causes pain.

    This past weekend, it went out – and we had our RCIA Class on Sunday morning. I don’t like to miss them so I got myself out the door for Class. It was an odyssey of pain to just get there, let alone sit for 90 minutes. Then go to Mass for an hour.

    I did consider not doing any of it. And then I thought of Christ’s suffering for our salvation; hanging on the Cross in agony just to save the likes of us.

    I felt weak in the moment when I thought about giving in and staying home; weak and unworthy of that sacrifice. If Christ could endure that pain for us, then I could suck up some back pain for a few hours and fulfill my obligations to Him.

    I saw that God had things in hand; that my suffering was a reminder of a greater suffering. Did it make my pain go away? No. Did it bring me closer to God? In that moment, yes.

    Then again Jennifer – it is my belief that we are all much harder on ourselves than God will ever be. You are pregnant (congratulations, btw), you are sick and you owe it to yourself to honor those feelings as long as they last.

  32. Carl

    I believe Paul is absolutely correct but it is very hard to understand and even harder to put into practice. One way, as you have said in previous posts, is to offer it up, to allow yourself to see your sufferings as part of Christ’s redemptive work. This may not make you feel any better or act any better toward others at the time, but it may help you see that it does have meaning. Remember, that the way we feel toward others (wanting to bite their head off because you are feeling so bad) is not what counts. What counts is how we act toward them.

  33. Cathy

    Wow, look what you unleashed by asking that question! If that isn’t strength coming from weakness, what is?

    I just want to add: Don’t think that you have to be made perfect in one day. Holiness is a steady, but imperceptible process, and we don’t see the real fruits of all of this until heaven.

    A few years ago, I went to mass on the Immaculate Conception, when Cardinal George preached. He used a line that has stuck with me since – Mary had all of the grace, but none of the answers. She lived in mystery.

    We are being showered with grace, but we don’t have any answers either. You are being made, bit by bit, into who God wants you to be, even while your child, cell by cell, is growing into the gift he/she will be. You can’t see it happening with the baby, but you have faith it is happening. We all, in a sense, are pregnant with ourselves, too, as God slowly helps us to grow, grace by grace, into the holy ones we are meant to be. But, if Mary had to live in mystery, so do we!

    • Diane

      Wonderful! Much good to ponder in your comment-thanks!

  34. Kristina

    I LOVE this post! Honestly, I must say that we don’t give ourselves enough credit..those moments where you can bite your tongue or just say one word answers…are moments where you could have blown up or been very rude. God’s grace was making you strong. We often have this idealized view even of perfection. We think God will make us perfect according to OUR version of perfection…yet perfection to God, is following the example of his son. That leads me to think that any time we don’t give fully into what we’d like to do, what would be easiest for us to do in the moment, we have allowed God’s grace to be sufficient for us. We have, if only a little, died to self…and if we can’t die to ourselves in these small matters, how could we ever in the large ones?

  35. Will Duquette

    One thing is clear–whether you let God’s grace suffice for you or not, the physical misery remains. Jesus suffered on the cross, and we suffer when carrying our crosses.

    If the best you can do is grunt at people, that’s the best you can do.

  36. English Sarah

    Hi there, this is my first time commenting despite having read your amazing blog for about a year now. Massive congratulations to you and your family!

    I am totally unqualified to offer any spiritual advice, having only just embarked on my own little journey into faith. However I just wanted to say that I totally sympathise! I remember one incident when, after a bumpy bus ride with smelly teenage boys, I just started heaving right there and then in the street in front of a bunch of people. I’m not one of those people who gets sick in a ladylike way. I’m more of a down on my knees, eyes popping sort of person. I’m sure you can imagine…not pretty.

    Anyway, I digress…

    The only advice I can offer is try to keep in mind that this morning sickness is absolutely guaranteed to end at some point. And although it probably seems interminable right now, it’s just a tiny blip in the timeline of your own life.

    So until it’s over, allow yourself to lower the bar a little, and keep those breath mints handy 🙂

    Hope you feel better soon,


  37. kigwit

    Here’s a more wordly answer: Ask for a Rx for Zofran. I had hyperemesis with my last pregnancy and had gestational diabetes and spent most meals crying because I felt too sick to eat. My lamp wasn’t shining too brightly either!

  38. BettyDuffy

    I really just want to say Congratulations on the new addition!

    I don’t have any wisdom to offer. God knows where you’re coming from. He knows that you want to try–that’s probably enough for now.

  39. Emily (a.k.a. Smoochagator)

    I agree with the comment above that God is already working through you despite the fact that you are currently a “nauseated blob.” When everything is going well, it is very easy to praise God and do his work in our own strength and THINK that we’re relying on his. But when we are not at our best, or even close, we become painfully aware of our own inadequacies and rely on God more. The same desperation you feel right now for God to help you through each day is what we should feel every day, so your dependence on God is being strengthened through your weakness. Because you aren’t operating at 100%, you know that any encouragement you offer is truly the light of Christ.

    Lately, things have been extremely difficult for me emotionally and I often use up all of my kindness and cheer just interacting with people at work; by the time I get home I’m drained and irritable and sometimes downright despondent. I manage to maintain some semblance of humanity when caring for my son, but interactions with my husband are an irritating chore. I know my husband needs kindness just as much as any random acquaintance, and I need to be gentle and gracious so my marriage won’t suffer, but sometimes just being civil feels like I’m wringing blood from a stone. (Plus, I think, we tend to be kinder to strangers than our own family because we don’t want to be labeled “rude” by the world at large but we expect our loved ones to overlook our flaws.)

    When I want to snap, “Leave me alone!” or “Shut up!” at my husband, I pray, “God, help me.” I pray those three words over and over. I want to show my husband that I love him and God loves him, but I cannot do it in my own strength. I need God’s grace desperately, and thankfully, I receive it when I ask. (This is not to say that I NEVER snap at my husband, but that when I make a conscious effort to let God be strong when I am weak, things turn out MUCH better.) So my advice to you is to say that three-word prayer a lot. And be sure to be gentle with YOURSELF when you fall short.

  40. Kara

    I don’t have any answers for you either. I am in the same boat. I can barely handle my kids and my house has been a wreck for weeks now. Hopefully we will both be over it soon. “Morning” sickness is so horrible. Any extra things I need to do are ignored, and it just stinks. You will be in my prayers!

  41. Bethany Hudson

    Remember that St. Paul was also the one who said that it is not what he wants/ought to do that he does but what his fallen nature compels him to that he does.

    We all stumble. We’re all weak, but St. Paul, in his weakeness realized that he had the strength of FAITH. When we are weak and broken and we KNOW it, we realize the extent of our need for God, and this gives us strength to carry on in our own weakeness.

    My one piece of advice (and I resort to this often when I’m ill or battling morning sickness because I too get awful cranky when I’m uncomfortable) is to go to confession, weekly if necessary, to get the strength from the Sacrament to overcome sin and temptation in your weakness. Because, hey, we all need a little grace, y’know?

    Love in Christ,

  42. Marie

    I also find it points to the issue of trusting God. When you have no choice but to be hopless or even give into despair in your weakness you can turn to our Lord. You can yield to him. I have found in times of sickness I have had to ask for help. OH HUMILTY! TO ask for help. (I hate to have to ask for help or lean on anyone or be a bother to anyone) But in that asking I become strengthened. And I become closer to the people who help me in my vulnerability.
    OR when so sick whether it be with illness or labor pains I turned to the Lord and am strengthened in prayer. I am strengthened in that the path is narrow. I am not distracted by the world I am alone with God. And we forge ahead together. Often when there is no crisis I am so easily tempted off the narrow path. Of course in pregnancy there is no greater time to become so close to Our Lady who will refuse you no grace necessary.

  43. Young Mom

    I absolutly think that God works through weakness, the areas that are the weakest in my, are the ones that prompt me to the most growth. I also wanted to say I can so relate to your grocery store experience. I used to stand in line planning how I was going to leap over everyone else to grab a shopping bag when I hurled. Thankfully I made it out to the car every time, but a few times I did have to stop and put my head between my legs for a minute. Craziness!

  44. Julie

    Hm, I read as far as someone saying that they delight in insults and weakness and persecution, etc. …I would not say that it delights me. In fact, I would say it bugs the hell out of me. On Sunday, I had my lapse when my parents asked me to wash the dishes. I realize this sounds very unpainful, but I was terribly tired and my two youngest siblings were going at it. So I snapped at them and had them leave so I could finish the kitchen in peace. Then I felt… horrible! I had no reason to snap at them like that.

    What I (a cradle Catholic) have really pulled from that passage (especially its application during Advent) is that God can use us for his glory in our weaknesses. Even if we don’t do the right thing at the right time (i.e. snapping at the siblings), God awakes a realization in our heart and in future times we will do the right thing (i.e. control our snappiness).

    It’s like what Newman wrote: “Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

    When Paul says we are strong in our weakness, it means we have our reinforcements in God. We might feel like we are going to fall over, but we have a foundation to stand on. We have a God whose love will overpower any weakness we are feeling, if we turn to him. He does not force himself on us, but, rather, waits with open arms to pick us up when we feel like we are going to fall. It is not a physical strength we may necessarily feel, but a spiritual one. Practice is not going to be immediately perfect, but Aristotle said that virtue becomes a habit if we constantly do it; the same with everything else. The key is to trust in God, appeal to God, pray to God, seek God and learn to depend on him, not yourself, in your moments of weakness.

    Hope this helps! God bless, and happy feast of the Immaculate Conception. 🙂

  45. Amanda

    Hi, Jen! My two cents:
    As Catholics we believe that we are not just covered once we convert, but that we are actually changed. It doesn’t just POOF happen, but happens over a lifetime. We are to “be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect” (don’t ask me where that is, I’m Catholic). However, reading your blog did call to mind a certain scripture in 2 Peter and another in James:
    “For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter5-8
    “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”James 1: 2-4
    The way to make us “perfect” (I don’t think we ever achieve perfection) is to be tested in areas of weakness. Where we might think we are weak is not necessarily where God knows we are weak so He brings to light our areas of weakness which we need to work on. Consider the times in the grocery store in which you lack grace opportunities to move beyond these tests of faith and don’t get too down on yourself if you fail “for we all stumble in many ways” (somewhere else in James) and tell God you are ready for His next opportunity for you. xoxo

  46. Mary

    Suffering is supposed to bring us closer to Christ? How Catholic of you! 😉

    As I sit here on the FOURTH day of a migraine that has failed to respond to anything, 21 weeks pregnant with my second child, and a screaming, feverish 18 month-old – let me tell you: the last thing I feel is close to Christ.

    Usually with pregnancy ills, I turn to my Blessed Mother and pray, “Mary, I know you must’ve gone through this with Christ. Please help me to accept this cross and make it through the pain and focus on the wonderful gift I have been given.” But uh…yeah I have a hard time thinking that Mary experienced constant migraines while carrying the Lord. And if she did, she is seriously PERFECT because I’m sure they didn’t have Vicodin back then to help her out.

    I have frequently lost all patience with God lately (so I guess I need prayers too). With my first pregnancy, the last thing I wanted was to be pregnant. And I had a terrible first trimester, which I bore well using it as a cleansing apparatus to prepare me for motherhood. I ended up reveling in pregnancy and motherhood. So when this pregnancy came along, I was so excited. So happy to be HAPPY about a baby. Then something smacked me like an 18-wheeler, and all I can think is, “Lord, when I told you I was happy about this pregnancy, that wasn’t a request to do everything in Your power to make me miserable.”

    So yeah, Christian suffering and its theology hasn’t really worked for me lately. I just keep praying the Memorare.

  47. EverErin

    I am like you, Jen. I get very fussy when I don’t feel well, but my husband amazes me when he gets sick. I often forget that he is unwell. He calls it “fun”! And he is looking forward to getting old! I married one of a kind, I think. But watching him as he is ill has really helped my attitude toward suffering. He likes the challenge of it. I am trying to embrace it. If you think about it, that is when Christ is truely glorified, when we are joyful when we are hurting in any way.

    No one knows how long we are on this earth, or how long it will take or when we will die. I might die slowly with a lot of pain, am I not required to find my Joy in the Lord then? What will that express if I am preparing to meet my Savior and I can’t bother with being kind?

    That said, I know I have refrained opening my mouth when I thought I may vomit, so depending on your countenence, it may be seen as loving!~

    • Mary

      Haha, you definitely married one of a kind! I get frustrated with my husband all the time for crawling into bed with only a stuffy nose, but acting like he’s got Ebola.

  48. Charles

    I would just add a couple of things:
    First, there may be an element of Paul being grateful for his weakness forcing him to give up pride.

    Second, think of how weak Christ had to be to also be his strongest. This passage is clearly an illusion to the cross, in that Christ was basically beaten to the weakest a man could get, any objective analysis of the situation (outside of Christian theology of course) would have said that his enemies had won. However, it was precisely this that brought him to victory, that made him the strongest. Since Christians are called to look upon the life of Christ as a model there must be some benefit to emulating this as well.

  49. alison

    I relied heavily on this verse when I was ‘realizing’ our sub-fertility struggles. I can’t speak to the physical pain, which I agree, must be something entirely different to handle, but there were/are days where I felt so emotionally and physically drained that I did not think I could face the world, let alone continue on this path. This passage brought me peace and humility that although I couldn’t make it on my own now, I didn’t have to. The Lord is my strength and he is especially with the afflicted, scripture repeats it time and time again. Another commenter said it up there, but I do believe that this passage is speaking to sins of pride especially, when we think we can do it on our own and we’re completely responsible for our lives, etc.
    I hope the nausea passes soon. That has to be difficult with the little ones running around.

  50. Lana

    Ok, this may be very obvious, but I think the title to this post IS the answer. If you get to your weakest weakness then you are really legitimately weak. Not just that you feel or that you think you are weak but that you really truly are. (actually, you always were, you are just more in touch with it now)
    The other part of this, then, is that if you believe that weakness brings you “closer to Christ,” then you are emulating Christ more (not that you understand it, or that you THINK it, even, but that you are).

    I agree with Amanda; best to stop resisting the FACT of your weakness, and try to give yourself over even more completely than you ever have before. When we are tested beyond our limits, we might as well acknowledge we’ve failed (when we have) but then tell God we’re ready for more, provided Jesus will sit and pass the test alongside us–for us.

  51. Carrie

    I actually am in the same boat right now. I am 22 weeks preganant with my 3rd child and I have been nauseated the whole pregnancy. It takes me all day to accomplish about 3 easy tasks. I have no energy (especially not for chatting with people in the grocery store). And the biggest thing that I have realized is that I need to lower my expectations for myself. And really what that means is that I embrace my weakness. I don’t TRY to be strong…or get frustrated with myself for what I CAN’T do, but embrace God’s grace that it’s OKAY to not talk enthusiastically with the lady in the grocery store. And it’s OKAY if I can’t give my girls as much attention as i would usually be able to. And it’s okay if I only empty and load the dishwasher all day long. And it’s okay if I lose my patience with my children and have to apologize several times. And it seems like when I allow myself to be OKAY with being a little weak, that God’s grace can flow through and strength comes from His grace.

    • Mary

      Ah, this is good to read. Thank you.

  52. Carrie

    and, I might add, that God’s strength rarely looks like what we expect it to be…

  53. Monica

    I think it’s interesting that you say this:

    “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.”

    It occurred to me when you mentioned St. Therese, that maybe these long experiences of not feeling good are meant to help you learn to become littler and weaker still, and thus become more like Therese. Maybe God wants you to learn to love your weakness and your littleness, just as Therese did.

    For St. Therese, littleness and weakness are her Hallmark qualities; they are exactly that which attracted God’s love. I don’t think Therese or other sisters in her convent necessarily thought the light of Christ was shining through her in the way that it was, while it was – Therese thought of herself as a grain of sand compared to all of the saints (who she described as being like mountains in comparison to her).

    The thing is, she didn’t think she was or could do anything brilliant or worthy of praise – how could she after all, she was so little! She needed God to do everything for her. God’s response to her littleness was that He simply couldn’t resist her. Through her weakness, God’s love is glorified and made known. He loved to be needed and wanted to do everything for His Little Flower. With humility and through her complete confidence in God, she allowed Him to take even her smallest, weakest acts of love and turn them into pure gold.

    Give God your weakness and every small act of turning towards Him. Every time you throw up, give that to Him and tell Him it’s all you have, because you are a little and weak flower. Therese says when you are weak, give Him your weakness. He will do all the rest for His delicate flower. Then, just let Him do everything. And with our humility and confidence towards Him, God will show His power, strength, and goodness. Start to love being weak, and let Him use you as He wants. That is how we are strong!

    If you haven’t read “I Believe in Love”, you really must, Jen! God bless!

  54. MelanieB

    Here are a few of my first thoughts off the top of my head. After 4 bouts of all day “morning sickness” during four different pregnancies, I hear you. During the first trimester of a pregnancy I’m miserable and sick and weak and grouchy and I take everyone’s head off. I am not a pleasant person. I usually stop praying my usual Liturgy of the Hours at some point. I’m too tired. I feel too sick. I just can’t deal. At these times the only prayer I can muster is usually a weak: “God help!”

    My take on this is that in my times of weakness my true state of spiritual affairs is revealed to me. I see exactly how big my faith really is, which is really incredibly minuscule. I’m good at talking a big game on my blog but not so good at being nice to my kids when I’m tired and hungry. It’s humiliating to see all my spiritual pride stripped away and to see that all the great prayer and stuff that I was so proud of falls away when the going gets tough. It’s then that I begin to realize that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross wasn’t just a really nice thing that he did for all of us; but that it is absolutely necessary for ME right now. Because I realize how puny and insufficient I am. I realize all my goodness and niceness that happens under my own power is completely insufficient. It’s then that I realize that being nice to the people at the grocery store and not yelling at the kids and all that isn’t something I can do on my own. I can only do it with God’s help. And it’s then the strength that St Paul is talking about comes into play. I need God’s strength as a crutch just to smile instead of snarl. I need God’s strength just to approach anything like cheer. When I start really praying and relying on God that radically for every little thing in my day, then I think maybe I’m beginning to make some real progress in the spiritual life.

    In other words, I’d say that the realization that you are doing it wrong, that in fact you have been doing it wrong all along is precisely where you start to begin to be able to do it right. It’s humiliating to be wallowing in your own misery but I think for me that stage is so necessary because it’s only when I start to wake up and realize how pathetic my wallowing is that I maybe realize how much I need God and how pathetically little I know about letting him in and asking for his help. I start to realize that I don’t really know how to pray at all and I don’t know how to be holy and I have no idea what it means to let God be my strength. And maybe it’s then that I start asking for help instead of trying to be in control.

  55. priest's wife

    I think you gotten some great explanations of the Bible verses in question…I’m just reminding you to offer up your suffering (you probably already are)…maybe a different intention every day

  56. Marianne

    Jen, I didn’t read through the gazillion comments above so I don’t know if I’m repeating something that someone else may already have said.

    My thoughts:

    When you are weak in a physical sense (like ongoing early pregnancy can be – been there, used to lose so much weight from puking that I freaked my drs out), maybe the, “I am strong” part isn’t so much about digging deep and finding it within yourself to carry your burdens alone. Maybe the, “I am strong” is more about having the strong faith that God will put people in your life to help you through this challenging time.

    Sometimes the biggest gift we can give someone is allowing them to help us – to allow/acknowledge ourselves to be vulnerable/in need/weak and be open to the gift of someone else’s strength/help.

    In our day and age of uber-motherhood (I can do it ALL and make a cake from scratch, too!), asking for help is hard to do but it may be what you need right now.

    I sure hope you have some hidden angels around you who can step in and be your strength. 😉

  57. MelanieB

    Katherine at evlogia writes about this time of morning sickness and exhaustion as a time when we can begin to learn how to pray. She says: “It seems to me that being a mother is like any form of asceticism in the Church. The struggle isn’t aimed at causing us pain for the sake of punishment, but for the purpose of bringing us to the end of ourselves. As long as we continue to rely on our own strength, we don’t have the humility necessary to enter into prayer. It’s only when we’ve reached the end of self, dropped the facade of being in control, and given up the mistaken thought that we’re capable of great things, that we can cry out from our depths, asking God for His mercy and help. Being a mother not only teaches a woman to live for another person, but teaches her to call upon the only Person who can give the grace and strength to do so.” Go read her whole article, it is so beautiful and thoughtful. Perhaps the best thing I’ve read on prayer and the weakness of morning sickness.

  58. Lisa

    Jen, I am also pregnant, due in June with our third, and have never felt so bad. (Although I have not almost thrown up on conveyor belts.) And I was just talking about this same thing to my husband last night. It is easier for me to offer up my sufferings when I know what I’m getting myself into, or I know the duration of the suffering. Like running. Or labor pains. But the constant nausea, throwing up since 4 wks preg has also worn me out and I don’t have the spiritual maturity or strength to offer it up. But I guess realizing my shortcomings is also a moment of grace, and I pray that following this realization I can get closer to offering up my sufferings.

    I have always enjoyed that verse from Paul, because I have experienced it in my own life, times when I am the most beaten down and weak and empty are often the times that I see God working through me. But like you, I just don’t see it in this situation…

    Pray that you start to feel better soon!

  59. susan

    I feel that the strength of Christ is bound to my weakness in such a way that my weaknesses are made stronger than my strengths. The strength of Christ is made, in this way, manifest through my weakness. What a miracle!


  60. MelanieB

    Also, when I was pregnant with Ben and feeling miserable and sick I wrote a bit about that feeling of being so completely out of control. (Funny but it was in response to a really great post you wrote.) And Elizabeth Foss left the best comment on that post, one which has been a touchstone for me when coming to terms with my own weakness during pregnancy. She wrote:

    “All you’re supposed to do right now is survive. And pray. Because it’s God who will do it all and then you’ll look back and see what lessons He taught you. You are out of control, because God wants you to depend on Him entirely. And He’s lovingly stripping away any illusion of control you ever had. Ouch! ”

    Maybe that’s the strength St Paul is talking about, the strength that comes to us when God strips away our illusions of control and self-sufficiency and we learn to depend on him entirely so that He becomes our strength.

  61. Megnanimity

    Argh..just lost my post! I haven’t read all the comments but I find it helpful sometimes to go to the CCC index of scripture and see where it refences confusing scripture passages. 2 Cor 12:9 is referenced in CCC 1508. Looking at that it talks about that fact that sometimes the most intense prayer won’t heal illnesses and that we have to rely on the fact that God’s “grace is sufficient” for us. Thus, our sufferings can be endured and offered for the church just like Christ died for the church. Thus, when we are weak, we are strong because we can be little powerhouses of grace, offering up our sufferings along with Christ. St. Josemaria talks about similar stuff. Prayers for a safe labor and delivery and a healthy pregnancy!

  62. Natasha

    Huh. I feel very strongly about this! Was Paul ever pregnant? Did he ever suffer firsthand any of the hormones associated with ovulation, pregnancy, menstruation? No, he didn’t. Thus, is it possible that this particular passage cannot be applied to the specific instances we women find ourselves in?!

    I do get his point, however. But, surely your strength is in giving your life over to God and being open to new life in the first place. How you currently feel about life, and pregnancy, is arguably best viewed as a burden, or suffering, that Jesus or Mary can help you with, rather than Paul’s words from God. Yes you may feel weak in being unable to endure it without feeling lousy and snapping at those around you, but perhaps it can’t be turned over to God – it’s a whole physiological and psychological process you have to go through, suffer, labour and be sleep deprived through, with feelings of guilt and so on about other people. These things aren’t weakness – they are something you have to go through to produce new life. Weakness would surely be having to endure these things, without accepting that they are part of God’s plan for you.

    OK I’m taking up lots of room but pregnancy is a weird one for me, as is life with a newborn (or currently, with a teething 4 month old). I always feel I should view it joyfully but so much of it feels like suffering! But I accept it’s where I am at this stage in God’s plan for me. Although – I also have difficulty even listening to God when I’ve got hormones bouncing around – anyone else have this?!!

    Jeremiah 19:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

  63. Jet


    I offered up MANY prayers for you and all expecting moms (and their babies), especially the moms who feel sick, during today’s Hour of Grace. I feel the same when pregnant and I whine, too, while trying to remember to offer up the suffering. Try hot or cold tea made with freshy grated ginger and honey. I did take small amounts of Zofran, too–from around 8 weeks. Just take things minute by minute–you are in survival mode. Homeschooling can wait until you feel better or he can do workbook pages.

    just know that you are helping so many–you are an instrument of His love, even when you feel horrible.

    We love you,
    Jan in NoVA

    • Mary

      Thanks for your prayers for pregnancies. Your prayers must’ve answered because my migraine was relieved during that hour! Thanks 😀

  64. Jodi

    You are anything but weak. I think you might be getting your emotional and physical feelings mixed up with the truth. You’ve said “yes” to the Lord, knowing how hard it is and how weak it makes you feel. That is strength! That is the Lord shining through you! I bet Jesus “felt” weak as He was put through physical torture. But He kept going because He was filled with strength from His Father! Don’t forget who your Daddy is and what you’re made of and what you’ve already made it through! 🙂 Weak? Pshhhh!

  65. Jessica

    I think that your spirituality IS growing stronger despite what your physical symptoms are telling you. For instance, you’re LOOKING to God’s word for advice. That’s what brings him joy – us opening that book to make it more than a book – to read it and share it with others. You’re stronger whether you know that today or not does not matter. Keep on keeping on – reading, praying and especially holding back from throwing up on chatty cashiers. 🙂 You’ll be praised for it. I promise. Christ promised.

    PS – reading your blog toady was the highlight of my afternoon. I always love to read it and feel like i could spend a lifetime doing so. CONGRATULATIONS on baby #5!!! I’ll definately pray for you tonight at Mass!


  66. Lauren

    Sorry don’t have time to read other comments, so don’t know if I am echoing anyone else, but I too am in the throes of morning sickness with my fourth, and I was just reflecting on this EXACT SAME THING. Okay maybe I’m not skilled in the bible enough to have been reflecting on that passage, but yeah, I’m a groucho lately, and I know exactly why. I was getting everybody down for nap today and usually I will head straight into a little prayer time, but I am so tired I am vegging on the computer first. That’s a copout and I know it, but I was reflecting on how when I am so tired, my spiritual strength gets zapped. Or at least the perseverance to do the right things that are usually just a little difficult, but when I’m sick seem almost impossible.
    I think Paul just meant something more about stripping ourselves of pride, realizing we can’t do it all on our own. Which I need to be reminded of, but that doesn’t mean that it all won’t be MORE difficult while I am constantly green. Hope you feel better soon! I am only 6 weeks…


  67. Aimee


    Explains it perfectly. I actually accidentally came upon your blog, and this link above, not searching for anything in particular, and God told me the same message three times today. I think he’s trying to get something through my thick head xD

    The link fully explains the verse.

  68. Keri

    I am really sorry you are feeling so bad, but just hearing you speak of these things is comforting me… At least I know I am not alone! I’ve been REALLY irritable lately and have been struggling with things such as these. I’ve been reading the Imitation Of Christ and I think this struggle is it’s overall theme… To be little before Christ and to unite our sufferings with His. Oh but how!?! It’s hard and I wonder whether I will ever accomplish this before purgatory!

  69. Anonymous

    Just a couple of thoughts — though with all of these coming in, one more is probably a bit overwhelming.

    When I was younger and some thing bad happened (i.e. something I didn’t like) I’d be told to “offer it up”. I understood in theory, but not in reality. (I really thought it meant to shut up and stop whining). I thought that if I “offered it up”, if I gave it over to God the suffering would disappear.
    But that’s not what “offering it up” means.
    Jesus didn’t come to take away the Cross, but to change it’s meaning.
    Many people were crucified. Only One Crucifixion changed the world.
    The difference between a cross and a Crucifix, is that a Crucifix has Christ on it. He offered Himself to the Father. This didn’t make the suffering end, but let it be transformed. His Death isn’t simply suffering and punishment, but the means of our Salvation and the Glorification of God. The suffering of the world is still a nasty reality — because God honored Adam’s choice and position among the human race — but God has changed its meaning. It’s no longer punishment, but a way to come to God. We want to take up our crosses and bring them to Christ — and that means following Him to Calvary, not trying to lead Him to a place where we can get rid of them.
    Just as He asked Adam and Eve to help Him till the Garden and keep it, He asks us to help Him with the work of Redemption. He chooses to make us have a real part in the salvation of the world. When He created the world, He left it unfinished: He wanted us to help Him make it Beautiful. He left our souls “unfinished”: He wants us to help Him make us and each other saints. [Cf. PP Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 44) Even in the Crucifixion He asks us to bear our crosses and follow Him to Calvary, to “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” [1 Coll. 1:24]. This isn’t because He needs it, or because we can do anything apart from Him, but because He has chosen to let us have a real part in this.
    Unfortunately, our pride gets in the way.
    We don’t want to RECEIVE anything, we want to OWN it. I want it to be MINE, and often I’m not content to be what God has asked me to be — a Creature who receives from God the grace to unite himself to his Father. It’s like a pilot who wants to fly without the plane, and feels slighted when people insist on the need for one. Unless I am mistaken, Paul is saying that we need to feel our need for God, to let Him transform not just our sufferings, but our glories as well. When I see that I am weak — a creature who needs his Creator, a child who needs his Father — then I have true strength, since the strength I lean on is not my own.
    [Do I get this in practice? Unfortunately not. I’d be in heaven then…or at least really, really holy.]
    God bless and congratulations on child number 5 (helping God bring new life into the world)!

    • Allison Welch

      A-MAZ-ING. I’m so sad you’re anonymous I want to read more of your writing!!!!…

    • Rachael

      Wow; thank you so much for taking the time to write that comment. That is such a fascinating insight into an issue that I have struggled with for some time.

  70. Monica

    Hey Jennifer,

    I don’t comment often, but I read your blog regularly. I just wanted to say:

    1) Congratulations!


    2) I don’t have a lot to say on the St. Paul quote (although as a new convert myself, I’m interested to read the different responses from people). However, I just wanted to extend my sympathies re: your morning sickness. I, also, get really ill when I’m pregnant. I agree, it is hard to be your best when you feel so crappy, and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this during the Advent season. I will keep you in my prayers over the next few weeks, and I hope the nausea subsides soon.

    Take care,


  71. Danya Marvin

    I think the whole thing is about surrender, giving oneself over completely, to be used as He desires. Giving up our own strength, or having it taken from us, allows Him to imbue us with His. When I have great suffering I speak out loud to the Lord. “Help me” or “Why” or “What is the purpose?” and He has whispered His answers to my heart many times. Great suffering done in love = great revelations and spiritual growth. Dig deep hon!

  72. Josephene Kealey

    Right now, three weeks from delivering a baby, I’m in constant pain. I too “respond” to pain with irritable and nasty behaviour towards my children. I am ashamed of myself and often feel like a slave to my bad temper and impatience. This is what actually hurts the most — my bad behaviour because of physical discomfort and pain.

    To help myself, I recall the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart and “look” straight at His eyes and bleeding heart. I feel myself submitting to Him when all I want to do is shout another “be quiet! stop that! did you hear me?!”

    Also, I try to be smaller than my children, inside. This is not clear. But it feels like I am being vulnerable to them — not strong, not consistent, not disciplinary. I submit myself to their smallness and ask my oldest (4 years) for help. I apologize when I am rude, ask him to pick something up for me and explain that I can’t do it myself, ask him if I can go lie down if I pop in a video in the afternoon. I let him know I am vulnerable and need help and that I am trying to control my bad temper (without imposing on his smallness of course).

    It helps to behave humbly before them. They respond much better to me, and I find myself not yelling, but keeping quiet or whispering when there is tension.

    Tell the salesperson you feel like crap and apologize for your mood — you don’t have to put on a brave face. For what?

    But God will have His way with you, in the way you need Him to be at this time of increased stress and aggression.

    With many prayers,

  73. Allison Welch

    ah…the plaguing question of suffering…

    I teach high school religion and I subscribe to an e-newsletter on religion and ethics. This fall when we were studying “Cherishing Life” I got this in my inbox and shared it with my class: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/september-24-2010/joni-eareckson-tada/7074/ This woman speaks beautifully about suffering. There are no easy answers, but as I look at her life I can clearly see how her suffering has strengthened the Body of Christ. And isn’t this the foundation of our faith, the redemption of many through the suffering of one?…

    Ultimately I am so grateful that I serve a God who understands my suffering. In fact, the closest I have ever felt to Him is when I am united to Him in suffering. I don’t fully understand it and I find it difficult to explain. But I believe it to be true.

  74. Christine

    I never really thought of St. Paul’s saying in terms of physical weakness but spiritual weakness, being small, being meek, lacking gifts or influence.
    E.g., I’m insignificant. Therefore our chief engineer taught me everything he knows instead of sabotaging me like all the other guys our company hired that he considered a threat. Now that he’s moved on, I’m chief engineer.

    I’m quiet little nobody. So when my pastor asks me to do a speech for RCIA he doesn’t even stay to hear what I say. He knows I would never be so bold as to talk about, say, contraception, euthanasia, or homosexuality.

    The Clinton’s gave Mother Teresa an award and let her speak because she’s so little and nice and cute…and she dressed down the leader of the free world over abortion.

    When you are small and weak, no one considers you a threat.

    Jesus told St. Faustina that he uses weak people so that when they do great things, people will know it’s God’s work, not theirs.

    The more life experience I get, the more I see that God is very ironic.

  75. Regan

    I think you have to think of things over the long haul too, especially with mothering several young ones (like you, like me too). For instance, one of my kids is harder than the others – just much more of a challenge for me. She brings out my weaknesses – yucky stuff. I loose my temper with her, i get more annoyed with her, i don’t enjoy her as much as the others (just being honest). But she alone has driven me to my knees more, driven me to seek the face of God, driven me to rely on Jesus’ power and not my own. Her being in my life has made my weaknesses come to surface, but ultimatly, over the long haul, made me stronger because i have brought those weaknesses to the Lord and allowed him to work on them. Without her, i think i’d be a much worse mother because i wouldn’t have had to face some yuckiness and had the opportunity to allow God to work on it.

    Your current physical weakness is pointing you towards God. That will only make you stronger. Maybe not in the moment, or in your case months, but over the course of your life it will.

  76. Lisa

    Weakness gives us practice in turning to God in all things, in relying on Him to get us through the minutes or hours of our day. Truly all strength and existence come from home, and nothing helps us realize and acknowledge this better than when we must rely on him for everything. God Bless!

    • Lisa

      Truly all strength and existence come from HIM, I meant to say :-p

  77. Kim

    Thank you for this post, it’s just what I needed to here. My first child is 2 weeks old tomorrow (Thursday) and I find myself so overwhelmed with trying to do all the right things for her on a daily basis and in reality, it’s all I can do to keep us fed and out of our PJs each day. I need to spend more time pondering this passage than wallowing in pity because I’m too overwhelmed to try to breastfeed at every feeding for my daughter.

  78. Kim

    Er I mean “hear” not “here”. Obviously the most surprising thing I’ve learned about motherhood, is just how much my brain has stopped functioning.

  79. Carmelita Baza

    Nothing profound to say, just that you are a beautiful, wonderful, beloved daughter of the King and I appreciate your sharing your journey. Sending prayers your way from down south in San Antonio! God bless you!

  80. Anne

    I totally second the “I Believe in Love” reference. Was going to say how much I love it. Father d’Elbee says that St. Therese understood “it is our state of misery which attracts His mercy.” Will be praying for you!

  81. Anne

    Elizabeth, I was quite interested in your comment about being the only Catholic in your family. You carry an extra challenge of evangelizing on a day to day basis. It can be lonely, I know. I have been married 25 years to a wonderful Jewish man who converted to the Catholic faith 3 years ago. When asked how he came to this point in the first RCIA session he replied “The example of my wife.” I was totally astounded and this is proof that God can and will make use of his poor little ones who feel they are not really an inspiration to anyone. Perhaps you could start a blog for those of us who are trying to live in the midst of family members who are on a different path whether it is spouse, in-laws, siblings or children. God bless you.

  82. Karen Edmisten

    Jen, I haven’t read the comments, so I’m probably repeating what others have said, but this part of your post struck me:

    “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.”

    No, not really. This parallels, for me, something that I see in my own life all the time: it’s easy to feel and be faithful when everything is going well. The real tests are what we do when everything is falling apart.

    When you feel strong, you are, in many ways, cruising along on your own power (God-given, certainly, but He’s letting us run on cruise control at those times.) BUT, when it’s all falling apart, and we don’t know what to do, where to turn, or even how to hold off on throwing up, and we STILL give it all to Him (and “giving it all to Him” might only mean saying, in the moment, “Help me, Lord!”) THEN His power is shining through our weakness and He is driving. We slump in the back seat and think, “Thank God for God.” 🙂

    And, His power is *being made* (present tense) perfect in our weakness all the time — you felt weak when you began to look at Christianity in a new way, you felt weak when Catholicism seemed true to you, you felt weak at the idea of being so open to life that you’re now expecting baby #5 … you are giving your weakness to Him again and again. This is how He purifies us, and lets His perfect power shine through our fallen selves.

    I remember hearing Kimberly Hahn say years ago that she thought “offering it up” would mean that whatever “it” was, it would quit hurting. 🙂 It still hurts, but the hurt has a purpose. Similarly, I think that letting His grace be sufficient for us often looks like this: We’re miserable, we’re irritable, we’re a mess, physically or emotionally, but we keep saying, “Thank God for God,” and (to quote Archbishop Romero): “I can’t. You must. I’m Yours. Show me the way.”

  83. carrie k

    Hi Jennifer,

    I think you answered your own question without knowing it. In your post you wrote……….”I’ve mostly managed to rein in my grouchiness”.

    Why? Wouldn’t it be easier to be mean? Wouldn’t you feel some satisfaction in grimacing at that store clerk or raging at your kids? Sure you would. That is the selfish, “weak” part of us all.

    But you didn’t. Even though you didn’t “feel” the love, you willed it- acting to be as charitable, patient and Christ-like as you can manage in your suffering.

    That is the power of Christ acting in us. He didn’t “feel” like going to the cross but He did. He willed it out of love. When we are in the weakest, sorriest, most pitiable state and still choose to love- well, that is real love, that is Christ’s power, His love, perfected in weakness.

  84. Margeux

    When feeling grouchy, force yourself to smile, and offer it up for the barren
    women who want to be mothers. Also visualize a soul leaving purgatory every
    time u bite ur tongue. Or offer it up for your children to keep their faith
    throughout their lives.

  85. Sunshine Home

    I haven’t read through everyone’s comments but here’s my ‘two penneth’. When we are strong, when everything is going right we can become conceited (like Paul: 2 Corinthians 12:7: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”). If we feel we don’t need any help we can stop relying on God. When we are physically and mentally weak we rely on God more and God’s glory shines through stronger. We can claim no glory for our own but only God’s.

    Take the example of the disciples, they weren’t educated men yet their words and acts amazed: Acts 4:13-14 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

    Uneducated men shouldn’t be able to heal, to preach eloquently and speak words of wisdom, thus it must be only God that gets the glory because it wasn’t by any strength or intelligence of their own that they did such acts of wonder. They noted that these men knew Jesus – Jesus received the honour due to him (and it must have annoyed the high priest/pharisees because they found you can’t kill off Jesus!).

    When we are weak we reach out to God more. I have noticed in my own life when I am struggling for whatever reason I pray more, I reach out to God more. If I still live for Christ even in the midst of suffering then that is amazing to others because if I’m in full health, rich and comfortable then it won’t be amazing to other that I’m full of peace/joy/kindness because they will perceive it is because I have an easy life.

    Wish I could actually live this out! But we press on.

  86. Jenny

    We’re expecting too. I’ve had headaches/migraines all my life. When I’m pregnant I get them everyday for 6 weeks. With this baby I’m on week 7 of daily headaches. What’s hard is when you aren’t feeling well or can’t even function and you have little people who depend on you. It’s frustrating when you’re givin the vocation of motherhood and then can’t fulfill it cause you’re in bed. 🙁 I feel your pain…

    • Margeux

      Jenny, I’ve found relief from migraines via natural supplements: B vitamins
      and magnesium/calcium. I’ll be praying for you.

  87. Christine

    I have not read any other comments yet. Look at all that great advice.
    How do you let God work through weak times.

    Offer it up! For the love of the souls in Purgatory. When there is suffering….which is normal in life…we can do so much good.

    As far as you being human…just pop in a movie for the kids and take a rest. They will survive this time. This too shall pass. And you will be strong again one day.

    Let hubby shop for a little while.

  88. Christine

    I think of St. Terese the Little Flower too. She wanted to be a missionary, but she was so sickly she probably would have caught so exotic illness the minute she stepped into a foreign country and the world would never have heard of her. Instead of doing her will, she accepted the fact that she was too weak to do what she wanted and lived her little life of love in obscurity and as a result she became a missionary, not just to a few people in a foreign land, but to millions around the world. Doctor of the Church is probably a title she never sought either.

  89. Michele

    Congratulations Jennifer, There is no harder job than being a mother and no job more worthwhile!
    I think Paul means that when you are weak you lean more on the spirit who can fill you with his strength. Feeling weak means your own self satisfaction and self pride is retreating and the Holy Spirit has room to come more fully into your heart and make you truly strong. This is all part of the humility and emptying of yourself concepts so stressed in our faith. Jesus always went out of his way to help the weak. They were more able to grasp what he was trying to tell mankind. Looking back we see times of struggle and weakness brought us closer to Christ, I think that is what St. Paul is talking about.

  90. Sarah

    This solidified for me when I had my first child. I was in labor, and had gotten to transition. I remember being overwhelmed by the entire birth experience. I was in awe of just how huge this thing was that I was doing. It was bigger than I was, bigger than anything I’d ever done before. I remember praying, “God, I can’t do this – you’re gonna have to do this.” About an hour and a half later, my daughter was born. There was a sense in which I had given birth, and a sense in which I didn’t feel I had done any of it myself. Of course, it wouldn’t have happened without me. But I didn’t do it – couldn’t have done it myself. I find in this experience an analogy of the synergy with which God works with us – we’re privileged to be included, but it’s really all enabled by Him. But I also find my key to letting go. It’s easier for me to let go when I come face to face with my own inadequacy – as I do in labor. I still struggle to let go when I don’t feel my own feebleness as much. But the touch point of labor has gotten me closer to being able to hand it all over to Him at other times, too.

  91. ~Ana Paula~A Católica

    Jen, a Big HELLO from BRASIL!!

    I am strong when I am weak, because when I am weak is the time when I remember myself that I need God. My force in my weakness comes from this: the wisdom of knowing myself in the totally dependence of God.

    I am weak, so I become in the hunting of God.
    If I find God, so I will become strong.
    When I am weak, I am strong, because my weakness makes me go towards God.

    Hugs! Stay in the Peace of God!!
    You and All Your Readers!!


  92. ~Ana Paula~A Católica

    Hi, Jen, a BIG HELLO from BRASIL!!

    I am strong when I am weak, cause in my weakness I am in the willing of looking for God.

    If I am weak, so I will the hunting of God.
    When I find God, I become strong.

    Stay in the Peace of God!!
    You and All Your Readers!!


  93. Sunshine Home

    On reflection I ought to have added that it is the Holy Spirit and prayer that gives us the strength of God it isn’t a matter of gritting our teeth and relying on our own strength because that would rather defeat the object.

    Lol, wonder if you’ll feel strong enough to read all these comments. Some great responses.

    Praying for your morning/daytime/nighttime sickness to subside.

  94. Erika

    I really don’t have anything to add… But CONGRATULATIONS on Baby #5! 🙂 You will be in my prayers!

  95. Shannon

    Next time someone chats you up in the grocery store, share the weakness. “I’m in the early months of pregnancy and it’s been rough.” Let others share the burden. Don’t need to give all the details, but let them know what’s up with you.

    and best wishes on the new baby.

  96. Linda

    Perhaps the efforts you are making to rein in your irritation will be the source of renewed strength later. I think when we resist the temptation to act the way we want to act, instead of taking the high road, we develop our character muscles, much like exercise strengthens our physical muscles (but often hurts like heck!). When, in our weakness we push ourselves to do the right thing, we are more inclined to do the right thing even when it’s easy, later on, after the trial. Who knows, Jennifer? You may become a St. Therese yet! 🙂

  97. Lela

    I’ve had the all day, all night morning sickness for a couple of my children. I spent most of the 9 months being frustrated and ornery, making myself and others miserable. For the last, I said to myself—-I’m not going to have an internal fight this time, I’m going to accept this challenge and flow with it; someone above said something about surrendering. I keep remembering what Paul said about being content in all situations. Have you read Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence; The Secret of Peace and Happiness?

  98. Laurie

    My gut reaction: this verse truly had meaning for me when my daughter died at birth. My weakness at that time was absolute. I had nothing of myself to even pretend to rely on. The grace and faith and strength that others say they saw was purely and completely super-natural. So then I find myself having to admit that apparently I spend a lot of time trying to muster it up on the more mundane days. I think that too often the “weakness” I confess in my day-to-day is actually the pride of being able to exhibit humility.

    • Anne

      Laurie, My heart bleed for you. I will remember you in my prayers.

  99. Lisa

    13 mths ago we were burned out of our house, 2 days later our oldest dd was in the E.R. with a blod clot, 2 days later my 48 yo sister died, and 3 weeks ago my healthy and very much alive dad passed away. It’s been a season of tiring weariness. I so get your title.

    In response to this blog post: http://goldengrasses.blogspot.com/2010/10/burned-out-1-year-later.html my friend, Mary, wrote to tell me about “White Matrydom,” -suffering without blood. It has blessed me enourmously to think that my “suffering” – my “weakness” has been for a purpose.

  100. Milehimama

    I didn’t see if anyone linked this, but if you put any bible verse into the USCCB website you can see the “study” notes from the bishops. Here’s for 2 Cor. 12:10:

    7 [10] When I am weak, then I am strong: Paul recognizes a twofold pattern in the resolution of the weakness-power (and death-life) dialectic, each of which looks to Jesus as the model and is experienced in him. The first is personal, involving a reversal in oneself (Jesus, 2 Cor 13:4a; Paul, 2 Cor 1:9-10; 4:10-11; 6:9). The second is apostolic, involving an effect on others (Jesus, 2 Cor 5:14-15; Paul, 2 Cor 1:6; 4:12; 13:9). The specific kind of “effectiveness in ministry” that Paul promises to demonstrate on his arrival (2 Cor 13:4b; cf 2 Cor 10:1-11) involves elements of both; this, too, will be modeled on Jesus’ experience and a participation in that experience (2 Cor 9; 13:3b).

    When we are made weak, and we allow Christ to fill and strengthen us, then we are then made strong. I think this goes along with in order for Christ to increase, I must decrease.

  101. Karen

    Oh Jennifer, how is it that your blog entries match my own experiences so often?! I am a migraine sufferer (whiner!) and I have had an ongoing, on-again, (very slightly) off-again headache since the week of Thanksgiving (along with a cold I caught from my grandson). I too have been thinking God is telling me to let go of something in my life (not sure what yet though) and have been trying to go with the flow of the suffering. I had plans (laugh here) that I would make this Advent one of deep spiritual growth with lots of prayer time and deep peace. HA! My sister who just moved here was diagnosed with a stomach tumor and had to undergo myriad tests, procedures and ultimately surgery. It was thought to be cancerous but thanks be to God, was benign. However, since she is going through a divorce and her husband lives in KC and her 9 yo son has behavioral and learning problems and her new job demanded her working 12 hour days even tho they promised her at hiring she would be able to drop off and pick up her son from school and she is currently living with my aging father who needs help frequently, I have been doing nothing but running myself crazy with all her needs, the needs of my son and daughter-in-law, grandson and newborn granddaughter (yes, a new baby in the middle of all this and a dil who was ill during her last month of pregnancy and needed me almost daily). So much for plans of prayer and peace! I even missed my morning Magnificat 3 days in a row which never happens! I have been telling God I will let go and let Him do with me as He wills, but I feel like I can’t see the forest for the trees. My hope in God is that something, if not all, will be revealed in His own time (and hopefully, mine) and I will try to muddle through in the meantime. I try to continually offer it up for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and for the conversion of my family (all of my children have fallen away from the Church and my husband is trying but has not had a “lightbulb” moment about the faith) but I’m afraid I do whine about it more than I want to admit. I am disappointed in the fact that my Advent is not going the way I wanted it to and I need to let go of that because apparently it is going the way God wants it to. Please Lord, help me endure with more grace. Prayers for you and your family and I’m betting your pregnancy is going the way God wants it to also. Praying for all of you and am so envious of you and your helping create a new little life even though I am 59 and have already had 5 children. There truly is no greater experience for a woman and may you start feeling healthy again soon. Hugs.

  102. Ally

    I’m Protestant, but I’ve always taken that verse to illustrate the fight between our “old man” (fleshly desires at enmity with God) and our “new man” (who we are called to be in Christ). It is only when my “old man” is weak- and I’m not full of my own desires and distractions- that my “new man” can be truly strong.

    Also interesting, this article is from a Christian apologetics site and it discusses Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and comes to the conclusion that it is his inability to speak well rhetorically, yet God had obviously called him to be a speaker: http://www.tektonics.org/lp/paulthorn.html. Anywho, thought perhaps someone else might find it an interesting read! It’s short.

  103. magda

    from “Salt of the Earth” c1966
    In response to Peter Seewald’s question if then-Cardinal Ratzinger felt overtaxed, burdened and lonely, he said, “Precisely in my present position my strength is far from equal to what I am really supposed to do. And the older one gets . . . . one doesn’t have sufficient strength to do what one is supposed to do; . . . one is too weak or not up to situations. And then one says to God, now you must help, I can’t go on.”

  104. TXMom2B

    Maybe it makes those around you strong? I’m a whiny mess while pregnant, but it makes my husband shine. He isn’t happy about my whining or the extra work, and he does his share of complaining, but he does work even harder and becomes my hero for all he gets done.

  105. Gillian

    I’m just learning and trying this idea out, but the way I understand it:
    We become much more powerful when we let Christ work through us, because then we have the power of God at our disposal, instead of just relying on our own efforts.

  106. KT

    Thanks Jen!

    I have not read all the comments yet so please forgive if this has been addressed!

    I see it as 2 types of weaknesses for me. This first it makes sense to me that “when I am weak, I am strong.” These weaknesses have been when I have depended on and felt God’s strength has been in situations like my out-of-wedlock crisis pregnancy or past severe marital issues. The weakness that I have trouble with in feeling God’s strength is when I am feeling hormonal, depressed, angry, stressed by raising a family. However, in the latter I am less likely to call on God’s help in a genuine selfless manner. Sometimes I want to want to. Does that make sense?

  107. Shelvin

    It sounds like you’re engaging directly with your suffering, and the only problem you have is thinking you should be experiencing it some other way. Moment by moment, we do the best we can to stay present and involved with what’s happening, even when it’s unpleasant. We do what we can, and find a way to keep doing better without beating ourselves up about it.

  108. Lewis

    I like this post. All change takes time. I think that being able to continue doing what you have to do while feeling like you are going wretch, is a grace.
    My heart goes out to you because I was so sick during the first three months of my pregnancies – all five of them.

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