Many years ago, at the end of each year, I began to ask the Lord to give me a verse for the new year, a sort of “life” verse that would be the theme of what He was doing in my life that year. I remember one particular year He gave me John 15:5, “If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The emphasis seemed to be on the second part – “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” This verse stayed with me for probably three years as God taught me in many ways what that simple, yet profound statement meant and looked like when lived out day after day.
Several years later, I was praying and talking with the Lord one day about some significant health issues I had been having. I was having trouble understanding what He was doing in my life and why the problems seemed to go on for so long. In the middle of this conversation I clearly heard Him speak to my heart, “I’ve been trying to teach you to embrace weakness.” Period. I felt like I had been hit in the head with a brick. Suddenly I realized how much I despised weakness, and it greatly disturbed me in light of what He had said. I could think of nothing to say in response.
Immediately after that, the passage Paul wrote came to mind, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 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.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10) Paul, through trials and troubles too numerous to list, had learned what it meant to embrace weakness. Not only had he learned to embrace weakness, he said he actually delighted in it!
The phrase, “made perfect” actually means, “to perform; to complete; to accomplish or fulfill.” The word “sufficient” means, “to be possessed of unfailing strength; to suffice; to be enough; to be satisfied; to be content.” The word “weakness” speaks of the “want of strength, weakness, of the body – it’s native weakness and frailty; feebleness of health or sickness; and of the soul – it’s want of strength to understand a thing; to do things great and glorious; to restrain corrupt desires; to bear trials and troubles.” In other words I believe God is saying that we lack the strength both physically and mentally to perform, complete, accomplish or fulfill God’s plans and purposes. We desire to do great and glorious things, we desire to understand God’s ways, but we are incapable in and of ourselves. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
God’s grace – His enabling power and strength – empowers us to do that which we lack the power to do, but we must first learn to acknowledge, embrace, and even delight in our inability to do anything! Then, and only then, will His power rest upon us, because we will give Him all the glory knowing it was only by His strength that anything good was accomplished. I wish I could say I was where Paul was, but I can’t. I am still learning to embrace my weakness, longing for the day I can actually delight in it. I am grateful for His patience in the process, and I know that He is able to complete what He has begun in me!