But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.(1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV)
Weakness is not something to which we often aspire. I’m a big guy. I’m over six feet tall and have been fairly strong throughout my life. But things change. With the discovery of cancer and subsequent treatments, I’m not as strong as I used to be. In fact, there are many things I used to be able to do that I can no longer do. As things progress, I’m sure I will become weak.
I watch a lot of movies and TV and one theme permeates just about every show. The strong overpower the weak and always demand recognition of their superiority. Strength in numbers is seen as a good thing. Doing things in our own strength is touted as the ultimate demonstration of success. When we rely on others, we are weak. But God sees things differently.
While being weak in the world is not considered a “good” thing, in the Christian walk it can be a great thing. As Paul tells us, it’s the weak things, according to this world’s standards, that put to shame the strong things. It seems counter intuitive. Human logic would think in reverse terms. It takes the strong to shame the weak, according to the world’s convoluted sense of logic.
When we look at the human body it’s often the weak organ that must be working for the body to function correctly. Just like the human body, the body of Christ also has strong and weak parts. Paul tells us, “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-23a NIV)
In our Christian walk we find ourselves often flummoxed by our situation and the demands of the world. We become so confused we are at a loss for words even in our prayers. We become weak prayers. But God has sent the Holy Spirit as our intercessor. It isn’t a priest of other human that pleads directly before God’s throne on our behalf. It’s the Holy Spirit. He knows what we need when we can’t express our need. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26 NIV) I find comfort knowing that God understands even when I can’t express myself well.
Paul was plagued by some undefined illness. He prayed and prayed for it to be removed. He prayed for healing. But God didn’t remove his illness. God didn’t heal him. Through that denial Paul learned something useful for us all. “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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV) I can boast, not something I’m inclined to do, about God’s perfecting my faith in my illness.
We don’t often look at life-ending illnesses as a vehicle for God to perfect us. But Paul discovered, in his discomfort, that is where God provided the most strength. He writes, “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 Corinthians 12:10 NIV) I too am finding strength as I battle for more time in my earthy life. Now I understand what Paul understood about the relationship between weakness and strength.
Even Jesus went through a time of weakness so he might fully understand our plight and provide comfort. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.” (Hebrews 5:2 NIV)
According to human wisdom it doesn’t make sense. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25 NIV)
Where are we weak today? Do we see God’s hand working in our lives in our weakness? If not, then perhaps a closer look might be in order. I pray we can rejoice in our weakness because God uses that to give us strength.