So, let’s get back to our weaknesses. (I’m sure you were looking forward to that.) Most of us are well aware of how we fail to measure up to our own standards, let alone God’s. But again, Jesus knows this, too. And again, his concern is not with our failures but with our willingness to follow. He will attend to the things he’s called us to. We simply need to show up, and follow.
Sounds simple enough. The problem is, we don’t do it. We don’t think Jesus will do what he’s promised. Why should he? Look at us.
It’s easy for many of us to look ourselves and think we’re useless to God. We’re still struggling with all those sins and temptations we addressed here weeks ago, for crying out loud. What business do we have even thinking about being useful to God?
But remember yesterday’s passage from 1 Corinthians: God chose the foolish to shame the wise… the weak to shame the strong… the low and despised, and even things that aren’t, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no one could boast in his presence. God chose you, in your weakness—you could almost say because of your weakness. He wants to use your weakness, and his transformation of it, to display his glory.
However, more often than not, we fly between our pride that we can do everything on our own and our failure that leads us to think we can’t do anything. We’re weak, we’re tempted, we’re overwhelmed, and we don’t know what to do about it. Fortunately, the Bible is clear that our ongoing weakness and temptation can actually be a pretty good teacher. Here are just a few of the potential lessons our weaknesses can teach us, if we’ll allow them to:
• We’re not as strong as we think we are.
• We always need God to carry us through, or at least accompany us as he guides us along.
• If we’re humble enough to let him, God will carry us through, because…
• God is far stronger than we give him credit for.
In the course of writing this, I’ve really come to appreciate Peter a lot more. As brilliant as that “man out of time” Paul was… as loving and engrossed with Jesus as John was… as assertive as James was… for that matter, even as wonderfully morosely skeptical as my boy Thomas was… I think I’m beginning to understand why Jesus chose Simon to become Peter, “the rock on whom I will build my church.” It’s because he was the most human of the disciples. And humanity was what Jesus came to redeem.
For all the evidence you need of this, look at Peter’s “story arc.” We already hit on a huge paradigm shift awhile back, in what we could call “The Tale of Two Fishing Trips”—his transformation from someone who encountered the Son of God and could only see his sin, to someone who encountered the risen Jesus and swam as hard as he could toward him. In between are incredible highs and lows, including the near-simultaneous events where Peter first grasps that Jesus was the Messiah, is informed that he would be the rock upon whom Jesus whom build his church, and then rebuked “Get behind me, Satan!” (see Matthew 16:13–23). You almost imagine Peter kicking the pebbles in front of him and protesting, “Gee, all I was trying to do was protect you, Jesus.”
Peter didn’t yet understand that he was totally incapable of protecting Jesus—and he certainly didn’t grasp it when he tried to protect Jesus again during his arrest in the garden. Jesus once more rebukes Peter: “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Peter didn’t yet realize that his strength, like Jesus’, came from obeying his Father’s will.
Even after Jesus came back from the dead, Peter was subject to relapses of fear and bravado. We see this in Galatians 2:11–21, when Paul rebukes him for skulking away from those Gentiles whom Jesus had already declared clean to Peter (Acts 10:9–47). Eventually, though, Peter learns to stop forcing it, and trusts that God will do what he intends to do, when he intends to do it. We see evidence of this in Peter’s final letter: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8–9).
We are lifetime projects. The sooner we realize it, the better. So let’s lay down our weakness, lay down our own tools that don’t work anyway, and allow Jesus to be the one who builds us up.
Lay It Down Today
What are your weaknesses, and how does God want to use them? After all, God allowed them in your life—and God wastes nothing. Spend time meditating on your “weak spots,” and what God’s teaching you through them.* Your response might look like one of the bullet points above, or it might be something else. But bottom line: How can God’s strength be manifested through (or despite) your weakness? Ask God to begin to help you see and rely on his work in your life.
Also (more on this next week), begin thinking about whom you can share about your weaknesses with—a Christian friend or mentor who can be trusted with this information.
* Note: Meditating doesn’t mean “indulging.” In fact, if your mind begins drifting toward things it shouldn’t, stop meditating right then and start praying, because you already know what God needs to transform, and how badly.