Weakness And Strength
“…I was given a thorn in my flesh…to torment me. 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…’”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV)
Last night I was reading the story of Samson (Judges 13-16) with my sons. The children’s version we shared drew attention to the likelihood that Samson’s gift of unusual strength meant that he was in the habit of getting his own way from an early age. Certainly his relationships with women don’t demonstrate a great deal of self-denial.
“I think,” said one of my sons, “having a special ability means you have a problem too, like me being great at maths and physics but being bad at organising myself.” Of course I hastened to assure him he’s making a lot of progress in his own area of weakness, but I agreed that strengths and weakness often do follow one another around.
Samson did become an authority figure among his people (Judges 15:20), but in an age when military victory was everything, he never became the leader of an army. We see him most often as a one-man guerilla/terrorist organisation not even backed by his own compatriots (Judges 15:11-12). Surely the God-given gift of physical strength could have followed a better path towards the destiny that was assigned (Judges 13:5). Samson did not go from one strength to another.
Moving into the New Testament, we see a very different paradigm, especially in the writings of the apostle Paul, who had seen farther than most (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). It is about strengths emerging out of weaknesses. A fair analogy might be the way in which someone visually impaired from early childhood might develop amazing acuteness of touch and hearing… but what Paul is describing goes beyond an exchange of one ability for another: it is the special creation of God within his life.
Paul suffered from an unspecified long-term health problem or disability and longed to be free of it. He had seen others healed, but present healing was refused him in the interest of a greater good. Having heard amazing and supernatural revelations, he was able to cheerfully accept his own mortality, his dependence on God, and the futility of human desires and aspirations—and blessed are those whose present poverty or misfortune stands not in comparison to what other people have but to what God has (Luke 6:20-21).
Father in heaven, you have chosen many who are weak: I pray for the working of your power and the emergence of your strength in us. In Jesus’ name.
Study by Fiona Jones
Worldwide Church of God Perth
Combination of house churches and monthly outreach service and lunch
Gillespie Centre, Dunfermline, fortnightly
House churches on other Saturdays