Western culture does not prize weakness. For that matter, I doubt if Eastern culture prizes weakness either. Generally society rewards the brightest and the best, the strongest and the fastest, the most beautiful and the most gifted. We give A’s to the kids that get the majority of the questions right, not the ones who say, “I don’t know.” We give the big athletic scholarships to the players who score the most points, hit for the highest average, win the most games. In other words, we’re not wired to look at weakness as a gift.
That God apparently takes a contrary view is just another evidence that His ways are not our ways:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts
And My ways are not your ways
Declares the Lord
For as the heavens are higher than the earth
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
But is it true that God prizes weakness? Yes and no. What He prizes is humility.
Over and over in the major and minor books of prophecy, God’s men gave the message that pride was a cause of God’s judgment—whether against Israel or Judah or one of the nations around them.
The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself, the LORD God of hosts has declared:
“I loathe the arrogance of Jacob,
And detest his citadels;
Therefore I will deliver up the city and all it contains.” (Amos 6:9)
God’s great passion throughout the Bible is to be known. Consequently He brought famine to show that He controls nature; He brought war to show that He provides or withdraws security. He raised people from the dead to show that He rules over life. He forgives sins to show that He is sovereign over the spiritual realm.
Why? Because people who were well fed and safe and healthy and self-righteous began to take credit for creating a world that gave them what they needed and wanted. In other words, they stole God’s glory by their pride.
Something else God prizes—the eternal over the temporal. He tells us to store up treasure in heaven where moth and rust can’t get it. The picture is treasure that lasts versus treasure that must inevitably fade away.
Consequently, God is more concerned with our character, which lasts, than with our bank account, which fades away. When Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had, He did so because He wanted the young man to yield himself completely to God’s lordship. The guy’s love of his money was standing in the way of a whole-hearted commitment to Jesus.
Which brings us back to the main topic. When we are strong, we keep fighting. We think we can still win. We believe in ourselves, believe we can come back from a deficit, that we can make it.
When we are weak, however, we have two options: give up or give in. We can quit, and some people do that, or we can give up—we can tell God He’s right, we’re wrong, He’s holy and we’re sinful, He’s perfect and we’re imperfect. When we give in, we say, we can’t make life work the way we want because we’re too weak, so we’re willing to let God make life work the way He wants.
Our weakness, in other words, presses us to God’s side. We are forced to cling to Him or let go because our grip isn’t strong enough. But there’s no better place, no safer place, no place more beneficial than at the feet of Jesus.
By showing us our weakness, by leaving us weak when we ask Him to make us strong, God gives us the greatest gift apart from His Son. He gives us an awareness of our need for Him.
But as I mentioned, we have the option of giving up when we see our weakness. We can choose from the stubbornness of our hearts to “go down with the ship” rather than to yield control to God. Then, at least, we think, we can say, “I did it my way,” as if that’s some sort of victory.
My way, which leads to destruction, or God’s way which leads to salvation. I wonder which one is real victory?
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
This post first appeared here in May 2013.