This morning I stormed out of a staff meeting. It certainly was not my greatest moment.
I wish I were able to say it was not my fault but I have no one else to blame but myself, for it was I who had chosen to walk through this particular valley silently and pridefully alone.
I had chosen pride over humility. Instead of facing my grief, my doubts, and my fears, I had chosen to ignore them. For what? To appear put-together? To give the false impression that I am strong? To avoid facing my reality?
Whatever the reason, it ultimately lead to a moment of great weakness.
On my own, I am weak. Very weak. And today, I tried to face it all on my own.
Darkness vs. Light
We’ve all been there. We’ve all found ourselves walking through a pivital, life-changing valley or darkness. And there, we’ve all had a choice to make — to walk through the darkness alone or to recognize that God is with us even in the midst of that darkness (Psalm 23:4).
I have no doubt that God is beside me through my dark valleys.
So why didn’t I hold onto Him as the darkness began closing in on me?
Why didn’t I trust that He is in control and that He is lighting the path set before me?
Why wasn’t my faith strong enough to call on Him when I was feeling overwhelmed within my circumstances?
Because I — a broken and prideful being — am weak.
A Lesson From Paul
The apostle Paul knew suffering quite well. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 he documents a thorn in his flesh from which he sought relief. Paul, feeling weak from such torment, begged God to remove the thorn. Not once. Not twice. But three times. And God’s answer remained the same.
Instead of removing the thorn, God assured Paul, “My grace is sufficient. My power works best in weakness.”
Paul didn’t respond with, “fine, I’ll find another route.” Paul had already seen what God was capable of doing. He had witnessed God’s miracles. In fact, Paul himself was a miracle. So when God didn’t remove the thorn from which Paul was suffering, Paul chose not to go at it alone but rather to trust — to cling to God and His promises.
In his weakness Paul found great strength. Strength only God was able to supply. Paul found himself strong enough to bear the thorn from which he was suffering. And he bore it with great gladness (or joy).
Paul was glad to boast in his weaknesses because he learned that through his weaknesses Christ’s power was actually being revealed.
God’s power is magnified through our weaknesses all the same. How often do we fail to see the purpose in our pain, the purpose in our suffering?
From Paul’s weakness and through his suffering we learn a vital lesson, one that without comprehending we will merely find ourselves lost and without hope as light appears to fade and darkness surrounds us.
Sometimes the answer to our plea for relief is not to have the burden removed but to be reminded of God’s grace; that we may continuously trust in his plan regardless of our circumstances.
Paul’s circumstances didn’t change, but his perspective did.
Strength Through Christ
My thorn may not be the same as that from which Paul suffered. And my thorn likely looks different from that which you are suffering.
Regardless of the form and nature of our thorns, of one thing I am certain … we are all weak on our own.
And just as God answered Paul’s plea He, too, ensures us that His grace is all we need for His power works best in our weakness.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12).
Choosing to follow Christ comes at a high cost. We can look forward to what is yet to come all the while walking in His light as we endure worldly suffering.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
So yes, I am weak. But with Christ, I am strong.
It is only when I try to walk through this life alone that I find myself gasping for air beneath the weight of pride, anxiety, doubt, and fear.
Through weakness, I am learning trust — to trust that God is the source of all strength (Isaiah 41:10; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 13:9), to trust there is purpose in my suffering, and to trust that through such His power is being revealed.
I am learning courage — to acknowledge I cannot do this alone and to admit there are times I am overwhelmed.
I am learning humility — to be okay not being okay and to cry when my heart is overcome with sadness.
I am learning dependence — to rely not on my own strength but on God who is with me even in the midst of the dark valleys.
Most of all, I am learning grace — to breathe in and embrace the grandeur of God’s grace.