Life is filled with paradoxes - seemingly self-contradictory statements with an underlying truth - including literary, mathematical, philosophical and even certain folk riddles. Some are rather technical, others inane. While the Apostle Paul was not employing a literary technique when he penned these words - "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10) - he was making a profound statement about a spiritual truth that he had experienced first hand. To this day, countless followers of Jesus Christ can also affirm the same in their own lives.
As I write today, it has been 10 days since my first chemotherapy treatment. While I have not experienced many side-effects, I do feel weak, tired and my body has ached at times like I have the flu. I take all these symptoms as signs the medicines are working. Although I am thankful that I am not experiencing greater side-effects, I must confess that I wish I had my pre-treatment level of energy. Like most, I don't want to be weak; I want to be strong, substantial, self-sufficient.
Weakness has an interesting effect, however, as it causes us to look to other sources of strength. I think this is Paul's point in his second letter to the church at Corinth. Paul (like me) had some physical malady - he called it a "thorn in the flesh". He prayed to the Lord Jesus three times for him to take it away. This was Jesus' answer to him:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness". (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I am learning, as Paul learned, to call on a power far greater than my own meager strength, even at its peak. Unfortunately, when I am strong, my tendency is to rely on my own strength far too often, even though I know it pales in comparison to what Christ has availed to us by his Spirit. His power is perfected in weakness, in part then, because we are willing to lay aside our own self-sufficiency and call on his other-worldly power.
This is not easy for me, but I find myself in a place where I have no choice, which is in fact a severe mercy - severe in my diseased circumstances, merciful because I am moved to call upon the One who has the power to heal, transform and even raise the dead.
Others likely have much deeper, fire-forged insights into this spiritual truth of Christ's power being perfected in weakness. Please share them on the blog. I and others will be encouraged and benefit from your experiences.
I'll close with what many believe to be the greatest, most important paradox in human history - a cruel form of Roman torture and death (the crucifix) represents hope, redemption and new life. This paradox can only be true because Jesus took his own prescribed course for God's power being perfected in weakness. In laying down his life willingly (John 10:11), he conquered death. In becoming sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), he payed the penalty for sin, satisfying God's holy wrath. In being swallowed by the powers of darkness, he defeated them and sealed their doom (Revelation 12:9-11). We know these truths are not the stuff of fairy tales, because the tomb was empty (Luke 24:6, 1 Corinthians 15).
I am glad that paradox exists.
In Christ alone,