the wayward way of Grace

A friend of mine recently asked me about the concept of “when I am weak, then He is strong”–something perhaps as Christians we tend to talk a lot about. But do we truly understand what it means to say this, and to walk in the path of weakness? This is an excerpt of my letter to her, and I pray that this may only spur us to think deeper about what it means to boast in our weaknesses.

About the concept of weakness—I think it is surely something we will all have to deal with in our Christian journey. What does it mean to be weak? And how is being weak displaying God’s strength? Why are we called to weakness when our God has triumphed?

And I think we will find it hard to churn because weakness is not something we are immediately or naturally drawn to. Generally, as human beings we are drawn to the spectacular, the next big thing, etc. There is nothing wrong with that, surely, and it is not to say that we must condemn these things—but soberly speaking, these things are not what we are faced with on our day to day. Daily, is the mundane tasks of life, that perhaps we dread waking up to and getting ready for.

Perhaps it is not helpful either that in our mainstream Christian conversations, where we tend to mostly give praise to God when there are “praiseworthy things,” to be thankful for, such as when someone has had a breakthrough etc. These things tend to lean to the miraculous—again, not something we see everyday. And for these, we give thanks.

But if we are sober about our lives, perhaps we shall see that our struggles are in the daily. And often times we feel we have to be apologetic about struggling with things that are maybe very small and mundane. But what I love about our God is He does not diminish even our most mundane struggles and wrestlings. But who, in our weaknesses, says, “my grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Paul’s thorn and God’s grace

I love how in the second book of Corinthians, in Chapter 12, we are introduced to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. He first talks about his grounds for boasting (which he had already mentioned in Chapter 11)—because surely, Paul was a respectable man! He had every right to boast—humanly speaking. What people would boast about, he had, and he could likewise boast about. But then he goes to say, in v.7-8:

“So to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.”

In all his “grounds for boasting,” Paul, too had a weakness. We are not told what this thorn is—some have speculated that it is a physical ailment. Some modern day interpreters say that Paul was perhaps drawn to homosexuality. But that is not our concern here. Our concern here is that he pleaded to God to take it away from him because it made him weak. And how did God respond? Verse 9-10 says:

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It is not to say that as Christians we must be defeated people. No, we are triumphant over sin because Christ has set us free. We must laboriously work against the sins that persist. And we shall find ourselves to be refined in His image.

But there will always be temptations, things that trouble and bother us, our thorns on our sides. And these are things we perhaps have to deal with everyday—something we do desire the Lord’s hand to cover, but never seem to see a breakthrough. These are things that we perhaps hide under the rug because we believe it is not God-glorifying. It can be a humiliating past (especially in our conservative Indonesian culture), a physical birthmark, a speech disorder, and even singleness. (Oh, how singleness is condemned in our culture.) And the list goes on.

Yet as Christians, these are not our source of identities—it is Christ alone. And understanding that Christ alone is our identity allows us to:

  1. In times of boasting (if we have things to boast about): to not boast in those things but in Christ alone.
  2. In times of weakness: not to dwell in those weaknesses, but to boast in Christ alone.

For it is in those who don’t see breakthroughs, yet proclaim the sufficiency of Christ, that His grace is seen in more abundance. It is in our weaknesses, that we get to proclaim of our Risen Lamb all the more greatly.

the way of the Lamb of God

Because even our Lord exemplified this. Though King of All, He came as a Baby in a manger. As God, He grew as a man for thirty years in His father’s trade—a Carpenter. And as He began His ministry, and many began to hail Him as King—not long after He would be beaten, mocked, scorned, and crucified to His death on a cross.

The way of our Lord is the way of weakness. For it is in His death, that He defeated sin and satisfied the wrath of God. In His death, He atoned for many men—us included. In His death was victory.

Our Lord transformed the epitome of weakness—death—into a victorious and glorious beginning. And such is what we are called to as believers. As Christians we are not called to dominate culture nor infiltrate the world and Christianize the nation. We are called to love and serve our neighbors in our work and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, humbly and faithfully.

And thank God for that. That He never demands from me perfection (He does, but it is already satisfied in Jesus). And as Jesus had given me His perfection, I am now only called to faithful work in the daily—knowing that as I face my weaknesses, I am able to simply walk as the Lord has given me grace. For His grace is sufficient, always, in all times of need.

Praying that the Lord may bestow upon you His kind grace to walk through the seasons.

In Christ,
Jessica Tanoesoedibjo

As Jesus had given me His perfection, I am now only called to faithful work in the daily—knowing that as I face my weaknesses, I am able to simply walk as the Lord has given me grace. For His grace is sufficient, always, in all times of need.

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