“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:7-10).
The word doesn’t exactly give us all the warm fuzzies, does it? We think of weakness as something to conquer, something to be avoided at all costs. And for the most part, this view of weakness drives us to become a stronger person.
Muscles weak? Work them until muscle fibers fuse and thicken.
Math skills weak? Hire a tutor.
Organizational skills weak? Scour Pinterest for ideas!
It’s healthy to be able to identify your weaknesses and work on them. There are some weaknesses, however, that are ingrained within our personalities – or within the fabrics of our lives – and though we can work through them or work around them, we may not be able to completely resolve them. And guess what . . . That’s okay!
Understand, when I’m talking about weaknesses, I’m referring to things within our God-given personality or life situation that aren’t ideal: things like growing up in a single-parent family, or not being naturally gifted with magnetic social skills, or not having an inborn knack for organization. I’m not talking about weaknesses involving any type of sin. Sin is never “okay.”
All I’m saying is that each of us is a unique, gifted individual kept humble with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.
In II Corinthians, Paul revealed that he was given some unnamed “thorn in the flesh” – something that harassed him and was a source of pain for him, but that kept him from becoming conceited. Paul begged the Lord to eliminate the problem, but God said, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
I’ve heard this passage all my life, but for the longest time, its full meaning never quite clicked — until my pastor, on rare occasion, began asking me to speak at church.
Fact: Though my personality has adjusted some over time, I’ve always tested uncompromisingly as a melancholy and an introvert! I love people, but I like them best one on one, or in intimate groups. I have to push myself to talk to people I don’t know or to initiate a conversation.
Resulting fact: Nothing terrifies me more than the thought of public speaking. I’d rather do a thousand loads of laundry or drive cross-country in the pouring rain. True story!
So yes, this weakness of mine, public speaking, was a thorn in my side — not that my pastor was asking me to do it every once in a while (because I knew that talking about God and His Word was a privilege), but that I was putting so much effort into my content, and then failing to deliver well. I was just so nervous!
After speaking in front of my church a few times and delivering poorly, I decided I must not be cut out for public speaking and that I should probably accept that as a flaw of my personality. My pastor didn’t ask me to speak for a while, and I was content with that.
Then, in 2015, after a reprieve of several years, he asked me to teach a 6-week series of lessons on Sunday nights.
Cue the terror!
I knew this was something God wanted me to do. A couple of days before my pastor called me, I’d been thinking of how beneficial this certain subject would be to our church. And now here he was, asking me to teach a series on the very thing I’d been thinking we needed as a body.
But that didn’t stop the terror – and the fact that I knew I was not, and never will be, an articulate, charismatic public speaker.
I knew two things: (1) speaking was my weakness, and (2) the only way I was to survive the coming six weeks was to embrace God like never before. It was important that my church was taught this subject matter, and I was the one handed the responsibility to do it.
In my weakness, I knew I could not do it alone. It would ONLY be by the grace and strength of the Lord that I would be able to teach effectively.
And so I prayed. I fasted more than ever before. And three days before I was to teach the first lesson, I felt peace about speaking like I’d never known. I knew I could do this, and I knew that it would all go just fine.
Even though I was not magically transformed into a powerful speaker (nor did the sense of peace take all my nervousness away), I was spiritually prepared, and the lessons went just fine in spite of my weakness. Because of my weakness, I was forced to rely on God for the ability to pull it off, and then give Him the credit when things went (mostly) smoothly.
God’s strength was perfect in my weakness, and through my weakness, His strength became more real to me.
I still speak only occasionally. And public speaking is still scary! But now I know, as the cliché goes, that if God brings me to it, He’ll bring me through it.
I’m glad that speaking doesn’t come easily to me, because then I might forget where my abilities come from. I might forget that all glory belongs to God. I might not feel so compelled to prayer and fast before I speak.
My job is to prepare as well as I can, both spiritually and physically, and then let God take control of the rest.
I am weak, but He cares enough for me to make His perfect strength available to me! And for that, I praise Him.