Opening jars of salsa is hard for me. This fact isn’t surprising, given I’ve only done a handful of arm workouts in my life. But when it’s me versus the salsa jar, and someone offers their help, something hideous rises up in me. It looks a lot like pride and comes out as painful persistence until, finally, I relent. I feel weak when faced with a salsa jar. I also feel weak when I share something vulnerable, when I am asked to do something I don’t feel qualified for, when I am embarrassed, misunderstood, hurt, or insecure. Just like in my salsa-jar moments, my flesh grimaces at weakness.
The problem is that each of us are weak by nature. The Bible tells us so. We’re told in Psalm 103 that God “knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” I can see two primary ways our culture has responded to the problem of human weakness. One is to hide our weaknesses; fake it ‘til you make it. Another is to let our weaknesses define us, leading us to run from situations that make us feel weak. They are both forms of self-protection.
Jesus is teaching me a different way to respond. In His upside-down Kingdom, Jesus redefines weakness not as a liability, but as an asset. Jesus has it as essential to relationship with Himself. Jesus has reframed it as a tool for shaping us. He has modeled ultimate weakness when he called us to come and die with Him.
Each person’s life in Christ must begin in a moment of weakness. Jesus redefines weakness because it is the gateway to union with Him. Admitting our wrong, turning from our rebellion, and receiving a forgiveness we could not earn is one of the greatest declarations of weakness we have! “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
The Christian life continues to be filled with moments of weakness. However, where we once had to self-protect, we can now boast with hopeful humility. Jesus redefines weakness, for it is now a means to empty us, that we may receive His fullness. Paul knew this truth well. As he cries to God for deliverance from the very thing that makes him weak, God reveals His upside-down reality: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s response presents us with a challenge. “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In his book Humility, Andrew Murray says this, “Let us look at our lives… and see whether we gladly glory in weakness, whether we take pleasure, as Paul did, in injuries, in necessities, in distresses. Yet, let us ask whether we have learnt to regard [weakness] as above all an opportunity of proving Jesus is all to us.”
Where is Jesus wanting to show you the sufficiency of His grace? The fullness of His power? Where is He stripping you of self-reliance and ushering you into the wide space of holy weakness? Are we so hungry for the life of Christ that we can glory in the things that empty us?
Ultimately, our call to a life of weakness culminates at the cross, where weakness is embraced in completion. Because Christ preceded us in death, and rose in victory, death to ourselves is assured to be met with the power of God. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). We can look forward to an eternal resurrection while experiencing an immediate one. We no longer have to hide our weakness, yet it does not define us, either. With the boldness of the strength of Christ we can lay ourselves bare to the world, step into callings beyond our comfort, and be used as a holy vessel of His power in the world.
-Written by Kendall Robinson, alumna of Saint Louis University