A couple of years ago a girl I knew faced a period of tremendous heartache with miscarriage, infertility, and the late pregnancy loss of her baby girl. As she commented on her period of grief she remarked that it was really hard for her when people told her that she must be a strong person to be able to handle such loss. For her, the feelings she felt in the aftermath of her losses were anything but strong. She felt weak, vulnerable, and overwhelmed by the pressure that as a strong person she should face this trial with her head held high, when she really just wanted to crumble up in a ball and cry in the corner.
Often when we speak with people walking through suffering we do the same thing. We see a person facing a trial that seems insurmountable and we think to ourselves, “I could never do what she is doing. She must be strong. God must know that she is strong enough for this.” I’ve thought it. I’ve said it. And then I’ve lived it and woken up to the reality that maybe all those other people are strong, but all I seem to have is overwhelming weakness when I face a trial.
If that’s you, then you are exactly where God wants you. And you are not alone. Paul has this to say about our weakness in suffering and trials:
“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” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
He said this in the context of his “thorn in the flesh”, a trial that God chose not to remove from him. Instead of boasting in his ability, spiritual maturity, or even physical strength, he exalts Christ and boasts in him alone. Of all people who could say they were strong enough to handle something, Paul would have been it. He was an apostle. He was chosen by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. He wrote a majority of the New Testament. Yet, here in this passage he says that it is in his weakness that he is made strong, and he learns to trust in the sufficiency of Christ.
The same is true for us. Our ability to “handle” any particular hardship or trial is not contingent on our own strength or competency. Instead we are able to face suffering and pain that is beyond human comprehension because He is strong. Christ’s power is made known through our weakness. Christ’s glory and beauty are displayed when we trust in him over our circumstances. And it is in this seeming reversal of what the world deems as normal and right that we are made strong.
Our strength to endure a “thorn in the flesh”, whatever that may be, is found in the merit of Another—Jesus Christ. So when you feel weak and overwhelmed by the circumstances of your life you have hope for your trial. You can rest in the strength and power of our Lord, Jesus Christ who will give you grace for today, and every day after that. His power is made perfect in your weakness.