So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Corinthians 12:9
The first televised presidential candidate debate aired September 26, 1960 between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Actually seeing the candidates rather than hearing them or reading their words became a game changer in politics. Reportedly Nixon appeared pale and sweaty while Kennedy appeared robust and confident. Nixon was underweight due to a recent hospitalization. Kennedy looked the picture of health. This was significant for, as the story goes, those who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won, but those who watched the debate saw Kennedy as the clear winner.
The apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation. Compared to a competing group of super-apostles, who were stirring things up in Corinth, Paul appeared to be the loser. While Paul’s written words were powerful his speaking was weak. His physical appearance wasn’t much either. His opponents told him. So beginning with the 11th chapter of 2 Corinthians we read Paul’s come-back letter. It’s called the “fools speech” and is full of irony and parody that’s hard to grasp when only a few verses are read in isolation. The letter comes down to an “anything you can do I can do better” outburst. But then Paul settles down to stating that it is not really about him, but instead about Christ in him. His weakness becomes an opportunity for Christ’s power.
Paul’s life is an example of the way God works. Over and over again God chooses to work through weakness, but our human tendency is to value the powerful. It’s seems impossible to turn that value upside down. Worse yet, somewhere deep within us is the lie that when we are “right with God” our lives are smooth and successful. Depression, addictions, sorrows, financial woes must be our fault and tragedy must be a punishment for something we did wrong. Even if we say we don’t believe that lie our actions betray us. We try to hide our own weaknesses and struggles from one another. We loathe the thought of being judged as flawed or needy. We put on a good face at church, the very place we are to encourage and support one another!
Check yourself the next time you remember a mistake or struggle with a problem. Are you focusing on how you look to others, your face value? Or can you focus on your need of Christ? Can you look to Christ’s redemptive and paradoxical power to use your situation and bring about an unimagined good? God works that way. Just take a look at Paul.
Pray: O Christ, open me to see all the ways in which you use my strengths and my weaknesses. Let me not hide my failings but offer them up for your redemption. Let me receive as well as give.