Made Perfect in Weakness

When Paul prayed for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” – most likely some physical ailment that was troubling him – God told him “No,” three times and finally said, “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Here was one of God’s greatest spiritual warriors, church leader, and special ambassador. He had suffered through beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, and character assassination. Yet God still chose not to heal his physical affliction, instead asking him to rely completely on God’s grace and strength.

I have often wondered why God has not removed my illness, after so much suffering and prayer. And I don’t think we’ll ever know why some are healed while others suffer. But this passage of Paul’s story shows me that I’m in good company. If Paul still needed to learn to rely on grace and God’s strength, I know I always will.

My strength is made perfect in weakness.

There is a truth here that is so deep, I don’t think it can be understood outside of experience and pain. There is grace and beauty and wisdom that can only be found when we get to the end of ourselves- when we experience and understand that we aren’t in control, that our best efforts have gotten us nowhere, and that we are out of courage and ability.

This is one of the blessings of chronic illness, or any long-term suffering. Sometimes, it is impossible to see the blessing in illness –whether mental or physical – and if that’s where you are today, that’s ok. But we can all take comfort in this truth.

My strength is made perfect in weakness.

Imagine God’s perfect (or complete) strength. The might of it. The boundless energy. The creativity. The perspective and wisdom.

Now imagine it working in your mind and spirit. Energizing you. Leading you. Pouring out of you in love and kindness. Calming your mind and guarding your heart.

And what’s the shortest road there? Weakness. In reality, we are all weak. But for those of us with chronic illness, we are slapped in the face with it every day. It’s so obvious. I can’t get out of bed. My anxiety is through the roof. I’m behind on everything.

And the enemy of our souls is terrified when we’re in that position because he knows we’re so close to being able to see and embrace God’s grace and perfect strength. So he kicks in overtime with lies. You’re worthless. You’re failing. You’re hurting your kids. You can’t do this. You’re a mess and you’ll always be a mess. You’re not even worthy of God’s help or his grace. And God doesn’t really care about you. If He did, he would heal you. He would solve this. He has left you in your suffering.

And all the while, we are one heartbeat away from being completely enfolded in God’s perfect strength. He is whispering His invitation of grace. “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

It’s time to let go.

“God, my Daddy up in heaven, I come to you in my profound, endless weakness. My body is tired and beat up. My mind is anxious and burdened, and my soul feels dark and weary. I am at the end of myself. I don’t know what to do or how to solve the mess around me. I’m not even sure how to get through today. I give up. I give everything to you. I sit here before you empty, open, and waiting. You have promised your grace for each moment, and in this moment I accept it. You have promised your perfect strength, and I open my mind and my heart to receive it. I give you all of me, and ask to be filled with all of you. Pour on me the mercies I need to walk through today in love. All I want is you. Connection to you. Your breath. Your peace. Everything else I place in your hands. In Jesus I pray – Amen.”