I used to feel defined by my weaknesses. Never feeling good enough. Always feeling different and less than what I was created to be. Physically my body didn't seem to function like it was designed to and I spent the majority of my elementary through high school years feeling ostracized by these differences. Cancer not only left its marks on my body, but it also left me with medical complications that I dealt with every single day. As an adult I'm not immune those issues now. I still deal with them. But overtime I've become more accustomed to them. Most people aren't even able to tell I deal with any of these residuals, because other than the scars on my body from multiple cancer surgeries I look healthy and normal.
But growing up I couldn't feel anything further from that word-”normal.” In fact, I didn't feel like that was a word that belonged to me. As a young child I remember my bedtime prayers were filled with pleas that God would make me "normal like all the other kids". The differentness I felt was exasperated by too many absences from school. So many that a teacher once asked me how I was going to graduate. And to be honest, I had often wondered that myself. Escorted by my nurse from class multiple times a day to take care of these issues, led to further questioning from peers. And I got really tired of answering those questions. Mainly because their curiosity served as a reminder of just how different I felt.
But one day God did heal me. However, His answer didn't come quite like I expected it would. You see, He healed my mind and freed my heart to be at peace with my circumstances. The medical complications that once left me feeling ostracized, like chains holding me down, I learned to recognize as a gift from God. Because not a day goes by where I'm not physically reminded of my weaknesses and my need for Christ. It was through my weaknesses and medical complications and not in their absence that I began asking questions about Jesus. It was through my weaknesses and cancer and not a part from them that I learned of the Gospel and God's love for me-a love that was so big that He sent His Son to die on the cross for my sins so that I could come to know Him and be found in Him. I wish I could say that my faith in those truths remained strong, but unfortunately they wavered. But God was faithful through and through. God was faithful even when I was faithless.
In high school my doctor informed me that I wouldn’t be able to have children biologically. As if dealing with my medical issues weren't enough to make me feel like less of a woman, there was nothing quite like finding out that kids weren't in the cards for me either. My medical issues compiled with the news of my infertility, sent me down a very dark path. I felt broken, alone, anxious and depressed.
Though I could not identify it at the time, the perceptions and expectations that I had for myself, were being shaped and influenced by society. I was looking to the world to help me make sense of my scars, weaknesses and identity. I was looking in the wrong places. It wasn’t until I moved from seeing my weaknesses as the world does and instead looked to Christ and His word to explore their meaning and purpose that healing and freedom came.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 we learn of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Although we don’t know for certain exactly what his thorn is, we know it was a weakness and an ongoing struggle. We know that Paul cried out to God more than once to take it away and we learn right here in 2 Corinthians that the Lord did not fulfill his request. And instead Jesus replied to Paul with: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul went on to say, “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."
Even though Satan would long for Paul’s weaknesses to send him down a very dark path, God had another plan in mind. Jon Bloom with Desiring God says, “God’s grace is more clearly seen and more deeply savored in our weaknesses than our strengths. Our fallen natures crave self-glory. We seek the admiration of others. We love the myth of the superhero because we want to be one. So we want our successes and strengths to be known and our failures and weaknesses hidden. And since strong, competent high achievers earn human admiration, we are tempted to believe that they impress God in a similar way. That’s the last thing Paul wants us to believe. Paul knew better than most that it is not human achievements that showcase the grace of God. It is human helplessness.”
We don’t live in Eden anymore. We live on the other side of the fall where weakness, sickness and sin reside. We are imperfect people in need of His grace. To deny this truth is essentially telling Jesus that what He did on the cross was in vain. Our weaknesses and our shortcomings should move us back to the cross, back to the feet of Jesus, and should serve as a reminder to us that we can’t do this alone. We need God.
Because of my medical conditions and past mental health issues I have felt weak. Because of my infertility I have felt broken. Even though I no longer feel defined by those issues like I once did, sometimes those thoughts will resurface momentarily. And I have to remind myself to look up. I have to remind myself of where my Ultimate source of strength resides-God. My weaknesses keep me closer to the heart of my Father and are constantly pointing me back to the cross.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you have been viewing your weaknesses through a wordly lens. Perhaps you, like me, can relate to these feelings of “never measuring up” or “I’ll never be good enough" because you feel like you are drowning in and defined by your weaknesses. But this desire to “measure up” is a very worldly concept. We'll never measure up. If we were enough than Jesus' death on the cross would be in vain and grace would have no purpose in our life. When you have thoughts like, "I'll never be enough" look up. Fix your eyes on Christ. Let those thoughts lead you to the Gospel, to the cross, to His grace that was poured out on your behalf because God knew that apart from Christ you could never measure up. God doesn't need us to have it all together. What God desires from us is to recognize that we don't and look to Christ- the author and perfector of our faith. And as we come to Him in our weakness, He is faithful to complete the work He began in us, sanctifying our hearts and our minds into more of His likeness.