We ask God for strength and we don’t like weakness. There’s a tension here. We want to be strong, we like to feel strong: it causes us to believe we can overcome anything, accomplish anything, succeed at anything. But whatever strength or confidence we feel at certain times is not sustainable all the time.
There inevitably come moments, and often moments when you feel you are at your strongest, that you stumble in your temper, let a word slip, forget something, run from what’s required, fail to keep a promise—things don’t turn out the way you imagined they would. We feel our weakness and we don’t like it. We want to feel only strong, to be convinced we did and can do everything right.
But God doesn’t use only strength, or only the strong. He can’t, he won’t. He will use our weakness or use us despite our weakness or even because of our weakness, but not apart from our weaknesses. Why? Because he knows we will otherwise come to feel and believe it’s our strength that got the job done right, it’s our wisdom that secured the right outcome, it’s our charisma that persuaded people towards the right decision. God is out seeking the lost, to rescue those who are weak, who can’t rescue themselves, who can’t help themselves other than by turning to him. We tend to forget God in our strength.
To walk in step with God’s plans, to follow him in his ways, to succeed in doing his will, in many ways, weakness is essential. This is because God accomplishes his will for us, through us, and in us by his grace. Grace is not only God’s help but his helping us to reach that help. Only his grace is sufficient for all he wants for us and asks of us. His grace is free, yet only available to the weak, to those who know they are not self-sufficient in and of themselves.
The pressure we often feel to live for God, then, is not of grace but rather of performance. We are anxious and say to ourselves: “I have to make the right choice, say the right words, do the right things.” We say “right” believing there’s only one choice or word or action, and if we fail to do that one right thing than everything will fall apart. Of course, no one wants to watch someone perform in weakness: forgetting lyrics, getting lines mixed up, playing wrong chords, stumbling through a scene, etc.. No one would sit through that! But God hasn’t saved/called us to perform. He’s saved/called us to believe in Jesus, to put our faith in his “performance,”—his life, death, and resurrection—and to trust in him completely, in the completeness of who he is and what he’s done. When Jesus becomes our all-sufficiency, his grace becomes sufficient for us and every one of our weaknesses.
Grace humbles us, in that it demands that we stand before God in our weakness, not that we impress him with our strength.
So being strengthened by grace is only possible if our weakness is exposed. Only then do we realize and recognize that we need strength and where we need grace. We are and always will be disciples of our Teacher, servants of our King, children of our heavenly Father, sheep of our Good Shepherd, worshippers of our Savior. This is our strength: we can’t and we won’t ever be without him.