Finding Strength in the One Who Became Weak
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 12:9-10 (ESV)
The classic church children’s song “Jesus Loves Me” says that those who belong to Jesus are weak, but he is strong. After you make this statement, the refrain kicks in: “Yes, Jesus loves me.” It’s one of the simplest illustrations of what we read in 2 Corinthians 12, that we are able to actually find love and strength from the Creator of the universe in our weaknesses and in our struggles.
“Jesus Loves Me” conjures cute images of kids singing off-key, but the reality of its message—and the message of these verses—is much harder to grasp. Our world is full of reminders of weakness, whether it’s defenseless children without a voice being abused or victims of sex trafficking right here in New York City. When you encounter horrendous experiences like that, you come face to face with weakness. How could someone at their most vulnerable ever find strength in their weakness?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exclaims that the meek will inherit the earth, and he blesses the poor in spirit and those who mourn (Matthew 5:3-10). Jesus looks out at the world his Father created, and he sees those who are at their weakest, who are full of brokenness. And at that very moment, he blesses them.
But Jesus’ mission doesn’t end there. When he recognizes the weakness in the world, Jesus takes it on himself. He becomes weak, he becomes vulnerable; both his physical body and his spirit are broken. He does this because, as he declares in Matthew 5 and as we read in 2 Corinthians, even in the midst of unspeakable pain and suffering, Christ finds strength in his relationship with God. There is no one who understands weakness and vulnerability more than the Son of God who was crucified on a cross for the very people who persecuted him.
When we experience weakness in our own lives, or when we encounter unimaginable suffering in this great city of ours, we don’t just snap our fingers and instantly become strong. But that doesn’t mean we give up or turn a blind eye. Rather, knowing Christ’s strength in weakness, we don’t have to ignore or pretend, but, with others, face the ills of this world head on.
We do this first by pursuing our Lord and Savior because he knows what it means to suffer and to lose everything more than anyone. Then, and only then, can we join together with our neighbors to serve the meek, the poor in spirit, and those who mourn without burnout or triumphalism.
Yes, we are weak, but our God is strong, and one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes as there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).
The other gods were strong, but Thou was weak.
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne.
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds but Thou alone.
—Edward Shillito, from “Jesus of the Scars”
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Michael Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church Lincoln Square and has been a part of Redeemer life and ministry from its inception in 1989.