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The Beauty of Weakness

Spiritual growth seldom happens on the platform of our strength.

My life verse is an oddball one: "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen …" (1 Corinthians 1:27-28, NASB). Unlike the apostle Paul who recounts his rise of fame in Judaism, in Galatians 1, my history reads far different.

I was foolish. I spent my early life trying to protect myself from predators.

I was weak. I couldn't fend off those abusers, particularly when they outnumbered me when I was five years old. Two brothers and their friends took their turns with me my kindergarten year.

I was base. What they did to me confirmed what I felt was unworthiness.

I was despised. In my chaotic, unsafe home, though I know my parents did the best they could, I had a hard time understanding their love for me. I felt in the way.

Recounting all this isn't my way of hoping you'll feel sorry for me. In contrast, rejoice with me. Because the circumstances I count as weaknesses and pain are the very things that drew me to Jesus Christ. These are what I call thin places. The Celts see thin places as physical places on the earth where the veil between God and us is veneer, ethereally thin. I bend the metaphor a bit to apply to our lives: "Thin places are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where we might just catch a glimpse of eternity. They are aha moments, beautiful realizations, when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh."

It's in these weak moments I've experienced God's presence. Because I felt the sting of abuse, I longed for a world someday that would be made right—a holy desire for a new heavens and a new earth. Because my father died when I was ten, leaving a daddy-shaped wound, I thirsted for a Daddy who would never leave. Because I walked through life feeling in the way, God's surprising affection and grace flabbergasted me, making me love him all the more. All these deficits have morphed into huge spiritual benefits.

As women of God, we often try like crazy to look holy, to appear spiritually astute. We spend time managing our reputations, wasting energy on proving to the world that our strengths are worth applause. Can we let go of that for a moment? The truth is, spiritual growth seldom happens on the platform of our strength. Look back on your life. When have you grown the most radically? When has your heart hungered and thirsted for God? During times of beauty and joy? No, usually during times of devastating fear and weakness.

That's why I love the Phillips translation of James 1:2: "When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!" It's counterintuitive, Kingdom thinking that can honestly welcome trials as friends, that can see how difficulties are the soil in which our hearts grow.

Paul, though he had an impressive resume, learned the power of viewing weakness as strength and a vehicle to God's presence. He wrote, "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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV).

Paul understood the paradox of God's power in the life of the believer. It isn't that we conjure up strength and go forward. It's that we recognize our weakness and lean on Christ. In fact, it's our weakness that leads us to him! Could it be that the things in your past you conceive as weaknesses are instead the very things you can delight in?

Even Jesus experienced weakness. Paul asserts, "For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you" (2 Corinthians 13:4). It's time we stop concentrating on living in our own paltry power. It's time we relegate that to its proper place. Instead, glory in our weakness so that we can finally understand the power of Christ at work.

In retrospect, I can see how my childhood story became a thin place for me to recognize the power and worth and beauty of Jesus Christ. I no longer see the past as something to lament, but part of God's sovereign way to bring me to himself. I don't think I'd be clinging to him the way I do (by his strength) had it not been for those trials and my neediness in the midst of them.

How about you? Where in your story can you see God's redemptive plan? When have you seen God's power overpower your weakness? When have you grown most keenly? And how can you see your current situation (or your past struggles) as opportunities for delight? Like Paul, you can learn to rejoice in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties by seeing your weakness as an asset.

May we all find thin places today, understanding that our weaknesses are the portals to the strength and power of God.

Mary DeMuth is an author, speaker, and book mentor who helps folks turn their trials into triumphs. Her recent book is Thin Places: A Memoir. www.marydemuth.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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