Learning to Love Weakness
We all have some weakness which plagues us and from which we are tempted to run.
Recently, a good friend of mine agreed to exercise with me and we enjoyed an invigorating hour together. The workout went well but at the end she picked up her mat with a frustrated sigh and said, “Ugh. I hate working out because it reminds me how weak I am.” I was surprised because I thought it had gone well. I was also feeling pretty weak but had arrived at a different conclusion: “I love working out because I can identify my weaknesses and will know where to focus my efforts next time.”
I’m a competitive person when it comes to sport or physical challenges, and so it has generally been easier for me to lean into my physical weaknesses and turn them into motivation. But I have other areas in my life that are not so easy for me to expose and surrender to the light of change. I admire her for being willing to move forward in spite of her discouragement and I told her so. I also encouraged her to see her weakness in a different light. Even while I did so, I was aware of the uglier areas of my life that I would rather keep a lid on… where action exposes my ineptness and fraudulent veneer of strength.
We all have some weakness which plagues us and from which we are tempted to run. Saint Paul even wrote of his particular “thorn” with which he battled and which the Lord did not remove:
...to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12)
We may not know what that thorn was but we do know how Paul responded, and that gives us some insight into our own response to weakness, to frustration, and to a feeling of futility. Even while I happily enjoy my own generally positive attitude towards weakness of fitness, I just as willingly brush aside my less comfortable flaws and weaknesses.
Ugh. I hate facing this task because it so often results in my failure. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to see myself that way. And I don’t want anyone else to see me that way either.
The truth is that to be equipped to be fully responsive to God’s call on our lives we must be continually engaged, attentive, renewed, and healthy in mind. The Lord’s words to Saint Paul illuminate how we are to embrace the thorn, the weakness, and the crosses which are revealed to be the very solutions to our problems.
My legs shake when I do squats. I will strengthen them.
My shoulders cannot hold me in plank. I will be attentive to them.
My back is stiff from sitting over my desk. I will make changes to my habits.
My anxiety is high when I do not pray. I will pray.
My love is tepid. I will spend time with my beloved.
My body is lazy. I will take the stairs.
My mind is wandering. I will delete some apps.
I cannot do it. I cannot do it now… but I will work and grow.
Instead of feeling defeated in the presence of our weakness, we should grow accustomed to delighting in the opportunity to grow into a better version of ourselves. There will still be that twinge of pride when we see ourselves in an unflattering and weak light, and yet that is the moment to surrender it to the Lord, lay it down at the foot of the Cross, and ask Him to help us rise with energy and courage.
It is easy to stay at the edge of our comfort and to move ourselves away from challenges which expose our faults. But without those challenges we would never grow. So it should be with gratitude and a measure of cheerfulness that we step onto our exercise mat, or in front of our unbalanced checkbook, or into a hard discussion, or hold a to-do list, and say…
Ugh. I’m feeling uncomfortable right now. Embarrassed and ugly. But the full truth is that I am capable… I’m just out of shape. Without this moment, I will not grow. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me this weight to lift. Help me grow strong in Your grace.