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. (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I identify as someone who’s weak. And often, I despise it. The way my brain stumbles, but tells me that it knows the way. The things I find hard, that others find easy. My fears. My hopes. The shape of Emma: wonky. Not what she was made to be. It’s easy to despair. But I come back to this verse.
The gospel says that God knows my weakness and He works in it. IN it. This is more than, ‘despite the fact that Emma is depressed, she trusts in God.’ More like this: ‘Sometimes, it’s because she is depressed that she trusts in God. Sometimes, instead of weakness hindering her, it leads her to the Healer.’
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not automatic: depression can isolate me and harden me or leave me much the same…but, in God’s hands it can also be an incredible agent of grace. It exposes the futility of this world’s hope. It reveals my heart. It stops me from settling for small joys that would be enough if things weren’t quite so hard. It shows me that life is harder and blacker and scarier than I pretend – but that Jesus is brighter and more beautiful. It numbs me and takes away my joy – but it also wakes me up: and points to a deeper, darker joy.
And it’s true of so many struggles.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can leave me trapped in a world of rituals and fear. It tells me that if I’m in control, I can make my life safe. Jesus comes into my world and blows it apart. He tells me: ‘You can’t make life safe. You’re not in control. Your rules have imprisoned you. But I will set you free’.
An eating disorder can destroy my life. My health, my relationships, my faith. It tells me there is nothing more important than my body, than what I eat. It tells me to save myself. Jesus says, ‘what are you really hungry for? No amount of food can satisfy it.’ He says, ‘don’t try to starve your desires. They only come back sharper. Give them to me’. He says, ‘you want purpose, hope, identity, safety? Come, eat with Me.’
Self-harm tells me that I’m not like other people. My emotions are too much. My shame is too great. I have to hide and hurt and cover up. I heal myself – if I hurt myself. I pay for my pain with my pain. But Jesus says, ‘No. You don’t need to scream. I hear, I see, I listen, I restore. I’m the scarred Saviour. I’m the wounded Healer. Let me bind your wounds. I am pierced – so you need never be.’
I could go on. These things – these struggles – are not good. They hurt. They’re not God’s purpose for me and my life.
He is greater than them. He can take them and take what’s bad and make out of it something good. He shines a light on my weakness and as I fall into Him, He turns it into strength. That’s grace. That’s the power of Christ. That’s the gospel.
Image: ‘Power and Weakness’ by Anton Vakulenko (source)