Don’t be such a baby.
Suck it up.
Toughen up, butter cup.
Society is selling us a HUGE lie: be tough. I would imagine no one could actually remember and count all of the times someone has told them to be tougher, don’t cry or don’t let anyone see their weaknesses. TV shows, commericials, and movies all send the message that the ones who win are the ones who show no weakness. We begin to set toughness as the goal and the expectation and yet, that is the exact opposite of what God is asking of us.
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.- 2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul is writing this astounding message right after sharing that he has a weakness, a thorn in his side, that drives him so crazy, he has asked God multiple times to take it away and God is unwilling. God is insisting there is value in this affliction, so He’s leaving it there because He is declaring that His grace is all Paul needs to live. God then goes one step further to say that not only is His grace enough for Paul to handle this issue, the issue itself causes God’s power to be made complete. What?! This just flips everything upside down for me.
I hate my fears. I know hate is a strong word and we really shouldn’t use it, but the truth is that I do hate them. I hate wondering if a new building has steps because I am terrified of elevators. I hate calculating how long it would take me to drive somewhere because I find flying so hard. I hate longing for a drink of alcohol because then the edge of anxiety goes away. I hate feeling like something is going to go wrong when thing are going well. I have been told time and time again, by well meaning people who love me, that my anxiety is “in my head” and that I need to just feel it, face it and forget it. I’ve had people explain how irrational my fears are and I’ve spent hours learning the mechanics of elevators and planes just to try to alleviate some of my anxiety. I’ve done all of the things I’ve been told to do, I’ve spent loads of time with counselors and reading books, and yet, this is still an issue that I can’t get over. I have asked God more times then I can count to take away my fears and guess what, He hasn’t done it. I can explain all the rational reasons for my fears, I can even tell you what started them, but in the end, all I want is for God to remove them. I have shamed myself time and time again trying to suck it up and face them and even when I do, the anxiety lingers. It feels like I’ve done everything! And yet…
Here’s what I haven’t done, I haven’t boasted in my weakness. I haven’t tried to see my anxiety as a gift that allows God to move in my life. In the original text, the word boast here means to “glory proudly, live with head held high by having the right base of operation to deal successfully with a matter.” (Strong’s Exhaustive, 2744. kauchaomai) Light bulb! Ah ha! I have to live with my anxiety in perspective, a right base of operation, in order to live successfully with it. So what is that right base of operation? Christ’s power.
Only by seeing that my anxiety is a gift that actually keeps me reliant on God can I live with it successfully. God’s power is made complete in the thing I hate the most so, shouldn’t I stop hating it? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to both me, and my testimony, to simply acknowledge that yes, I have more anxiety than I actually like and yet, God wants to be powerful through me in this thing that I call affliction and He calls grace? My weakness is where I find God’s strength most powerful!
But there’s a catch: I have to stop holding on to and hiding my anxiety under a dark cover of shame. All of those statements at the beginning of this post, those create shame. While they may be said to help encourage, they do the exact opposite and they are actually deeply harmful. I’ve been told that my weakness is something I should be ashamed of, not share, not acknowledge and therefore by implication, not allow God to use. In order to remove the shame and for God’s power to move through and be made complete by my weakness, I have to stop asking Him to remove it and start asking Him to give me the power to find joy in my anxiety and do the thing I fear anyways. No shame. No guilt. Just acceptance, joy, boasting and grace.
What’s your weakness that keeps you from experiencing God’s grace and power to the fullest? Are you fighting against God by trying to power through on your own? Are you, like me, exhausted by the work? God’s invitation in this message from Paul is to stop trying on your own because the simple truth is, you don’t have enough power. God’s grace and God’s power is made complete once you can joyfully accept that your weakness is where God shines. He will give you what you need when you need it, just be open and boast about your challenges. This is where you trade your shame for His glory and He shines like the brightest star in the sky.