Paul’s claim that he boasts in his weaknesses often seems to be a contradiction in terms. To boast is to promote yourself, to show forth your most impressive quality, to call attention to something that will make you seem great in the eyes of others. Weaknesses are those parts of us, whether self-inflicted or providentially given, that we hope no one else will see and that we desire to deny even to ourselves. How can it be that Paul would boast in his weakness?
There are a few interpretations that I believe are incorrect. Paul is not saying that to be weak in a categorical sense is preferable to being strong. He’s not saying that the image of someone laying on a couch, ambitionless and proud of it, is the picture of godliness that he’s looking for. Laziness and hopelessness and fruitlessness are not glorifying to God. After all, Paul is the one who calls us “more than conquerors” and wants us to be “strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Neither is Paul claiming that we should publicly highlight our weak areas while secretly harboring confidence in our “strengths.” After all, God sees our hearts! And Paul cannot be saying that in most areas we really are self-sufficient but God wants us to recognize the areas where we need his “help.” A sort of “thanks for the boost, God” lifestyle.
No–the truth is far more penetrating, convicting, transforming, terrifying, exhilarating. Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Precisely at the point of weakness and need. Precisely at the point of our desperation. Precisely at the point of our dependance. Precisely at the point that we see that we have nothing without God. When…whenever…I am weak…then…at that point…in that moment….I am strong.
Admission of my weakness is the access point of supernatural power. So that when I am weak, then I am strong.
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. 10 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 Cor. 12:9-10
Lord–reveal my true state of perpetual and comprehensive need for you. Help me to humbly admit my weakness. And then glorify your unlimited strength in my life. Be strong in my weakness, Lord. I want the “most impressive thing” about me, the thing that I “want others to see”, my areas of “boasting,” to be you.