1. The Facade approach: We simply pretend we don’t have weaknesses and work through our weariness, pain, difficulty, struggles, and temptations. We would rather seem strong to ourselves and others than admit our need and receive the Lord’s strength.
2. The Frustrated “God” approach: We choose to believe that our current weakness, trial, or challenge is not what God wants for us, but that he is either too weak or too short-sighted to eliminate the problems. God is a sympathetic observer, watching us face situations out of his control.
3. The Angry “God” approach: This is the approach of Job’s friends. Our experience of trial, temptation, or pain, our “weakness”, is exclusively the result of our sin. Either God is allowing our sin’s consequences to punish us or he is bringing calamity directly to us as a result, a direct punishment, for our past and present sins. In this approach God communicates anger through pain. We might rage against the punishment or agree in a type of self-loathing, but we certainly would not boast in our weakness, since it reflects God’s wrath.
4. The Self-Pity approach: We consider our situation to be unique and since it is unique, a God centered response is an unreasonable expectation. Or, a slight variation, we find a morbid solace in what we “ought to have been.” Weakness becomes an opportunity to talk about what we “could have” or “should have” if only our situation had been different. In this world our unrealized potential becomes our boast, rather than our real-life weakness and God’s sustaining grace.
5. The Neglected Calling approach: Many times we experience weakness regardless of our choices. Sickness, job-loss, relational trials–many weaknesses are not connected to a particular choice to serve God. Sometimes, however, weakness is experienced precisely when we seek to pursue the calling that God has for us. Pastors experience criticism in their attempt to care, mother’s experience discouragement in their attempt to train, husbands experience weariness in their attempt to lead, missionaries experience persecution in their attempt to evangelize. In some cases the experience of weakness increases the more the calling is pursued. In these cases one way we avoid having to boast in our weakness is to avoid the callings that expose our vulnerability. We would rather avoid weakness, even if it means neglecting God’s calling.
Whatever the approach we might take to avoid boasting in weakness, the root cause is the same. I don’t want to admit my need for God. But God made me to boast in my weaknesses as the theater to display his glorious strength. My “weaknesses” are the backdrop to showcase God’s grace–healing grace in sickness, comforting grace in sorrow, sustaining grace in physical pain, assuring grace in trial, protecting grace in danger, empowering grace in weariness, fruit-bearing grace in my imperfect labor, accomplishing grace in my calling, and most importantly of all, the category that rises above all the others—saving grace for my sins. My weaknesses are an opportunity to know and see the supremely glorious grace of God.
Lord, all that I have is found in you. You have done for us all of our works. I count it all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing you.