“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Cor. 12:9 NLT)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always misunderstood this verse. At face value, in my eyes anyway, this means that all I need to do when I am weak is to submit the problem to Christ, and He will make me strong. Strong enough to conquer, strong enough to do whatever is required of me.
And so it has been that time and time again, I am doomed for disappointment. I pray the prayer, I submit the problem to God, and I wait for the strength; but it never comes…
Am I alone in this? Or do you also find yourself a bit discouraged that even though God promises strength, you still feel weak?
Take illness as an example. Your illness makes you feel tired. You know you need to get up and do some things, but you are just too tired to even think about it. So you pray and claim the promise of 2 Cor. 12:9, and you wait. But it never comes, and whatever you needed to do doesn’t get done…
Or perhaps you are inundated with responsibilities at work. There’s no way you will finish by your deadline, and the thoughts of failure flood your soul. You claim the promise of 2 Cor. 12:9, and you wait for someone to come along and help you out, or for some of the deadlines to extend, or even for that punch of adrenalin. But the help never comes.
One more example. Let’s say you have just experienced a death in your family. You are blinded by grief, and you have no energy or ambition to even get out of bed. Nonetheless, you have to plan a funeral, settle the estate, etc. You remember 2 Cor. 12:9 and you claim the promise of His strength; but the raw grief continues to bind you as if you had never prayed.
I could go on; but suffice to say, for all apparent purposes, God isn’t keeping this promise!
Why not? Doesn’t He keep all of His promises?
That’s where I’ve so often found myself. “God, I’m not sure how You define ‘weakness’, but I’ve never been weaker!”
The only problem is, God does keep His promises (See Ps. 145:13). Every one of them, including 2 Cor. 12:9! When something goes wrong, it is never God; rather, it is always … me!
So where am I going wrong?
Perhaps the problem lies in how I interpret 2 Cor. 12:9. Let’s take a closer look at the first part: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
Wait. Let’s reread that line: “My power works best … IN … weakness” (emphasis mine). Here I am awaiting strength before stepping out. Meanwhile God is saying that He will strengthen me, not when I feel strong, but when I am IN my weakness!
Let’s take a closer look now at the second part of this verse: “I am glad to … boast … about … my weaknesses…” (emphasis mine). Notice this doesn’t say that I’m praising God for removing my weaknesses. It says I am actually asked to brag about my weaknesses!
And finally, “…so that the power of Christ can work … through … me.” (emphasis mine). This doesn’t say that God’s power will change my circumstances. It simply says that the power of Christ will work through me to overcome them.
The difference is subtle. Don’t miss it!
What this means is that after claiming this promise for strength and power, I need to set out IN my illness-related fatigue! And that step of faith on my part opens the door for God’s power to work through me. It doesn’t mean I will feel energetic. It simply means that despite my weakness, I can do all things … through Christ (See Phil. 4:13)!
And about that pile of responsibilities at work? While I am waiting for Him to send my pre-defined solutions, God is saying that He will strengthen … ME … not by removing the insurmountable problems, but through those same problems! Again, the difference is subtle, and I beg you to not miss it. This means that after claiming this promise, I need to set out IN my current state, ever believing that it is IN my weakness that God’s power works best!
Then there is that example of profound grief. I wish I could tell you that claiming 2 Cor. 12:9 would make the grief go away, but it doesn’t work that way. Rather, while I am IN my grief, I can do what is required of me. My job is to start doing it, ever believing that God’s power works best … IN … my weakness!
I could tell you hundreds of examples where this has proven the case in my life. This verse doesn’t promise that we’ll have our problems and circumstances removed. It simply assures us that we can have faith that God’s power will accomplish all that needs to be done … while we are in our weaknesses. His power works through them!
Are you feeling weak? Overwhelmed? Inadequate? Like what you have in front of you to do is absolutely impossible? Claim 2 Cor. 12:9, and then step out … into … those same circumstances, ever believing that God’s power will be perfected … in … those same circumstances!
In His love,
Moderator, Associate Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries