Relying On God in Our Weakness
2 Corinthians 11:24-27; 12:9-10
“Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.”
“... but [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Our church’s recent mission trip to the REMAR orphanage and school in La Libertad, El Salvador - our second - led me to several observations. Some of these weren’t new observations, but reminders (and I need those reminders!).
First, I am reminded that many of us have won what might be called the “birth lottery.” We have been born in the United States, or a similar wealthy country, to educated and comparatively wealthy parents, where we had great opportunities for education, good jobs, exposure to the arts and even travel and other occasions of leisure. We have been raised in mostly stable countries with many freedoms.
Many people in other parts of the world - including the children of REMAR - have not been nearly so blessed.
Second, there are people of incredible faith, offering love, support, prayers, and teaching to others in great need. I see this in the staff at REMAR, and I am inspired. Maria Gonzales, the director of REMAR in La Libertad, said to me, “Vivimos que fe” - “We live by faith!” - and even if she had never said these words, I witnessed it with my own eyes. From day to day, the leaders of REMAR aren’t sure how many new children will show up at their doorstep, whether the government sends them or they show up at the gate because someone has told them about REMAR.
I’m also reminded, when I serve with my fellow missionaries, that there are plenty of people in our own country who want to serve in the way that Jesus commanded us to serve - seeing and responding to the needs of others by offering a class, a hug, a strong back to move building materials, a listening ear, or by simply being willing to enter into a game of soccer.... finding unity through play and laughter.
When I read about Paul’s missionary service in today’s passage from 2 Corinthians, I am reminded of two things: 1) Paul went through way more hardships than I have ever encountered, and 2) Paul, like our friends in REMAR, recognized his deep need for God. His weaknesses, his hardships, his challenges in daily life, were all an avenue for God’s strength, God’s power, and God’s faithfulness to shine through.
What feels overwhelming to you today? Do you feel woefully unprepared or even inadequate to meet the tasks and challenges of this day? God has you right where God wants you! Will you use these circumstances as a reminder that each of us is ultimately fully dependent on God... for everything that we need? Will you use your weaknesses, your lack, your spiritual poverty as reminders to call out to God in prayer? “Almighty, all-knowing and all-vulnerable God, be my strength and power, and provide for everything that I need this day. I pray in the Name of the One who emptied himself and took on our humanity, in obedience and faithfulness... I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Let us walk in the footsteps of Jesus, Paul, and our brothers and sisters at REMAR. The Lord’s grace is sufficient for us, too. When we are weak, the Lord is revealed as strong. The only thing we have to boast about is Christ - the faithfulness, love, and generosity of Christ.