About a month ago I was in a store and I glanced at the strategically placed row of magazines while I was waiting to check out and one in particular caught my eye. It was Oprah. I know this because she was on the cover. And she's on the cover of every issue. Anyway... the cover story headline read, "You're Stronger Than You Think You Are" and I thought to myself, "Bull!" Although if I'm honest, there was a second syllable to that word.
It struck an emotion in me somewhere between ticked off and amused. Because the truth is, I don't think we are nearly as strong as we think we are. And I think it's a huge disservice to keep telling people to find their inner strength and pull themselves up by the bootstraps when they only find real strength in the midst of their weakest moments. And the strength doesn't come from themselves.
I have identified over the course of several years of therapy that there have been people and things that have had strongholds on my life but I didn't derive any real strength from them. And I've only recently discovered how I had allowed a certain extent of my own identity to be defined through these relationships and possessions.
As a Christian, my identity is first and foremost in Christ. I am literally "in" Him and He is in me. It's the truest way to define myself. And if He really is the all powerful one (and I believe He is) than the only way to obtain real strength is from Him.
One of the Bible verses I used to be most confused about is in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. It says "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (NASB)
I've read that a lot and I used to come away going, "Huh??"
How can I be strong when I'm weak?
But just a verse earlier it says power is perfected in weakness. Then it talks about the power of Christ and how it may dwell in me. I don't think I was too hepped up on having Christ's power dwell in me. I kind of preferred my own. Until my own proved insufficient. It took awhile for me to figure out that my weakest moments were actually an act of God's grace. Because who invites another power in when you're own seems to be working just fine?
I'm an American who lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago in the 21st century, so I don't know nearly as much about insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties as the apostle Paul. But I have noticed that the closer I get to Jesus, the more I experience these things for His sake. I'm at a point now where I'm content in those circumstances.
Because when I am weak, I am strong.