By: Natalie Plumb
I’ve always considered myself a strong person by nature. I never cry in front of anyone unless it’s a moment appropriate for mourning. I take in all that might happen to me in a given day – literal trauma, or no trauma – and reflect it. I don’t let it penetrate me. I listen to others’ problems or circumstances without judgment or surprise. I project neutrality. More poignantly, I rarely take the caution to “guard my heart,” as our Lord wisely advises in Proverbs 4:23, because I think I’m stronger than what will come my way. I mean…I am, right?
I felt very powerful and right about that. And then tears entered my day at an unexpected moment this week… I wanted to excuse myself for being such a child… I felt like rebuking myself for acting like a baby…
I know that it’s impossible to pretend that everything bounces off of me – that everything is okay, no matter what happens or is said or done, including by myself to myself. But, still, I always try to mitigate that truth. I underestimate the power of emotional stress, which is more powerful than a physical ailment, at times, and is the thing that can quickly drive someone down the path of depression or insanity. Taylor Swift hits the right chord in “Shake It Off,” but only in part. You have to express your pain. You have to release it, acknowledge it, and then let it go.
And so, I ask: What is strength, if it’s not being strong enough to avoid being hurt? What is strength if I can’t desensitize myself to everything hurtful and simply let it “ride”?
I must have the definition of “strength” all backward. Literally.
I was sitting in a chapel, ironically earlier this same week when I unexpectedly found myself in a moment of weakness, flipping through the Bible and various other texts for spiritual inspiration (because I do a terrible job at simply sitting still), when I came across a verse that terrifies me, because it seems so impossible:
“…but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Huh? I thought, unable to fully make sense of what I read. How can I “boast…of my weaknesses”? What’s so “perfect” about “insults” or “constraints”? Instead of desperately skipping on to another passage like I normally would, I thought about it a little longer.
I repeated to myself: “When I am weak, only then am I strong.”
God, what does that mean? I guess I know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean everything that I assume when I believe that I can make myself strong, without God’s help, and without trust in His goodness…
It doesn’t mean that we must be hard shells that never let a speck of pain influence us.
It doesn’t mean never to cry.
It doesn’t mean not to be influenced by external forces that may hurt you emotionally, spiritually or physically.
Imagine the kind of strength it takes to boast in your weaknesses… If I’m interpreting correctly, God doesn’t want us to try to do that on our own. God wants us to embrace our weaknesses, and turn them over to Him. He makes them strengths. He is in control. He will make us strong.
Now isn’t that yoke a lot less heavy to bear?
Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.