I finally got around to finishing my favorite book on parenting last week, Give Them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson. The closing chapters reminded me of the importance of rejoicing in our weaknesses. This was a timely reminder because all too often I find myself wishing my children would just be more compliant. I wish they would feel conviction over their sin and walk in obedience. Even if you are not a parent, we can all relate to the desire that things were easier. We wish that we didn’t struggle with this or that and that we could accomplish things on our own strength. We attempt to accomplish everything in ourselves so that we can get the credit. However, Christians are called to live entirely different. We are to, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “be content in our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.” We are not called to rely on ourselves for anything but look to Christ our Savior. As parents we can tend to rely on our own strength and methods to control our children’s behavior. But, every day I am reminded I can’t control them and I am in great need of God’s help. As Elyse and Jessica say in the book, “It is a kindness when he strips us of self-reliance, because it is there, in our emptiness and brokenness, that we experience the privilege of his sustaining grace. It is only when we arrive at that dreaded place of weakness that we discover the surpassing power of Christ.” Our weaknesses help sanctify us by keeping us humble and reliant on Christ, ultimately teaching us contentment in every situation.
As I said above, Christians should be acutely aware of their self-reliant nature. Every morning I wake up thinking if I just organize things better or say things in the right way for my stubborn children that they will finally listen to me and obey. Every day I fail. God reminds me I cannot rely on myself, I am not capable of getting through a second of the day without needing His grace. Our weaknesses are a reminder to rely on Christ throughout the day. Paul was stricken with, what he calls, a thorn in his flesh specifically to keep him humble. Paul had a lot of things that he could have boasted about. We frequently want people to look at our children, our job, our intellect, and we long to be praised by men. This is not an attitude that God wants us to have (Galatians 1:10). And so He gives us that stubborn child, that difficult boss or that tragedy as a means of grace by which he convicts us of our own pride in relying on ourselves and pushes us to our Savior. These things and or circumstances help us to stop looking to ourselves and force us to look to Christ and encourage others to do the same. Our weaknesses drive us to our savior. They drive us to rely on Christ for patience, strength, endurance and love so that when we do succeed or triumph it is obvious it was not us, but God.
Contrary to popular belief, weaknesses can teach us contentment. In the book they define contentment in a way I’ve never understood it before. I always thought of it as just a “hunker down” kind of attitude toward bad circumstances, but it is so much more than that. They explain in Give Them Grace, “Contentment here doesn’t mean Paul merely disciplined himself to respond with stoic apathy…It means he takes pleasure in or approves of these things. Paul doesn’t simply boast about his weaknesses; no, in fact they please him.” How is this possible? How can Paul take pleasure in his weaknesses? Not only weaknesses but also insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities; he leaves nothing out. Paul knew all these things would keep him reliant on Christ which would bring glory to Christ. As Elyse and Jessica explain, Paul understood that his life was meant to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and whatever came his way was ordained by God to accomplish just that. All things were done to sanctify him, further the gospel of Jesus Christ, and bring God glory. He reminds the churches that for the sake of Christ I am content. I am not saying that we should be dishonest about our circumstances; they may very well be sad and frustrating. However, I am saying that we can be pleased in them by the power of the Holy Spirit because we know God will use these things to sanctify us and bring God the glory He is due.
Ultimately, we can be content in all circumstances and take delight in our weaknesses because we know that for the believer God uses them to point others to himself and for the advancement of His kingdom. As MacArthur has said about this verse, “The weaker the human instrument, the more clearly God’s grace shines forth.”
Rachel is a wife and mother of four young children. She has a love for listening to expository preaching, theology, and doctrine. She desires to make Christ known through her marriage, parenting, and in every word and deed.