There are times in our lives when following Christ doesn’t come naturally to us. Maybe prayer doesn’t come as easily, or following after our temptations seem more appealing to us than following after Him. In these moments or periods in our life, it’s hard to see anything besides our own weakness and insufficiency. Why not just give up or accept that this being a Christian thing is just too tough in 2016?
Because when we are weak, Christ is strong! His grace is sufficient for us. His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
But how do we make the connection between intellectually understanding that God is bigger than our problems and our weaknesses and actually believing it? How do we let God make a mosaic of our broken pieces?
Here are three things we can do to find strength in our weakness.
Before we can let God into our lives and let Him take care of us, we have to accept the situation at hand. We have to acknowledge what our weakness is, what our current stumbling block is, what cross we are carrying or what thorn is in our flesh (Mark 8:34, 2 Corinthians 12:7). We have to accept what mistakes we have made, what decisions weren’t the best.
But acceptance doesn’t mean focusing on the problem.
It’s so easy to immediately start to despair when we see something that needs improvement in our lives or think we have to jump up and start on some self-improvement technique. It isn’t our job to fix everything, it isn’t on us to make ourselves perfect or strong. We just have to acknowledge what needs fixing, to accept where our weakness lies instead of pretending it isn’t there, so that God can provide the strength.
2. Letting go of the past
What’s done is done. We have to accept that, too. But then we have to let go of it. The Church offers us the sacrament of confession as a tool to help us let go of the past and move forward with God’s grace as our strength. Confession goes against everything we think we should do: acknowledging what we’ve done wrong and admitting we can’t fix ourselves. And unlike our natural instinct to keep doing what harms us, confession actually works!
One of the most powerful tools to bring others to Christ is giving a witness to a life transformed. Instead of providing an image of a perfect life, the Christian witness is to God’s power in our lives to heal and to transform us. The Church doesn’t need more perfect people, it needs more imperfect people desiring to be made whole.
If we are living free from the burden of our past, by letting go by turning to God in confession, others will be drawn to the Church too - they will see weak people becoming strong in Christ.
When we keep focusing on our limitations, it’s hard to see the good already in our lives. The cross is a reminder of how God can take something negative and make it a source of joy. Around the feast of the Cross in September, we hear scripture readings that remind us that Christ is the source of our joy and gratitude. Instead of “folly”, the message of the Cross is the “power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And the hymns of the Church remind us that “through the Cross joy has come into all the world.”
So how can we focus on gratitude instead of our current struggle? We can remember the joy of Pascha. We can thank God for the opportunity to be a part of the Church which offers us God’s grace and healing. We can be grateful that we have the rest of the Body of Christ to lean on when we believe the lie that we’re all alone.
Gratitude helps reorient our thoughts from only seeing our weakness to seeing how God is already supporting us by His steady hand.
We’re imperfect people, but God desires to know us anyway. We don’t have to deal with our imperfection alone, we have Christ as our strength and the Church as our fellowship. He can strengthen us in our moments and days of feeling down about ourselves or our ability to live the Christian life. When we accept our need for His help, and by letting go of the past, we can rest in gratitude for what God is already doing in our lives.
What are you struggling with today? How can your weakness be an opportunity for God to show His power in your life? What is something you are grateful for today?
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Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.
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