When someone in church asks: “How are you?” what’s your response?
Does the question fill you with delight? Do you speak openly of your fears? Share your struggles and your guilt? Allow your friends to glimpse the brokenness within so they can encourage you in the Lord? Or do you simply inwardly wince and say, “I’m fine, thanks – life’s good”?
According to a recent study, there are at least eight times a month when saying ‘I’m fine’ is a total lie! It seems that we, in Britain, tend to put on a ‘brave face’ and pretend everything’s OK because we think it’s embarrassing to show any sign of weakness.
I know that’s true for me. I guess it’s true for you.
For some of us, it might be more than embarrassment that drives us. Maybe we hate the idea of appearing weak – we long to be strong. Whether it’s physical might, emotional courage, or mental strength – at work, at home, at church – we want to be known for our successes, and we want our failures and weaknesses hidden far from sight.
How often do we drop into conversation something that demonstrates our value, our ability, our godliness? How often do we avoid telling others the things of which we are ashamed, the things that make us look fragile, unsuccessful, or even sinful?
The thing is, appearing weak makes us vulnerable. Everyone admires the person who is strong and capable and being admired is a comfortable place to be. We even tell ourselves that’s who God wants us to be too!
We persuade ourselves that being a “good” Christian means being productive, enthusiastic, and taking life in our stride. It’s not to struggle with stress, or chronic tiredness, or self-harm, or debt. These are weaknesses, and weaknesses should be left in the shadows, relegated to the realm of private prayer … surely?
But that’s not what Paul thinks, when he writes: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses” (2 Cor 12:9). It’s the kind of phrase that makes us do a double-take …
Boasting in weakness? Being glad of our frailties? The thought grates against everything we hold dear. Why would Paul do that? How is that even possible?
The clue lies in the sentence before, when then Lord promises him this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
It’s an astonishing thought. A revolutionary truth: God’s power is made perfect in weakness. God’s power in made perfect in our weakness.
Dr Joanna Jackson is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and is the Director of Counselling at the All Souls Counselling Service in London.