If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness –2 Cor 11:30.
It’s such a comfort to know that the flaws in my personality, gifts, talents, and skills are exactly the places where God can show Himself most clearly. My weaknesses leave more room for God to work and be glorified: like gaps in the clouds let the sun shine through (see the photo at the bottom of this post). I’ve experienced it many times. But let’s push this very-well-known verse a little farther.
After enumerating all the horrible stuff that he had endured or overcome (five times whipped, three times beaten, three times shipwrecked, etc. – 2 Cor 11:21-29), Paul says, in essence, “Then there was this one time . . .”. The Apostle Paul snuck out of a city by climbing through a window and being lowered to the ground in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). A BASKET, people! Think about that. It’s totally out of character for Paul. Was he having a wimpy moment? Did he suddenly “chicken out”? Why didn’t he march right up to that king and tell him about Jesus, as usual?!?
Because Paul knew that martyrdom isn’t always the path to Father’s greatest glory. Sometimes God calls us to make the meek choice, which means not defending ourselves . . . or Him. Notice I said “meek”, not “weak.” It is that very “weakness” (from an outsider’s point-of-view) which best accomplishes God’s purpose. What the world sees as cowardice may be exactly what He wants from me or you. They thought Jesus was weak because He let Himself be hung on a cross. Hmm . . .
Should we renounce our faith? Never. Should we sometimes flee, sometimes stand firm? Yes. His will is not this cut-and-dried, always-the-same kind of thing . . . even within one life. I’ve met quite a few people (okay, I used to be one of them) who think that the most difficult, brash, heroic, suffering-filled thing MUST be God’s will. With all due respect to the thousands of actual martyrs that God has called to release life for His glory, I call this attitude a “martyr mindset.” Who is the hero in those situations? That is, who actually gets the glory? There’s often a little something inside us that says, “Look at me! I’m suffering for the Lord,” or we take it into our prayers: “Oh Father, look how I’ve suffered for You. Now I deserve _______________!”
As each trial arises, we need to ask for clear direction: “What is the path to His greatest glory here?” The hardest thing or the greatest suffering may not always be what He wants from us at that time. It’s uncommon sense, but when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:10).
Be ready to face the whip but also be ready to climb in the basket.