Embracing Weakness in Christian Life

In this video, Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel unpack the idea that “in God’s kingdom, weakness is the way, not because the goal is weakness, the goal is power.”


The following is a lightly edited transcript; please check the video before quoting.

Jamin Goggin: The truth is we don’t have to go hunting for our weaknesses. Life has a way of presenting them to us regularly if we pay attention. And I think as a dad, myself, a parent, there are these daily moments where I’m aware of my weaknesses. That even though I’m a pastor, have two masters’ degrees in seminary, and am pursuing a PhD in systematic theology, my 6-year-old can ask me a question that strips me bare and brings this recognition that I don’t really know the answer to that.

And even these places that I find myself often feeling equipped and strong, weaknesses can be exposed. Moments when your children ask you the same question over and over again, and you’ve answered it several times, and now you find yourself just really annoyed and short of patience, and you recognize a weakness in your own heart.

These moments show up all our life. And for some of us, as we age and get older, it’s the reality that our bodies can’t do what they used to do, that we can’t engage in things with the same energy level, that we’ve been slowed down in our work. For some of us, it’s in our work environments, when we bump up against the projects or requirements, that we realize we don’t have the answer for, that our skill set isn’t enough to kind of resolve the issue and find a solution. And we have to actually turn to others we work with and say, “Can you help me?” The list could go on and on and on, right, but the truth of our lives is, they’re constantly mirroring weaknesses to us, these areas. Whether it’s parenting, or marriage, or work, or aging, whatever it might be, or preaching a sermon.

The question is not, do we have weaknesses, the question is, what do we do with these? The question is not, will we face weakness in our life, the question is, are we willing to embrace our weaknesses? And if so, well, to what end? I think, sometimes we hold this misguided notion that we either embrace power or weakness.

The question is not, do we have weaknesses, the question is, what do we do with these? The question is not, will we face weakness in our life, the question is, are we willing to embrace our weaknesses?

But what we see in 2 Corinthians is Paul developed this whole other way of understanding the relation of power and weakness in the Christian life. Paul is going to develop this idea that in fact, it’s in embracing our weaknesses that we come to note real power in the kingdom, real power for living. The words of Christ to Paul admits his weakness in 2 Corinthians is, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”

And so the question is, as we face weaknesses in our day to day lives, as weaknesses are mirrored to us through parenting or through work or whatever it might be, do we view these as occasions by which we can come to know what it means to rely upon God’s strength? Do we view these as occasions by which we can come to know the grace of God in an ever-deeper way in our life? Do we view these as occasions for deep and profound growth in communion with Christ? Or are we tempted to kind of avoid our weaknesses at all costs, hide and cover them as best we can by maybe highlighting other people’s weaknesses? Or protect ourselves from seeing them and others seeing them but kind of pushing forward other strengths and abilities and gifts to kind of mask what’s really there? Or do we view these as actually profound moments of genuine grace in our life, where we’re given this opportunity to know what Christ had invited the apostle Paul to know, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect right in this place. You can come to know what a truly powerful life is if you’re willing to embrace your weakness and abide in me.”

Are we tempted to kind of avoid our weaknesses at all costs, hide and cover them as best we can by maybe highlighting other people’s weaknesses?

Kyle Strobel: To Jamin’s point, this is actually part of the good news that we tend not to think is good. It’s good news that God’s power is known in our weakness. I have many more weaknesses than I have strengths. If God’s power is known in strength, that’s bad news for most of us.

If God’s power is known in strength, that’s bad news for most of us.

But this is good news. The problem is we don’t think that way culturally. We presume that, no, it’s my strength, that’s what I need to devote my life to. And I think, building on everything Jamin just said, one of the hardest things that most of us have to bear in our marriages, in our vocations, maybe, particularly, I would say even more than in church ministry, if you believe you’re called in an area where you have a lot of natural strength, that is a very difficult place to be.

Moses didn’t really consider himself a very good speaker, and God’s like, “You’re going to be my mouthpiece.” That’s actually a great place to be if you need to know I need to embrace weakness because all you’re confronted with constantly is weakness. But if you’re called in a place where, you think, “I’m a savvy rhetorician, and now I’m going to be a pastor,” you will be constantly tempted to wield your strength, to wield yourself for the sake of the kingdom, in a way that ultimately warps it. And that is one of the most disconcerting realities, particularly in ministry, that we can be confronted with.

You will be constantly tempted to wield your strength, to wield yourself for the sake of the kingdom, in a way that ultimately warps it.

In truth, we all have weaknesses. Culturally, we think we’re supposed to reject them. And if we have an area of strength, your weakness is directly tied to that reality. My weakness may be that I want to rely on my power, that I want to rely on my savvy, that I want to rely on all my abilities, that I want to rely on all sorts of technologies, that if I can wield these, then I can achieve real things.

In God’s kingdom, weakness is the way, not because the goal is weakness, the goal is power. But it’s power that is found in weakness. And so as we reframe the reality of what life in faith looks like, that will help us see that these things aren’t things to destroy. And this is why Paul, right after 2 Corinthians 12:9, when he’s told by the risen Lord that power is found in weakness. “So, therefore, I will boast in my weaknesses, so that when I’m insulted, when I undergo calamities, and hardships, and even persecutions, I can embrace them as in a sense of gifts, because when I’m weak, then I am strong.”

In God’s kingdom, weakness is the way, not because the goal is weakness, the goal is power.

I can’t pray that quite yet with Paul, I’m not all that content in hardships, persecutions, insults. But notice that, in the kingdom, these things aren’t something to run away from. These are opportunities to be with our Lord and say, “Lord, look at this. I need you here.” When the goal is humility and the goals of abiding, these things aren’t scary, right? These are opportunities.