When my husband passed away after 36 years of marriage, several friends encouraged me with the words “You’re a strong woman!” In other words: “You can handle this.” Much as I was thankful for their trust in me, more than once I answered: “I’m weak, but I have a strong God!”

Strength Doesn’t Appear by Magic

When friends face tragedies, a common response is to console them by exhorting them, “Be be strong; have faith.” But strength and faith aren’t resources we can drum up as if by magic. They aren’t innate in us; the truth is that they grow in the middle of challenging experiences. In the long run, I’ve found, my true strength is God-given. 

Pleasure in Weakness?

A person reading a book with a magnifying glass and a pen in hand

One of my favorite praise songs is “You are my Hiding Place”, particularly the part that says “Let the weak say, I am strong in the strength of the Lord”. Undoubtedly the composer was inspired by the apostle Paul’s words: “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). He recognized that in the midst of his limitations, the magnifying glass concentrated on the true source of his strength!

When Paul asked God to heal him all of three times, the answer he received was that God’s grace was sufficient to sustain him, that his power is perfected in weakness. His response was basically: “Okay, Lord! So now I can even boast of my limitations, because they show that only you are behind whatever good they see in me! If that’s the way they’re going to see more of you in my life, let it be!”

That’s Margie’s paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 12:9, by the way.

God Chose the Weak!

Elsewhere (1 Corinthians 1:27) we learn that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

Right, God used some guys with no theological background so that the “wise guys” would be amazed at their boldness God. He used some tough, unschooled fishermen to revolutionize the known world at the time:

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

Just a Few “Weak Guys”

A man with messy white hair and a large Santa-like beard.

Throughout the years, God used some “weak but strong” golden-agers like Moses and Abraham, a little shepherd boy who had the godly guts to knock down a giant, a coward like Jonah, a couple of prostitutes, and a despised tax collector. In contrast, many “power people” in human terms, such as kings and prophets, fell into shame and misfortune when they failed to honor God.

More than “Be Strong”

In the words of Jon Bloom (from the Desiring God ministry), “God does not need us to be strong; he wants to be our strength!”

He wants you to grab hold of “the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4.11).

Then there’s Nehemiah’s words to the Israelites, who were weeping when they realized they hadn’t obeyed God’s commands: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

A Truly Strong Woman

In the description of a woman of noble character in Proverbs 31:25, we see that “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Her strength is the wardrobe she receives from her heavenly Father! Again, this draws attention to her clothing designer and sustainer, instead of lifting her up on a pedestal.

May my prayer, and yours, be: “Lord, be my strength. Clothe me with yourself so that I may face the future with faith, firmness… and even laughter!”