I have been called a weakling. First, by other children taunting me on the school playground and then chasing me home shouting “weakling” and throwing stones at me. I was bullied from kindergarten through the fifth grade until we moved to a new city. There, to my relief, I was able to fade into the background.
Second, I called myself a weakling when I struggled with depression in my 20s, many miles from home at a major state university.
I called myself a weakling when I could not stop the tears from slipping down my cheeks during early special education planning meetings with my children’s teachers, therapists, and special education administrator. The focus seemed to come down overwhelmingly on the balance sheet in terms of my children’s weaknesses. Their speech and language deficits, their fine and gross motor skills deficits, their social skills deficits, their auditory processing deficits were written out in excruciating detail. The list of their strengths seemed to be a mere formality…a grasping for anything to write down on the credit side.
Those people who say that God only gives you what you can handle don’t read the Bible deeply or broadly. As I was bringing up my children, I was certain that the Lord was giving me way more than I could handle. I was too weak to bear this burden.
But the Bible is full of people who were too weak to bear what God had given them.
Paul, the apostle struggled with weakness in the face of a serious health problem. He came to God. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
David, the king of Israel in ancient times, spoke about God’s understanding of our weakness.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103)
Again, David acknowledges weakness in Psalm 61: 1-2 (NIV)
“Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
When faced with the cross, Jesus cried out in anguish to God, ““Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[c]” (Luke 22:42-44 NIV). He needed to be strengthened to go on to carry out the work of the Father.
The gospel itself is a testament to our weakness before God. We are utterly unable to save ourselves by our own strength.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5: 6-8).
I was drawn to Jesus when I was nine years old, in part because I knew that He understands what it is like to be taunted and mocked. He understands weakness. He understands suffering.
God gave me a counselor to help me during the time of depression at the university…a perfect fit. She called me strong for seeking help. But that is all that I could do at the time. I failed 2 out of 4 classes every quarter that year, but I stayed at the university for the counseling, and I was healed.
The team of teachers were very concerned for me as I could not hide my weakness. But God gave me strength. He led me to others who helped bear my burdens.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)