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What does it mean that when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10)?

when I am weak then I am strong

Scripture employs paradoxes to convey profound messages, one of which is found in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Let’s delve into the context of 2 Corinthians 12 to shed light on Paul’s words.

Some false apostles had besieged the church in Corinth when Paul wrote the second letter. These false teachers pretended to be superior to Paul, exuding self-confidence and boasting of their pedigree and accomplishments in order to exploit the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:19–20). They wanted to be seen as “super-apostles” (verse 5). In response, Paul sarcastically decides to boast like the false apostles. However, instead of boasting about his accomplishments, he speaks of his sufferings and weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:23–33). While maintaining this “boast,” he recounts a supernatural experience (2 Corinthians 12:1–6), then transitions to an undisclosed “thorn in my flesh” given to prevent him “from becoming conceited” (verse 7). The exact nature of this thorn is unclear, but it was unpleasant enough for Paul to pray for its removal. He writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (verse 8). God’s response, however, is a “no,” or, more specifically, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9). God’s reply brings comfort to Paul, who realizes the purpose of the thorn.

Like the apostle Paul, we need not be ashamed of our weaknesses, whatever they may be. For some, it could be an enduring illness that God hasn’t taken away. Other weaknesses might include shyness, poverty, illiteracy, or speech impediments. We all have limitations and tend to conceal them, striving to appear stronger than we truly are. Paul offers an alternative perspective: showing gratitude for our weaknesses.

The beauty of weakness lies not in the weakness itself, but in how God’s power shines through it. Consequently, Paul could call himself strong even in weakness. Our limitations remind us of our finitude, which, in turn, leads us to God. It is remarkable how His strength radiates through our weaknesses. Consider the example of Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic whose story has inspired many and through whom God continues to showcase His strength.

Paul’s concept of embracing weakness runs counter to prevailing beliefs about the Christian journey. In many circles, acknowledging weakness is seen as a lack of faith. However, the Bible does not deny human weaknesses. On the contrary, it affirms that we are inadequate without the Almighty (see Psalm 121:2; Jeremiah 17:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 4:13). Apart from Jesus, we “can do nothing” (John 15:5). Pretending to be strong and boasting about one’s aptitude are characteristics of false teachers, and there’s no need for us to live in falsehood.

Furthermore, in Paul’s personal testimony, “When I am weak, then I am strong,” teaches us that there are instances when God may answer a prayer request with a “no.” This truth can be challenging to accept. But, even on a human level, if an individual has difficulty saying “no,” it’s considered a fault. Some things should be said “no” to. God is not a “yes man,” and the purpose of prayer isn’t to obtain our desires as much as to align ourselves with God’s will. Paul grasped this invaluable lesson, and we will be blessed if we do the same.

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Questions about 2 Corinthians

What does it mean that when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10)?
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This page last updated: August 31, 2023