As a football coach I regularly hear excitable parents shout this phrase to encourage their dejected offspring on the pitch. I hear people encourage their friends with the same phrase as they anxiously prepare for a job interview and my own kids use the phrase to bring out the best in each other when they are struggling. So when I recently purchased a delicious coffee from a local outlet and saw this phrase emblazoned around the cup, I totally appreciated the heart behind the slogan – we’re in the middle of a pandemic, everyone is struggling and we need all the encouragement we can get.
However, I was really struggling at the time and, if I’m being completely honest, I hadn’t ‘got this’! In fact I hadn’t ‘got’ anything left at all! If I was going to get through the struggle and make it out the other side, I needed to look somewhere other than myself because I was clean out of strength, out of resources and running on fumes.
This certainly wasn’t the first time I had felt like this and so, by God’s grace, I was able to apply some tried and tested timeless truths that have saved and sustained me in the past and continue to do so to this day. These simple, rich and robust truths are rooted in the gospel and I am pleased to share them with you here in the hope that they might serve you too.
Own your weaknesses
You cannot attend a Welsh rugby match at Cardiff’s iconic Principality Stadium without experiencing tens of thousands of fans belting out the classic hymn Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah. Sadly, I doubt many of them take much notice of the words they are singing, but for me some of the most helpful lines in the hymn are as follows:
I am weak but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
There is something beautifully liberating about being able to confess that I am weak. When I was younger, stronger, prouder and more naive I would boisterously sing those lyrics but their truth didn’t resonate with me. However, as the years have passed, the energy levels have waned and the hits have kept on coming, the failures have heaped up and though the wounds have healed, the scars remain.
Now, I can say with honesty and integrity that I am truly weak – pathetically so. I wish I was stronger (physically, spiritually and emotionally) and I am still prone to putting on masks in a bid to convince myself and others that I am mightier than I truly am. However, I am learning that it is better to dispense with the mask and to own my many weaknesses. I am now in full agreement with Jesus that ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
Without Jesus I am helpless and hopeless to either save myself or live a godly life. That’s humbling, but humility is good because, as James reminds us, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ (Jam. 4:6).
The weak and broken don’t need masks. We need grace.
Embrace Christ’s strength
A saint who would definitely agree with this is the Apostle Paul. This brother, more than your average Joe, had plenty of reasons to be cocky and self-confident and yet, had the pride crushed out of him. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul recites the numerous reasons that he could have bragged but then confesses to a ‘thorn’ in his flesh that caused deep and insufferable distress. We are never told what Paul’s thorn was, we just know that he pleaded with God to remove it: ‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me’ (v 8).
However, God in his loving wisdom did not remove it, because he knew that Paul needed something better than relief from his suffering, he needed grace to sustain him through his suffering. ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”’ (v 9).
Paul requested comfort, deliverance and respite. God said no and promised instead the gift of grace that would be sufficient for him. Furthermore, Paul was given the reassurance that his weakness provided the perfect platform for the Lord to showcase his perfect power. This is puzzling, amazing, and slightly troubling as on the surface it doesn’t sound victorious, it sounds painful and costly, but this was indeed God’s kindness. Paul had previously asserted that ‘no flesh should glory in his presence’ (1 Cor. 1:29 KJV).
The gospel is not for the strong, it’s for the sinful, sick and struggling. It’s not for the brilliant, it’s for the broken. It’s not for the proud but for the humble. It’s not our glory but his!
Paul fully subscribed to this which is why he was able to enthusiastically embrace God’s curious providence by declaring:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
When I am weak, then I am strong. Wow! Can I really say that? Do I truly believe that? Do you?
It sounds so counterintuitive to those of us raised in a culture that tells us that we should be the best and that only the strong survive or that second place is first loser, but this is the way of Christianity because it was the way of Christ. He humbled himself and carried his cross all the way to Calvary where he bled and died for us. Why should we expect it to be any different for us? It was through the folly and weakness of the cross that the Lord triumphed over Satan, sin and death and redeemed a people for himself; a people that were too pitifully weak and wretched to save themselves; a people that desperately needed grace to save them and who, having been saved by grace, are to depend on that same grace to sustain them all the way to the finish-line.
The gospel exposes our weakness, apart from Jesus we truly can do nothing, but it also promises supernatural strength to all those who humbly turn to Jesus:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).
You got this! Nah, I got Jesus, which is better by far!