Have you ever been in a job interview and been asked the question “What is your greatest weakness?”
I guess many, if not most, of us have been in that situation. We all know the unwritten rules of a question like that. We are not really supposed to talk about weakness so much as use the question to highlight a strength (‘I’m a perfectionist, I work too hard.’)!
But what if we were to speak honestly about our weaknesses? What if we were to own up to our mistakes and our failings? Sadly the church can be as bad as anywhere else at talking about weakness and failure. But that ought not to be the case.
You see, if we are to attempt anything for God, to seek to serve him wholeheartedly, it is certain we will fail at some point. To quote author J. K. Rowling, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.”
We are more than our failures and our weakness. But we are also able to shine and serve through our failure and weakness.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7–9)
The apostle Paul is talking here about the amazing treasure of knowing God through Jesus Christ. He says that we have this treasure in ‘jars of clay.’ That’s us. We are earthenware pots, easily broken, often cracked.
But that’s not a surprise to God. In fact, he has chosen it that way. Why? So that his power is shown, and people see that it is his power not our own.
I wonder if you have ever thought to yourself, “I wonder if God could use me despite my weakness?” The answer is yes … but I have a problem with the question! The problem is that word ‘despite’. You see, God doesn’t put up with our weakness, as if he would much rather have a stronger, better person, but he will put up with you since you are the best he’s got.
No, God works through our weakness. He deliberately uses weakness, so that his power and glory is shown.
There is a Japanese art called ‘kintsugi’. When a pot or a plate gets broken in a Japanese house, this art form takes it and repairs it. But rather than trying to hide the cracks and make it look as new, kintsugi embraces the brokenness. It repairs the broken vessel with gold, emphasising the cracks and weaknesses and making them beautiful.
That is the way that God works in us. He doesn’t just tolerate our weakness, he transforms it. He doesn’t work around our brokenness but works through it. He doesn’t remove our failure, but takes our failure and makes it beautiful.
That is what Paul can say later in this letter:
“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.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)