A friend once told me “Your strength is your weakness and your weakness is your strength.”
When we depend on our own strength we are more likely to screw things up because we are less likely to ask for help. Our pride and self-confidence get in the way and keep us blind to things that we didn’t anticipate. But when we acknowledge our weaknesses, we are more likely to seek help from God and others. When God works through our weaknesses, he gets the glory and we are able to do far more than we ever could have expected.
Let me tell you about Pam. Pam was a member of our church in Cleveland. She suffered from agoraphobia and panic attacks, especially if she was away from home. At those times, her heart raced madly, her breath became shallow, her vision blurred and she was sure she was going to die. It was all she could do to get home to a place where she felt safe.
She prayed for many years, asking God to take away her fears, but she never got any better. Finally, she realized that God wasn’t going to give her a miraculous cure and so she started praying in a different way. In her weakness she leaned on God’s grace and asked him to help her take one little step at a time.
For example, one day she asked me to pray for her because she was going to put in a job application.
“Pam,” I said, “do you think that you’re ready to start working?”
“No,” she said, “but I will count myself a success if I just go to the job and put the application in.”
And that is what she did. She prayed for help, she went to the job, filled out an application and came back home. There were moments of anxiety, but with God’s help she got through it. When she was done, she patted herself on the back and thanked God for his help.
One year our church went to see Tetelestai, a passion play that portrayed Christ’s final days on earth. It was a rock musical, sort of like Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar. Pam was so touched by the performance that she wanted to join the cast and help bring the message to other people.
The only problem was her agoraphobia.
So she developed a plan to follow her dream. First, she joined the church choir. Everyone in the church knew of her dream and so whenever she sang, we were all praying and pulling for her. Sometimes she would have a panic attack, but she would take a few deep breaths, pray and with God’s help she got through the rest of the song. After singing she would sit in the back with her eyes closed, breathing deeply until the panic subsided.
Over the next few months she gradually became more accustomed to singing in front of people and the panic attacks became less. By the next year she was ready to take another step. Since I was directing the choir, she asked me if she could sing a solo verse in a choir anthem. This was a new level of anxiety but she began to do it regularly and began to conquer her fears.
After a few months, she took the next step. One day she asked me if she could sing a whole song as a solo in church. She needed some confidence, so she asked me to accompany her on guitar and stand by her while she sang. The church held their breath as she sang a sweet song and offered praise to God. From then on she blessed us regularly with her singing. We all knew about her agoraphobia so her courage was a testimony to God’s strength made perfect in her weakness.
The following January, Pam decided to audition for the cast of Tetelestai. I went with her early on a Saturday morning to accompany her on the guitar and provide some moral support. When she was done they invited her to join the cast.
She wasn’t quite ready to take that next step, however, so she declined and waited one more year. The next year she again auditioned and got a part as a villager who followed Jesus. Throughout Lent she performed three nights a week at different Catholic churches all over the city of Cleveland.
And now, some 35 years later, when Pam wants to have some fun, she sings at a karaoke bar.
The Apostle Paul once faced a similar situation. In spite of all his service to God, God gave him a “thorn in the flesh.” No one knows exactly what it was; just that it was a chronic, painful and debilitating illness. Three times he earnestly asked God to heal him, and three times God told him, No.
Instead God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul goes on to say,
So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and calamities
for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong .
II Corinthians 12: 9-10
Like Paul, Pam’s weakness turned out to be her strength. For God’s power was made perfect in her life and she became a shining witness to the grace of God.
© February 29, 2020 by Rev. Michael A. Weber.
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