Click to read Part I.
It paints an interesting word picture to think of ourselves as shells of dust with the Spirit of God shining through the cracks. But what does this actually mean? What does this look like in the tangible?
As I think about this image, I think about Paul, who suffered a great deal during his ministry. 2 Corinthians 11 lists some of the afflictions he faced: beatings, stoning, imprisonment, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, pressures from the church, constant threat of danger and death. If anyone had a reason to feel as though he were “cracking up,” Paul certainly did. And yet he says, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… For Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:30; 12:10).
How is this possible? What does he mean, “When I am weak, then I am strong?”
The answer, of course, is that the weakness Paul experiences in his mortal body is an opportunity for the spirit of God to shine through. Paul tells how he pleaded three times with God to take away a particular affliction. But God answered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8).
God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. As long as we (wrongly) think we can handle something ourselves, we will distance ourselves from God and rely on our own fallible thoughts and feelings and actions. It is in our weaknesses that we go scurrying back to God. It is when our bodies are in pain, our minds are in turmoil, our situations look bleak – it is when we look in the mirror and realize how utterly weak we are – that is when we relinquish control and let God work in our lives.
Perhaps it is something we are afraid of that God pushes us to face. Perhaps it is an overwhelming schedule that forces us to draw on reserves we did not know we had. Perhaps it is the start of something new and we’re not sure what the next step is supposed to be or even what exactly the itinerary is that we have just signed up for. As we admit – to ourselves and to others – that we are afraid and overwhelmed and uncertain, we are showing the cracks in our human shell. And when we still manage to keep going despite these things, there is no other explanation except that God has taken over. That his power is shining through our weaknesses. Under our shattered surface there is an inhuman core of strength that can only come from God.
We may not feel strong. We may not think strong. That’s okay. The fact that we are still going, way out beyond what we feel and think we can go, is the very proof that we are relying on God. The miracle is not that we are strong, but that God is strong in us.
I love a quote from Cindy Davis who wrote: “The most amazing thing about a miracle is that it can’t happen until all else has failed. That’s God’s favorite time to work.”
In some of my darkest times, this thought was a comfort to me: all hope is never lost. By its very definition, every other possibility has to be eliminated before a miracle can occur. As you scratch out solution after solution, you are coming closer to God. As it seems in the natural world that you have long since passed the point of despairing, you are getting closer to God. God’s power is shown most perfectly when we are weakest, when 100% of the credit goes to Him, when we look and see no other answer: just God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8)
Click to jump to Cracking, Part III.