My life has been a series of one exceptional mess after another. And I’m not just referring to my life before Christ. My life as a Christian has been just as much of a mess as my life was before I became a Christian. Minus the excessive and abusive use of drugs, alcohol and women. But a mess nonetheless.
I love to read biographies of other Christian leaders and listen to other Christians’ testimonies. I always read and hear of these people whom, when they had their encounter with the grace of God, were also miraculously delivered from every major sin they ever struggled with. I envy those kinds of christians. Because things didn’t work out for me that way. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if they’re lying. Such a reality seems theologically impossible to me when I look at Paul’s description of the struggle with sin in Romans 7. But that’s besides the current point. There are those who claim to have experienced such deliverance. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I am what I like to call, perfectly imperfect.
I have struggles that are very real and, for whatever reason, God will not deliver me from them no matter how hard I plead. Most of them not even necessarily sin but just weaknesses that don’t work in my favor. Please note that I did say most of them. Some of them are very real and serious sins that I struggle with every minute of every passing day. Anger, envy, greed, jealousy, hate, vanity, lust, pride… just to name a few in a very general way.
Leaning more toward the side of weaknesses I think my biggest weakness is depression. Something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. Only recently have I been able to recognize it for what it is and have the courage to confess it. Another great weakness of mine is my addictive personality. Combine these two things into one person who is also lacking greatly in the areas of self-esteem and self-discipline and you’ve got one big mess on your hands.
I know that most of my struggles can be cured with a simple healthy dose of good old self-discipline. But when it comes to certain other things I often feel so powerless over them. It’s like my brain is just hard wired a certain way and there’s nothing I can do about it. To most of you that will sound like an excuse for my weaknesses. Some of you might be able to relate.
But here’s a revolatory thought for those to whom such a line may sound like an excuse. Fist, let me be clear that I am a firm believer that there is no legitimate excuse for active indulgence in sin. Sin is sin and that’s all there is to that. I’m referring more so to the application of weaknesses which are not sins within themselves. They are simply character flaws in areas where we are not all that strong.
A person cannot say in application to sin, “Hey man, Its just the way I am and no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to do anything about it.” We would accurately call this an excuse which makes provision for our sin. And the Bible is very clear that not only have we been saved from the penalty of sin but we have also been saved from the power of sin and will one day be saved from the presence of sin. We have been given power over sin so that we can overcome it. No Christian in their right mind would argue this.
But I’ve yet to see in the Bible where it says we have been given power over our weaknesses. Is power over sin the same thing? Not if we define weaknesses as character flaws which are not sin. So here’s the revaltory thought. What if I am making excuses for my weaknesses? Or even crazier… what if I embraced my weaknesses as good things and made no excuse for them at all!?
The world (society and culture) embed into people a mentality that thinks we have to constantly be working to improve ourselves. To make ourselves better people. This trickles over into wealnesses, character flaws, being looked down upon. That is the societal norm. It is not good to be weak. It is good to be strong.
And this has trickled over into the church because we Christians bring the thoughts that have been impressed on us from our culture with us when we become Christians. Without even realizing it we allow these things to shape our faith instead of allowing our faith to shape them. This is easily evidence if you just take a cursory look at the plethora of Christian self help books and sermons that flood our bookstore and churches.
I call “Christian” self help books those books that aim at making us (or helping us) to be “better” Christians. Many of these books are warranted. They are needed, written by good people with good motives to help others, and do a lot of good in helping people overcome some serious struggles. I’ve got a whole bunch of them in my own personal library that I have benefited greatly from. So I’m not downing them at all.
What I am saying is that if we are not careful we will allow these kinds of sermons and books to ingrain a non-truth in us. That is the thought that a weak Christian is not a good Christian. That weaknesses in the Christian are to be looked down upon. That the struggling Christian is less than the one who struggles less.
We allow the world’s way of thinking about weaknesses to shape the way we think about them. But the Bible has a much different view of weaknesses. We see this in the apostle Paul who openly embraced his weaknesses. Who said that his weaknesses made him strong. Who even went as far to boast about them instead of boasting about his strengths.
Now try that one on for a week. For the next week run around boasting about your struggles with depression, hate, porn, cigarettes, sex, drugs, jealousy, envy, greed or whatever it is that you struggle with. Next time you’re tempted to open your mouth to boast about your strengths and accomplishments boast about your weaknesses and failures instead.
That probably sounds all wrong to you. The thought of boasting about your weaknesses and failures probably makes you cringe. If it does that’s because you’ve allowed the world to shape the way you see your strengths and weaknesses.
You know why you’re weaknesses are good? Because they force you to stay at the foot of the cross. To rely on God’s strength and not your own. To be centered in God’s goodness, grace and mercy amd not your own righteousness.
I say I’m perfectly imperfect because the only thing perfect about me is my imperfections. I am not afraid or ashamed to admit I am so very flawed and weak. I’ve learned not to fight to overcome my weaknesses anymore. But to enjoy the freedom of loving my weaknesses because they keep me near to God.
That is what grace is. I’m weak. So what. I’m a heaping mess of all kinds of junk. So what. I’m volatile and reckless and emotional and insecure and never know if I’m going to make it through tomorrow without getting in my flesh. So what. I’m perfectly imperfect and it’s ok.
God loves me. God loves you. Some struggles God just won’t take away from me and I’m okay with that now. Because those things keep me close to Him. Those things show the world how merciful and loving my God is. That He could love a mess of a man like me.
We say things like, “I’m nothing without God.” But the reality of that doesn’t ever really sink in until you are honest about your weaknesses and embrace them. Then you really begin to see and experience just how true that is. When you stop fighting so hard to be strong you’ll find that there is a strength which is much stronger than yours and much more reliable.
To top it all off I am convinced that the only reason we’re so obsessed with our weaknesses, so worried about them, so ashamed of them; and so desperate to hide or fix them, is because of our pride. Because of the great fear, “What will others think of me?” And if there is any one thing that keeps us from being Spirit-filled like nothing else does… it’s pride.
It is okay to be weak. For when we are weak then we are strong. We are all perfectly imperfect and that’s okay. Take the time to look up the following verses and meditate on what Paul said about his weaknesses.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5; 2 Corinthians 11:30; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
– Joseph Sterling
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