What Does It Mean to “Boast in Our Weaknesses”?
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | October 5, 2017
Why would someone brag about being weak? The apostle Paul did! If you’ve ever heard the term “boasting in our weaknesses,” you’re probably familiar with its passage of origin: 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. In this well-known passage, Paul discusses his personal weakness—whether a sickness or a struggle with temptation, we don’t know—and how God proved Himself glorious through that weakness.
But applying this practically is not so easy to do. Our weaknesses are part of being human in this world, but God calls us to live above and beyond our sinful nature. How is this possible? Let’s see what Paul says:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, 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 12:8-10)
Typically we see only one part of this passage: the very last verse, often taken out of context and misapplied. To understand what it means to be strong in the Lord and boast about our weaknesses, though, we need the full context of verses 8-10.
Paul was struggling with something; something He had asked God to remove. But God, in His sovereignty, did not remove the source of Paul’s pain. If you’re struggling with a trial or difficulty, you are in good company! Instead of removing the pain, God showed Paul that his pain had a purpose: It was evidence of God’s power. That was why Paul could talk openly about his weakness—it pointed back to the glory of God.
Weakness Is Not an Excuse to Remain in Sin
There are two ways to talk about weakness. One is to do what Paul models for us—discussing weakness in light of God’s power, pointing to His glory and overcoming goodness. The other is to dwell in our weakness and let it lead us into sin. The latter is not God’s intention and it is not what Paul meant for us to do. Our weaknesses—whether outer circumstances or an inner struggle—are not an excuse to remain in sin! If anything, these weaknesses should drive us to dependency on God, just as Paul’s did for him.
God’s Grace Is Sufficient for Our Weakness
Secondly, God’s grace is sufficient to strengthen us in our weakness. This is how we glorify God! When we can’t handle our lives on our own, we are forced to come to God and ask for His help. Sometimes, our situation doesn’t change. But even in an unchanged situation, we have the grace of God sustaining us.
It doesn’t make sense until you experience it, and you only experience it by walking closely with the Lord in both abundance and famine. God’s grace is sufficient, but that sufficiency manifests itself as we pour out our hearts to God like Paul did—telling Him our needs and our desires.
Talk About Your Weaknesses—in Light of God’s Redemption
Finally, we “boast” about our weaknesses by discussing them, sharing what God has taught us through trials and temptations. However, when we talk about our weaknesses—at least, our sins—we should not celebrate them as if they don’t offend God. When discussing sin of the past or how God is bringing us out of a sin of the present, it should always be in light of God’s redemption.
When sharing about your trials and struggles of daily life (not sin), you don’t know who could be encouraging. As I write this, my husband just finished his first week at a new job. For the last two months, he had no job at all—he lost his old one in a sudden company layoff. But as we’ve been transparent about our weakness and struggle of waiting for a job, people have been encouraged and pointed to Jesus! That’s the point of talking about our weaknesses: to bring glory to God. It’s not easy; sometimes it’s incredibly hard. But it gives purpose to our pain.