Delight in Weaknesses

In December 1966, the NBC television series Star Trek had been on the air only three months. National ratings were low, and the sci-fi series had no national sponsors. But, RCA was NBC’s parent company, and RCA manufactured color television sets, which were becoming increasingly popular. A.C. Nielsen conducted a study of the popularity of color television series as opposed to other television series, and they reported to NBC that Star Trek was the highest rated color series on television. Star Trek sold color televisions, and that would not be forgotten by the executives, who would decide if Star Trek would continue to its second season.

I remember watching the original series, when I was still in elementary school in Homestead, Florida.  Color affects us emotionally. I also liked reading the Sunday comics, I think in the Miami Herald newspaper, because they were in color. We may pride ourself in being very balanced and unemotional, but we are creatures of emotion. At times our emotions may bring us low, perhaps because of some physical weakness. And, here Paul advised us in the New Testament, “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” (2Corinthians 12:10 NIV). So, what does it mean to “delight in weaknesses”?

Before I focus on the concept of delighting in weaknesses, I’d like to address the valuable idea that God shows emotion. Let’s dwell on the idea of the emotion of “delight,” before we deal with “weaknesses.” Unlike us, God has no weaknesses, but He does display emotion. I ran across a verse in the Old Testament, where the prophet Zephaniah speaks of a future time of joy and restoration for Israel — where God sings. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV). No doubt, C.S. Lewis’ lead lion-character, Aslan, singing Narnia into existence, similarly depicted Christ creating “all things” (John 1:3).  Now, I like to sing — and, even tried my hand at the guitar with little success — so, I’m probably not the one leading the worship music. Here, God is not only rejoicing, but singing. If you’ve ever experienced someone happy while they were singing, then you would feel their emotion. We normally think of God as present everywhere, all knowing, all powerful, or unending, but emotion may not fit our picture of Him.

You may recall a flood and Noah’s ark describing a God, who regretted He made us. “The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6 NIV). Regret is an emotion. With great difficulty, we may attempt to understand how He experienced that emotion; but perhaps, we can imagine how God feels about something by the way we feel about it. We understandably regret because we make poor decisions with incomplete information, but how does an all knowing God experience regret? The Hebrew word nâcham is used in Genesis 6:6 for “regretted.” When God seeks the highest wellbeing of the universe, He makes choices that He knows will cause Him remorse, pain, and regret, but ultimately “works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). God chose the suffering of the Cross, in exchange for our salvation. And, yes, Jesus was well aware of the suffering He was about to endure on the Cross. What else can we make of His utterance, 
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39 NIV)? We are responsible for putting God through immense agony because of our attitudes, thoughts, and actions. Wouldn’t it be nice to give Him pleasure instead? Good news, we can! Repent and trust God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). God’s emotions are valuable to us because when He is happy, we are happy — at least, we should be.

Adjusting our attention away from emotion for a moment, let’s consider our weaknesses— something we know intimately well. The world advises us, Never let them see you sweat. Maybe grace under pressure is their meaning. More probably they are saying, We like to follow those, who don’t seem to have the same anxieties we have. The truth is, even Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV). Then, why should we follow Him? Good question. Unlike everyone else on this planet, Jesus was tempted, but “He did not sin” (4:15 NIV). None like Him! Following anyone else is a poor substitute. That is why the prefix anti means not just against, but instead of, when applied in the word antichrist (Greek, antichristos, 1John 2:18). “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2Thessalonians 2:4 NIV). Accept no substitutes! Follow no one but the true Christ.

Getting back to our weaknesses, we are told by God through Paul to “delight in weaknesses” (2Corinthians 12:10 NIV). Okay, we are happy, when God is happy, but how does it work, when we “delight in weaknesses”? First, the Greek of 2Corinthians 12:10 “delight” (eudokō) means literally, I take pleasure or delight, Paul led by example to delight in weaknesses. Second, “weaknesses” (Greek, astheneiais) are not sin, since Jesus “took up our infirmities [astheneiais] and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17 NIV) “in His body”(1Peter 2:24 NIV). Third, if delight is the opposite of the way the pain in our physical flesh feels, then we are not being instructed to promote the weakness, but to choose to respond to our weakness with delight, which is in keeping with the “pleasure [Greek, theléma]” (Revelation 4:11 KJV), we are to give to God for our existence.

Taking delight in our weaknesses is completely counterintuitive to our response to weakness. Survival of the fittest more readily agrees with our conduct in this world; and, Scripture richly objects. 2Corinthians 11:1 through 12:10 extensively sets forth the life of the Apostle Paul as a model for our weaknesses. Even before his conversion, Paul was a rare breed: a Roman citizen, a circumcised Jew, taught at the feet of Gamaliel, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a tent maker, most feared persecutor of the followers of Jesus, unmarried. His Damascus Road conversion, where Jesus poignantly cried out to Saul of Tarsus (Paul’s earlier name), “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4 NIV), marked his transition to God’s chosen apostle to the Gentiles, writer of the New Testament, performer of miracles, much loved for his faithful ministering to the flock, but most of all remembered for his weaknesses. “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2Corinthians 11:23-27 NIV).

Why are we to delight in weaknesses? Paul shares his secret in the next chapter to the Corinthians. He tells us because of the surpassingly great revelations God had given him, “in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 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” (2Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV). The secret is Christ is our strength, but He can only be glorified, when He manifests Himself in our weaknesses. We would like to have the cake of God’s strength, but we can’t eat it too in our own strength. If we truly had a better sense of our nothingness, we would join with Paul in delighting in our weaknesses. “Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before Thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah” (Psalm 39:5 KJV). Only then, can we truly give God the credit due to Him.

As I was completing this article, I ran across this interesting piece in the AARP Magazine. In a touching way, it illustrates man’s weaknesses through this famous singer, but in particular, how the emotion seems to reach out beyond our aging, as if delight can still be found in weakness, as God would have it. I offer you the following excerpt: “Neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin, author of the best sellers This Is Your Brain on Music and Successful Aging, points out that it is music’s primarily emotional appeal that enables it to tap memories not otherwise accessible to a mind afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease. Even severely affected patients are often able to recall the lyrics and melodies to songs they loved in adolescence, a time of high emotionality and self-discovery when the developing brain ‘tags’ memories as particularly salient and important. This would go far to explain the astonishing fact that after his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, Tony Bennett continued to tour extensively, singing his 90-minute set of sophisticated music with such panache, precision and professionalism that audiences never suspected his condition.” (From AARP Magazine, February/March 2021. “Breaking the Silence: For four years, Tony Bennett and his family have kept the secret. Now they have decided, the truth must be told.” By John Colapinto)

In conclusion, it is only fitting that we should delight in our weaknesses because that is really all we have. Only God could take nothing and make it something. To God be the glory!