…how can we unite our weakness with the strength of God as we carry our cross and feel its heavy burden? How is possible to feel my weakness under that cross, but at the same time be able to say with St. Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong”??
This is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity, and like any paradox it is hard to comprehend, harder still to practice.
But also like most paradoxes, it has a rational solution. My understanding of it is this:
The key lies in the reality of the grace of God.
When I feel strong, I find myself depending on my own personal resources; my strength, my intelligence, my friends perhaps. I turn to theses resources for support and I expect them to resolve my life issues. So long as I do this, God steps back in His infinitely gentle love and allows me to do things ‘my way’. I feel strong.
But every now and then, a situation arises that is well beyond the ability of my own resources. I try to deal with it alone, and fail; sometimes miserably. At the end of my wits, I finally am compelled to turn to God and cry out to Him for help. Now, I am weak.
And here is where the real presence of God often manifests in the most amazing of ways. Our gentle and compassionate God steps in and does that which was impossible for me alone, impossible for any of my resources to achieve. Not only am I saved, but I have also touched the reality of the love of God – something I should never forget again, especially in times of trouble. Now, I do not feel strong (for I have also touched my own weakness), and yet I am incredibly strong (with the strength of God).
Perhaps a tale may help illustrate this experience. In my student days I travelled overseas and was asked to escort an elderly and infirm lady on my plane trip back from Cairo to Sydney. On arrival in Singapore, I learned that the lady’s ticket was only a standby ticket, hastily purchased at the last minute to allow her to travel on the same flihgt I had booked months in advance. Unfortunately, there was no room for her on the connecting flight from Singapore to Sydney, and I was informed that she would have to wait until a seat became vacant on a later flight. I noticed a couple of men in suits arguing at the next counter that they had been waiting three days for a vacancy on a flight to Sydney. This did not bode well…
I certainly couldn’t leave the poor lady alone in Singapore with no English and poor health, yet an extended wait in Singapore was going to cause me some serious problems. But there was nothing within my power to do. Only, to turn to God. A phone call to my longsuffering mother recruited her prayers, and with her, her favorite intercessors. I recall that Psalm 130 played a prominent role in those difficult hours.
Resigned to my fate, I returned to the ticket desk as requested, half an hour before our flight was due to depart. I stood in line quietly behind our two immaculately suited gentlemen as they loudly argued and protested and abused the poor airline lady behind the counter. Suddenly, the lady’s face popped out from behind the men and she beckoned me to approach. With a look of frustration on her face she checked the elderly lady in to the one vacant seat on the flight and whispered to me, “Hurry, the plane’s about to leave!”
I didn’t hang around to see the reaction of the irate businessmen. And I suspect that poor old lady hadn’t walked quite so fast as she did that day for many years. But we made the plane, and that blessed lady arrived safely to be recieved into her anxious relatives’ embrace. There was nothing I could do about that situation; but upon surrendering to God’s will, I discovered just how much He can do.
“When I am weak, then I am strong.”