If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. (2 Cor.11:30)
This world teaches us that it is the strong, the beautiful, the powerful, the wealthy, and the influential that rule. They are the ones who receive the honor, the respect and the rewards of this world. Most of us grow up dreaming to belong to that club. We judge our successes and failures based on such standards, and we are surprised to find when we achieve such dreams that we can still suffer from despair, loneliness, and emptiness. The population of the most powerful, wealthy, and influential nations, suffers from the highest rates of depression and anxiety. Why?
The Apostle Paul has a different prescription for life: a life of service to Christ. Ironically he connects success in that service to “weakness.” When he boasts, he does not claim to be a more articulate preacher, have a larger congregation, own more scholarly books, have more Twitter followers, or have his own TV and radio shows. Instead, he considers himself a better servant of Christ. He boasts about his sufferings. He boasts he has had: “far more labors, in far more imprisonments, [been] beaten times without number, often in danger of death … received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes … beaten with rods … stones … shipwrecked … dangers from robbers … dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren … many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (vv.23-27).
Paul boasts about his sufferings and his weakness because he knows that no one can truly serve Christ without the fellowship of His suffering. No one can truly know Christ unless He encounters the Crucified Christ.
Paul has discovered the secret to fulfillment: be content with God’s will for your life and allow Him to use you for His purposes. Serve Christ in your weakness, and rejoice when you encounter various trials (James 1:2). Paul knows that “If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” (2 Tim.2:11-12). There is no resurrection without the crucifixion.
God reveals Himself to a faithful soul that perseveres and clings to Him. We come to know Him in our weakness because there is no strength left to hold us; nothing to lean on but Him. We are forced to cling to Him and He teaches us that there is no more reliable rock to stand on but Him. He shows us that He is faithful and merciful and will sustain us while He may destroy many of our worldly dependencies. For His power will truly be made perfect in our weakness, if we allow Him (2 Cor.12:9).