“Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: ‘My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.’” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 - TEV)
This is not the usual scripture that I think about when we come into Holy Week; it’s not a usual time. Over the past several weeks our lives have changed as the Coronavirus has moved around the world, taking lives and bringing suffering. It is forcing us out of our daily routines and into “social distance.” Churches cannot gather without jeopardizing the safety of our congregation, and we are forced to quickly rethink how to “Be the Church.” Now, how do we reach to people with the hope of the Gospel; crucial in times of illness, fear, feelings of powerlessness and weakness.
Yet, in some ways the truth that Paul relays here seems to me to be at the heart of the gospel message of Holy Week. Paul was struggling with a “thorn in the flesh” that brought suffering upon him. It drove him to his knees three times, begging God to take the suffering away. Have you ever been there? Asking, “Why? Where are you? Take this suffering away.” Jesus was; in Gethsemane.
God’s answer seems puzzling. “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” God did not take away Paul’s suffering; rather God empowered Paul through it. What Paul found, and celebrated was that the “thorn” not only didn’t take away his ability to live; God’s grace gave Paul power to live an even more joyful and full life. God birthed a new depth of life that grew out of Paul’s facing and embracing his weakness. In Holy Week I hear God saying to us the same message; in the Story of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.
I believe in Holy Week God says, “You think your life is based on your power and ability to be in control; it’s actually greatest when you realize that you are not in control and let me work through you.” I see God revealing in Jesus power to walk through the journey of the weak, facing the pain, being honest in the suffering, staying faithful to the message of love, justice, and compassion. While the injustice and brokenness of the world has power; it does not have ultimate power. I see revealed in Jesus our human weakness, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” I, also, see revealed in this Crucified One power to refuse to let go of faith, hope and love: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I see revealed in Jesus the willingness to let go, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” While this seems weak, it reveals the truth of a power that is stronger than suffering, injustice, brokenness and even death. The power that is ultimate and transforming comes from God and nothing can take that away! It is released in the times of weakness and suffering. Like now?
Over the next week as we travel through this time of suffering, may we follow the example set by Jesus in Holy Week; trusting God’s love, power and direction. May we discover the truth that Paul discovered, “when I am weak, then I am strong,” because God makes me strong! New life does come! May the world see that truth in the way we walk through these very Holy Weeks.