Strength in Weakness
‘I am in solid stone yet I move. I am weak enough to be broken with your hands; however, I am strong enough to break steel. What am I?’ This riddle is meant to tease our minds with concepts of weakness and strength; we see they are not always the opposites they appear on the surface to be.
We have been engaged in exploring one man’s response to the dominant culture (D.C.) of his day, finding grains of truth to apply to our lives two and a half millennia after him. Some things just never change. Hezekiah has heard his aggressor challenge him with words of arrogance, ridicule and atheistic logic. Now the Assyrian field commander, mouthpiece of the king of the barbaric and ruthless Assyrian empire, is voicing his next verbal assault.
“How can you repulse one officer of the least of my master’s officials, even though you are depending on Egypt for chariots and horsemen?” (II Kings 18:24). In other words, ‘You are incredibly weak; why bother resisting?’
We hear that message loud and strong coming from our D.C. too, don’t we? If we listen to atheists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris we will hear it blatantly. If we listen to pop culture music and view current blockbuster films we hear it slightly masked. And if we step into our local high school or university we will simply feel it. All the ‘evidence’ points to the logic of humanism. To resist seems impossible. The D.C. has a way of making faith look foolish.
How did Hezekiah handle his D.C.’s thwarting goad? His response, at first glance, may sound like he is giving in to cultural pressure. He admits his weakness.
He concedes, ”This is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.” That’s quite an image he paints: Pregnant women laboring to deliver but weakening after hours and days with no success. The picture is daunting. That scenario will deteriorate into both maternal and fetal death unless there is some intervention.
This admission of weakness stands at the door to one of the great oxymorons of our faith. When, and only when we come humbly before God, admitting our debilitating weaknesses and inabilities to succeed, God is faithful to act on our behalf. It is as if He wants to be absolutely sure He is honouring the gift of free will with which He endowed each of us, before stepping into our lives. We must toss out the belief that we are gods before we have space for Him as God of our lives. He will not share the honour.
The apostle Paul describes a similar experience, having wrestled with submitting to the reality of his own weakness. He explains:
“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.” (II Cor. 12:8-10)
We, like Hezekiah and Paul and countless other God-followers, take comfort in Christ’s promise that He is enough. His grace is enough. Our weakness is the perfect environment for His strength to do something of eternal significance through us. It takes faith, it takes a mind set on things above, and it takes resolve to put our weaknesses into the hand of God and rest there.
By the way, what is ‘weak enough to be broken with hands’ but ‘strong enough to break steel’? The answer is, water. Sometimes weak can be incredibly strong.