Come in Weakness

February 24, 2014

One last blog on the subject of fatigue:

The present circumstances have caused me to experience fatigue in a much different way than I have the past sixty years. In decades past, tiredness of the usual kind was remedied by sleep, because the cause was hard work, long days, or stress. When a pastor, for instance, is denied sleep because of ministry’s demands, a sleep deficit is created. The only way to pay it back is to get the sleep one lost. [On this subject, I highly recommend William C. Dement’s book The Promise of Sleep, in which he identifies sleep deprivation as a major health and safety problem.] Teenagers, not the exemplars of steady sleep patterns, require up to nine hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. No wonder our high schoolers can get a little cranky . . . but I digress.

There is another kind of fatigue—the kind I am experiencing now—that is remedied by healing. When one’s body is fighting an infection, slaying the cancer Beast, or undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation, one is exerting hidden energy. The stress on one’s immune system is gradually healed as the underlying condition is addressed. Sometimes this takes medicine. Sometimes this just takes time. As the illness resolves, the body has a chance to regroup and gain strength. In my case, the process is also helped along by extra sleep (sleeping in until 7:30 or 8 most days, as well as taking afternoon naps).

In either case, fatigue is one way we experience weakness and vulnerability. I for one have invested a lot in not being weak or vulnerable. It’s in part being a first-born overachiever, part embracing a leadership role in tough situations requiring inner strength, and part being a wife and mother who is depended upon for so many ordinary things. Moms of young children know what I am talking about here. But what finally gets us all is exhaustion, or sickness, or some other defeat. Sapped of strength, we are sidelined.

So the question is, how do we handle that condition? Since weakness (or its sister powerlessness) is so debilitating, making “fixing it” a special challenge, how are we to get through it?

The Apostle Paul had some sort of nagging problem he called his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12). We don’t really know what it was, but to Paul it was a weakening condition, allowed by God, he believed, in order that he would not be too elated by the special spiritual visions and visitations he had experienced. Interesting. He repeatedly asked God to remove this thorn, but finally the resolution came in a word: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” With that, Paul resolved to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We presume that the power God was talking about here was his own, so we can read this word as, “My grace is sufficient for you, for [my] power is made perfect in [your] weakness.” Eugene Peterson renders this verse, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness” (The Message, 385). Paul was discovering that the remedy for his weakness was God’s strength, and he was finally able to accept that gift and not be worried about being weak in the flesh.

Having now experienced a concentrated four months of weakness, I think I am getting this. When we finally give in and says, “Okay, Lord, I am confronted with my limitations and realize how totally dependent I am upon you,” we give God soul-room to work his mighty power in our spirit. He’s just been waiting for us to ask and to stand down. The very thing we have pridefully identified as “strength” has actually resisted the gentle infusion of God’s grace and power. It’s definitely time to stop doing that, and to admit our true condition in order to receive true strength from the Great Physician and to give God gratitude and glory for being our One and Only Savior.

It is amazing to me how this very act of standing down creates the sort of spiritual vacuum that Jesus then fills with himself. It becomes possible to do what we couldn’t before, as Jesus takes over. It becomes irresistible to align with God’s purposes rather than play field marshal and order God to stand in formation according to my “strong” plan. God is strong enough on his own, and it does not matter that I am weak. My limitations become the arena for God’s unlimited power to shine through, so that, some day it may be said of me, “It was not Mary you saw, but Christ in her” (from Galatians 2:20).



3 Responses to “Come in Weakness”

  1. Randall S Says:

    RevMary, thank you so much for your reflections. After living w/ daily chronic pain for over 15 years, I could relate to much of your experience in my periods of extreme fatigue. Many of us caregivers experience compassion fatigue. May our creative & wonderful God use us in our weaknesses, to show his power in new ways.

  2. Sarah Says:

    At the time I was having chemo and even after the chemo was finished, I was told that the body does most of it’s healing work when the body is asleep. So when I was wanting to sleep a lot, I looked at it as part of the battle of my “No Cell Left Behind” fight with the cancer. So enjoy your sleep and welcome it. Your main job now is to get well.

  3. Jim Skidmore Says:

    Rev. Mary,

    We thank God for the gift of each day and we remember that He is there for us as given to us in Psalm 139. He planned each day day before there was one of them. Thank you Lord that you are always with us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s