Strength in Weakness
by Jeff Montgomery
Not long ago, I reread a novel I had read several years ago called Father Elijah, by Michael D. O'Brien.
The title character is a Carmelite priest who is plucked from his quiet monastic life by the Pope to take on the mission of regaining the soul of a world leader who is believed to be the antichrist. Father Elijah wonders at why he was selected for this task, and as he moves into his mission he is constantly questioning whether or not he is strong enough spiritually to take on such a man.
An aside - this is a great book that I recommend very highly! Despite the rather gloomy premise it is ultimately a very uplifting and Catholic faith-filled book.
Now back to the book. As Father Elijah prays to God and asks how such a weak man could be chosen for this task, God answers that it is only in his weakness will he become strong.
Strength in weakness? Isn't that a contradiction in terms? I must admit that this is one spiritual concept that I have struggled with more than most. But recently, after rereading Father Elijah, getting mentally prepared for Lent, and asking for Heavenly help, I think I finally get it.
The concept of strength in weakness is really about emptying ourselves of ourselves, so that God can fill in the space. It's only by admitting our weaknesses, and accepting God's grace that we can gain true strength. In many spiritual battles, or even tests of will, our own strength is not enough to carry us through. We need God. And the only way we can get God's strength is to get ourselves out of the way and let Him work.
Imagine the weakness that the Apostles and followers of Jesus must have felt after His crucifixion and death. Their source of strength, their leader and teacher, was gone (or so they thought). They were scattered sheep. People were pursuing them.
Yet they knew that Jesus wanted them to carry forth His word and reach the entire world with the message of God's salvation. How could they do that without Jesus? It was only by admitting their weakness and accepting the Holy Spirit that they found the courage to carry on Jesus' mission in spite of extreme hardships.
This same idea still applies today - especially in our work.
Today's workplaces are stressful places. Most of us work in situations that aren't spirit filled places infused with God's presence. In fact, many times we have to deal with difficult situations and people that we may feel powerless to handle.
Depending on our position, we may have to make decisions that affect the lives of others, such as a layoff. We may be asked to do things that seem mundane or boring. We may have customers that are a real challenge to deal with. Any of these situations create a great deal of stress.
But here's the secret. Admitting that we don't have the strength to deal with these things on our own opens our hearts to God's grace. We are filled with God's strength if we learn to trust that He will guide us through any difficult situation. And along with that strength comes peace.
We can see this concept in action in the lives of many saints, particularly St. Francis of Assisi. He believed that only through total reliance on God could true joy and strength be found. And by total reliance, he meant giving up everything in the belief that God would provide.
St. Francis and his followers lived in poverty, believing that only be relieving themselves of any pretense of reliance on themselves could they truly be empty vessels ready to be filled by God.
While most of us are not called to embrace Lady Poverty in quite the same way as St. Francis, each and every one of us can find some behaviors or personality traits that get in God's way. In our modern workaday world, with the constant push to get ahead and make more, produce more, and achieve more, its only by abandoning these traits and letting God take over that we can admit our weakness. Only then can God infuse us with strength.
Now, this doesn't mean that we will always have a flash of revelation and have the whole solution laid out in front of us. Often it means walking in faith, and trusting that God will guide us and strengthen us as we take each step. We may not know exactly what the next step will be, but God will be there with us.
So as you encounter difficult situations at work, pray for strength. Empty yourself of your own fears and trepidations and ask God to fill you with His love and strength. He will always be there.
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