The prototypical leader is strong, self-confident, resilient, and brave. The truly successful leader possesses assets such as a strong personality, bold decision-making, and intrepid vision. Virtually no leadership manual or guru would encourage weakness. That’s why leadership advice that tells you to “embrace your weakness” sounds weird. What’s up with that?
Admit Your Weakness
Are you weak? Is there any area of your life where you’re thinking, “Yeah, that’s not exactly my strength.” Simply admit your weakness.
For example, perhaps you are a person who becomes fatigued very easily. Admit your weakness. Perhaps you participate in a ministry at a crisis pregnancy center. Every time you enter the part of town where the center is located, you are overwhelmed with numbing anxiety over your personal safety. Admit your weakness. Perhaps you have a sleep disorder that keeps you up night after night after night. What is your weakness? Admit it.
Weakness is not the same thing as sin. Clearly, we are to flee sin. Weaknesses are those natural limitations of our human nature, our unique shortcomings, or the disadvantages of our situation.
It’s okay to be weak. Want proof? Just look at Paul — New Testament writer, church planter, evangelist, apostle to the Gentiles, and missionary traveler. Was he weak? Absolutely. Hear his perspective on his weakness: “I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:27). This sounds backwards, counterintuitive, and self-defeating. Why? Why boast in weakness.
Consider Jesus. Although he is fully God, he is also fully human. He experienced, just like we do, temptation and difficulty (Hebrews 4:15). He admitted the intense struggle it was for him to go to the cross (Matthew 26:39). Even Jesus recognized the weakness inherent in full humanity.
Although we are awash in leadership teaching that advances the ideals of “strength,” “power,” and “might,” we must be willing to embrace our weakness.
Surrender to God’s Grace
We are all broken and disabled people. And that’s okay. Let’s go back and talk about Paul for a minute. Paul had some weakness that he struggled with. It was such a difficulty for Paul that he prayed fervently for its removal. God chose not to remove it. We don’t know what his weakness was, but it doesn’t really matter. Weakness is weakness. It could be anything — like whatever weakness it is you’re facing in your life.
God had a powerful lesson for Paul in his weakness. After Paul prayed desperately for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh,” God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s verdict on your weakness is this: Weakness is the path to my all-sufficient grace, and my all-perfect power.
By embracing your weakness, you are submitting to God’s grace. That is a wonderful place to be. The grip of grace is a place of refuge, power, and strength, none of it from yourself; all of it from God. Grace is a powerful reassurance in our moment of devastating personal weakness. Weakness is okay, because it places us on the path of true fulfillment — God’s grace and God’s power.
Too often, we’re afraid of weakness. We run away from it, because we either don’t want to admit it, or we don’t want to suffer its disabling effect on our lives. Either way, we are living in pride and defiance to what God wants for us. God wants to use our weakness to glorify himself. Embrace your weakness so that the power of Christ might rest upon you (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Lead in God’s Strength
The point of our weakness is not really about us. It’s about God. Weakness enables us to give ourselves more fully to God, and engage the power that he has for us.
The truly strong leader is not one who leads with force of personality or strength of character. The truly strong leader is the one who leads in the power of Christ. Where does such power come from? It stems from our weakness being consumed in the power of Christ.
Yes, this is counterintuitive. It seems self-defeating to admit our weakness, let alone embrace it or boast in it. Weakness is not the path to capable leadership — at least in the thinking of most people. But God’s ideas are often counterintuitive. That’s why Paul made the paradoxical statement: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Weakness is good. Through our weakness, God gets more glory. Through our weakness, God reveals his power. It’s about God, not us. Whatever your weakness is, embrace it and watch God work.