Bob Tamasy: Strength Through Weakness

Thursday, March 27, 2014 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

The life of faith – biblical faith – requires living with paradox: Finding strength through weakness. Receiving through giving. Living by dying. Seeing by believing.

Over the next weeks I’ll address each of these seeming contradictions separately. Today, the conundrum of becoming strong by being weak. 

In our society – and the world – strength is glorified and weakness is anathema. (I like that word – anathema. It sounds strong. In case you’re wondering, it means, “vehemently disliked.” Thus endeth the vocabulary lesson.) Choosing weakness over strength is counter-cultural, almost anti-American. Strong is cool; weak is wimpy.

We don’t encounter the phrase much anymore, but people used to talk about “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.” If you’re a cowboy that might still make sense, but “pull yourself up by your own loafers (or sandals)” doesn’t have the same impact. Recently someone told me, “I’m not sure where, but doesn’t the Bible say, ‘God helps those that help themselves’?” Uh, no, the Bible doesn’t say that. But it’s a philosophy many of us follow. 

Angelo Siciliano, aka Charles Atlas, capitalized on America’s infatuation with strength. Nicknamed “the 97-pound weakling,” he overcame a frail childhood to become a champion bodybuilder in the early to mid-1900s. Magazine and comic book ads depicted him as a skinny guy having sand kicked in his face by some bully, then returning the favor after becoming a muscle-bound powerhouse.

Strength conquers all was his message, and it appealed to many people. Our nation has maintained that mantra in war and in peacetime. 

So it’s paradoxical to read Bible passages that stress the virtues of weakness. “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth…. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Then in the New Testament, the apostle Paul carries on the same theme: “But he (God) 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” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). 

Talk about a paradigm shift! We occasionally pray for God’s help, but the Bible asserts things are best when we’re helpless. That doesn’t sound logical.

I’ve pondered this a lot, even in my own life. Strangely enough, it’s true. Times I’ve felt closest to God were when I found myself at the end of my rope, all my resources exhausted, and not knowing what to do. Depleted of my own strength, I had no choice but to turn to God to take charge. Whenever I’ve done that, He always seemed to be saying, “Good. I’ve been waiting. All you had to do was ask.” 

Recent decades have seen our nation adopt a secularized, who-needs-God type of mindset. And that’s understandable. When it seems we have things under control, we don’t feel much need for God. “I’ve got this” is our attitude.

Since World War II, people in the United States have prospered materially unlike any other nation in history. Private home ownership became normative. Multi-car families also became common. Today many of us have more than one of most things, from TVs to bathrooms. Even the poor in our country would rank among the wealthiest in many Third World nations. 

So when you have everything you need, who needs God, right? Self-sufficiency, not deity, sits on the altar of worship.

Perhaps that’s why weakness, not strength, fosters spiritual growth. Powerlessness makes us more receptive to the all-powerful God. 

Reading through the Scriptures, we see this pattern repeatedly. Noah and his family escaping the flood only through the ark God appointed him to build. Job suffering various afflictions. Abraham and Sarah, aging and without hope of having children together. Joseph in prison through no fault of his own. Moses and the Israelites pressed between a sea and some angry Egyptians. David, the victim of his own sexual sin and murderous cover-up. Impulsive Peter, caught up in his own cowardice.

And then there’s Paul, whose unidentified “thorn in the flesh” kept him humble. At the end of his life he didn’t boast about great success, but rather of having persevered through hardship. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6-7). 

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, notes, “The things we try to avoid and fight against – tribulation, sufferings, and persecution – are the very things that produce abundant joy in us…. A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it.”

When we are forced to acknowledge our complete inadequacy, that our best efforts are wholly insufficient, only then can we discover God’s grace truly is sufficient.

---

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.


Royal Tailor And Capital Kings To Kick Off Spring U-Church Series

Lee University’s U-Church will offer another diverse series of concerts this semester, providing students the opportunity to worship together in a unique chapel format. The line-up includes Royal Tailor featuring Capital Kings this month, Kari Jobe in February, a student-led “Evening of Worship” in March, and Jon Foreman in April. Opening the season this Sunday will be Royal ... (click for more)

Kids Pajama Party Fund Raiser At Hixson United Methodist Jan. 30

Hixson United Methodist Church is hosting a "Frozen Fun with Friends" pajama party including dinner. The cost is $10 for first child, $5 for each additional child.  The event is Friday, Jan. 30 from 6-9:30 p.m. All kids ages infant to 10 years old are invited.  This is a "fun" raiser for HUMCDC.  RSVP required to lanagreen@hixsonumc.org by Jan. 25. (click for more)

Deonta Banks, 23, Shot On Wilcox Boulevard Early Sunday Morning

Deonta Banks, 23, was shot early Sunday morning on Wilcox Boulevard. At approximately  3 a.m.  the Chattanooga Police Department responded to shots fired at 3232 Wilcox Boulevard.  Upon arrival, Chattanooga police located a single victim, Deonta Banks, suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound. He  was transported to a local hospital for treatment. ... (click for more)

Man Stabbed In Domestic Dispute On Sunrise Lane Saturday Morning

A man was stabbed Saturday morning on Sunrise Lane.   At approximately  11:41  a.m., the Chattanooga Police Department responded to a reported stabbing at 309 Sunrise Lane.  Officers located a 45-year-old black male suffering from a non-life threatening stab wound. The victim was transported to a local hospital for his injury.   The ... (click for more)

Obama Doesn't Want You To Save For College

Over the past few decades, federal aid for post-secondary education has decreased and transitioned largely from grants to guaranteed student loans.   At the same time, the cost of college has far exceeded the cost of inflation creating a situation in which college has become less affordable and causing students to pile up debt that is at an all-time high.   This debt ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Great Peace Pipe

There is a serious rift between our state legislators and Erlanger Hospital that has me worried. If I worry about something, it doubles the power of the worry. My problem? I am convinced we have the best collection of people at the State Legislature in Nashville we’ve ever had – I adore each of them. I am also blessed to believe Erlanger is back on track and, after a sensational ... (click for more)