Human Weakness Magnifies Jehovah’s Power
“Everyone thought I was this happy and vivacious full-time minister. I was always the one to help others with their problems. At the same time, though, I felt as if I were dying inside. Disquieting thoughts and mental anguish were taking a toll on me. I started to feel alienated from people. I just wanted to stay home in bed. For months, I begged Jehovah to let me die.”—Vanessa.
AS IN the instance cited above, it is only to be expected that at times servants of Jehovah will feel the effects of living in these “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Some may even become downhearted. (Philippians 2:25-27) When prolonged, despondency can rob us of our strength, for the Bible states: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” (Proverbs 24:10) Yes, when we are discouraged, we need power—perhaps even what the apostle Paul called “power beyond what is normal.”—2 Corinthians 4:7.
Jehovah God is the source of unlimited power. This is evident when we examine his creation. (Romans 1:20) Consider the sun, for example. The earth intercepts a steady flow of some 240 trillion horsepower from the sun. Yet, this figure represents only about a half of a billionth of the sun’s output of energy. And the sun is small when compared with stars known as supergiants. Among these is Rigel, a star in the Orion constellation that is 50 times larger than our sun and emits 150,000 times as much energy!
The Creator of such heavenly powerhouses must himself possess an “abundance of dynamic energy.” (Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 8:3, 4) Indeed, the prophet Isaiah stated that Jehovah “does not tire out or grow weary.” And God is willing to share his power with any who, because of human weakness, feel that they are tiring out. (Isaiah 40:28, 29) How he does this is illustrated in the case of the Christian apostle Paul.
Coping With Trials
Paul told the Corinthians about an obstacle that he had to endure. He called it “a thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12:7) This “thorn” may have been a health problem, perhaps impaired vision. (Galatians 4:15; 6:11) Or Paul may have been referring to false apostles and other disturbers who challenged his apostleship and work. (2 Corinthians 11:5, 6, 12-15; Galatians 1:6-9; 5:12) Whatever it was, this “thorn in the flesh” deeply distressed Paul, and he prayed repeatedly that it would be removed.—2 Corinthians 12:8.
However, Jehovah did not grant Paul’s request. Instead, he told Paul: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) What did Jehovah mean by this? Well, when we consider Paul’s past course of persecuting Christians, it was only by undeserved kindness that he could have a relationship with God at all—much less serve as an apostle!* (Compare Zechariah 2:8; Revelation 16:5, 6.) Jehovah may well have been telling Paul that the privilege of discipleship was “sufficient.” It would not be accompanied by a miraculous removal of life’s personal problems. Indeed, some hardships might even come as a result of added privileges. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27; 2 Timothy 3:12) In any event, Paul would simply have to endure his “thorn in the flesh.”
By no means, though, was Jehovah heartlessly abandoning Paul. Rather, he said to him: “My power is being made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Yes, Jehovah would lovingly supply Paul with the strength to cope with his situation. Thus, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” became an object lesson. It taught him to rely on Jehovah’s strength rather than his own. Paul evidently learned this lesson well, for some years later he wrote to the Philippians: “I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient. For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:11, 13.
What about you? Are you enduring some sort of “thorn in the flesh,” perhaps an illness or a circumstance in life that causes you much anxiety? If so, take comfort. While Jehovah may not miraculously remove the obstacle, he can grant you the wisdom and fortitude to cope with it as you continue to put Kingdom interests first in life.—Matthew 6:33.
If illness or advancing age hinders you from accomplishing as much as you would like in Christian activity, do not despair. Instead of viewing your trial as limiting your service to Jehovah, look upon it as an opportunity to increase your reliance on him. Remember, too, that the value of a Christian is gauged, not by his level of activity, but by his faith and depth of love. (Compare Mark 12:41-44.) Loving Jehovah with your whole soul means that you serve him to the best of your own ability—not that of someone else.—Matthew 22:37; Galatians 6:4, 5.
If your “thorn in the flesh” involves a distressing circumstance in life, such as the death of a loved one, follow the Bible’s admonition: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) A Christian woman named Sylvia did this. In a span of just a few years, she lost her husband in death after 50 years of marriage and also nine other family members—including two young grandchildren. “If it were not for Jehovah,” Sylvia says, “I would grieve uncontrollably. But I find great comfort in prayer. I carry on a virtual running conversation with Jehovah. I know he gives me the strength to make it.”
How reassuring it is to know that “the God of all comfort” can give those who are grieving the power to endure! (2 Corinthians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13) Appreciating this, we can understand Paul’s conclusion on the matter. He wrote: “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in cases of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.”—2 Corinthians 12:10.
Coping With Imperfections
All of us have inherited imperfection from our first human parents. (Romans 5:12) As a result, we are in a battle against the desires of the fallen flesh. How disheartening it can be to discover that the traits of “the old personality” have a more powerful grip on us than we had thought! (Ephesians 4:22-24) At such times we may feel as did the apostle Paul, who wrote: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.”—Romans 7:22, 23.
Here, too, we can avail ourselves of power from Jehovah. When struggling with a personal weakness, never stop turning to him in prayer, earnestly seeking his forgiveness no matter how often you have to approach him about the same problem. Because of his undeserved kindness, Jehovah, who “is making an estimate of hearts” and who can see the depth of your sincerity, will grant you a cleansed conscience. (Proverbs 21:2) By means of his holy spirit, Jehovah can supply you with the strength to resume the fight against fleshly weaknesses.—Luke 11:13.
We also need strength from Jehovah when dealing with the imperfections of others. For example, a fellow Christian may speak to us “thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.” (Proverbs 12:18) This could cut us deeply, especially if it comes from someone that we feel should know better. We might become highly disturbed. Some have even used such offenses as justification for leaving Jehovah—the biggest mistake of all!
However, a balanced attitude will help us to view others’ weaknesses in a proper light. We cannot expect perfection from imperfect humans. “There is no man that does not sin,” the wise man Solomon reminds us. (1 Kings 8:46) Arthur, an anointed Christian who loyally served Jehovah for some seven decades, observed: “Weaknesses in fellow servants create for us an area for integrity, testing our Christian mettle. If we allow what humans say or do to interfere with our serving Jehovah, we are serving humans. Besides, our brothers must love Jehovah too. If we look for good in them, we soon see that they are not so bad after all.”
The Power to Preach
Before ascending to heaven, Jesus told his disciples: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
True to Jesus’ words, this work is now being carried out by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 233 lands around the globe. Collectively, they spend more than a billion hours each year helping others come to a knowledge of Jehovah. Accomplishing this work is not always easy. In some lands the Kingdom preaching work is banned or restricted. Consider, too, who is doing the work—frail, imperfect humans, each of whom has his or her own share of problems and anxieties. Yet the work continues, and as a result, in the past three years, over a million persons have dedicated their lives to Jehovah and symbolized their dedication by water baptism. (Matthew 28:18-20) Truly, this work is being accomplished only in God’s strength. Jehovah said through the prophet Zechariah: “Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit.”—Zechariah 4:6.
If you are a publisher of the good news, you are having a share—no matter how seemingly small—in that grand accomplishment. Regardless of the ‘thorns’ that you must endure, you can be assured that Jehovah will not forget “your work and the love you showed for his name.” (Hebrews 6:10) So continue to rely on the Source of all dynamic energy for support. Remember, it is only in Jehovah’s strength that we can endure; his power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
Of course, since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” it is evidence of God’s mercy that any humans can come into a relationship with him at all.—Romans 3:23.
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The preaching work is accomplished only by Jehovah’s power