Powerful Despite Weaknesses
YOUR weaknesses can overwhelm you. They cling like leeches. You may think that you will never overcome them, or you may feel inadequate, comparing yourself with others and deciding that you do not measure up. On the other hand, you may be dealing with a debilitating illness that drains your energy and zest for life. Whatever the cause, you seem to be trapped. You can relate to Job, who said to God: “O that in Sheol you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back, that you would set a time limit for me and remember me!”—Job 14:13.
How can you break out of such despair? Hard as it may be, you need to take your mind off your problems for a while. For example, you might consider Jehovah’s inspired questions to his faithful servant Job: “Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding. Who set its measurements, in case you know, or who stretched out upon it the measuring line?” (Job 38:4, 5) As we think of the import of those questions, we are likely moved to acknowledge Jehovah’s superior wisdom and power. He has allowed the present world situation to continue for good reason.
“A Thorn in the Flesh”
Another faithful servant asked Jehovah to remove “a thorn in the flesh,” a nagging problem. The apostle Paul entreated God three times to be set free from this trial. Whatever it was, like an irritating thorn, it could have robbed Paul of his joy in Jehovah’s service. Paul likened it to being constantly slapped. Jehovah’s answer was: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you; for my power is being made perfect in weakness.” Jehovah did not take away that thorn in the flesh. Paul had to contend with it, but he added: “When I am weak, then I am powerful.” (2 Cor. 12:7-10) What did he mean?
Paul’s problem did not miraculously disappear. Still, it did not prevent him from accomplishing remarkable things in Jehovah’s service. Paul relied on Jehovah for support and constantly asked for his help. (Phil. 4:6, 7) Toward the end of his earthly life, Paul could say: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.”—2 Tim. 4:7.
Jehovah uses imperfect men to accomplish his will despite their shortcomings and problems, and the honor rightly goes to him. He can give them guidance and wisdom to cope with their difficulties and to maintain their joy in his service. Yes, he can use imperfect humans to do great works despite their weaknesses.
Paul stated why God did not remove his thorn in the flesh: “That I might not be overly exalted.” (2 Cor. 12:7) Paul’s “thorn” reminded him of his limitations and helped him to maintain a humble view of himself. That is in line with what Jesus taught: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12) Trials can teach God’s servants humility and help them to appreciate that to endure faithfully they need to rely on Jehovah. Thus, like the apostle, they can “boast in Jehovah.”—1 Cor. 1:31.
Some may have weaknesses that they are not aware of or that they are reluctant to acknowledge. For example, a person may be overconfident, trusting in his own resources. (1 Cor. 10:12) Another weakness common to imperfect humans is the desire for prominence.
Joab, who became general of King David’s army, was courageous, decisive, and resourceful. Yet, Joab was guilty of serious misconduct that indicated a presumptuous, ambitious spirit. He brutally murdered two army generals. First he acted out of revenge to eliminate Abner. Later, under the pretext of greeting his cousin Amasa, Joab took hold of Amasa’s beard with his right hand as if to kiss him and then ran him through with the sword in his left hand. (2 Sam. 17:25; 20:8-10) Joab had been replaced by Amasa as army general and used this opportunity to get rid of his rival, probably in hopes of being reinstated as general. You can see that Joab did not control his spirit, including his selfish ambition. He acted ruthlessly with no indication of remorse. When King David was near the end of his life, he instructed his son Solomon to see to it that Joab paid for his badness.—1 Ki. 2:5, 6, 29-35.
We should certainly not give in to our wrong desires; we can gain the mastery over our weaknesses. First we must recognize and acknowledge them. Then we can take action to overcome them. We can regularly pray to Jehovah, asking for his help to conquer those weaknesses, and diligently study his Word, looking for ways to fight those inclinations. (Heb. 4:12) We may need to work on our shortcomings continually and not become disheartened. The battle may even continue for as long as we are imperfect. Paul acknowledged this in his own case, writing: “What I wish, this I do not practice; but what I hate is what I do.” As you are aware, though, Paul did not resign himself to this, as if his actions were completely beyond his control. On the contrary, he kept struggling against his weaknesses, relying on God’s help through Jesus Christ. (Rom. 7:15-25) Elsewhere, Paul said: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:27.
Humans tend to justify themselves. We can work against that by cultivating Jehovah’s view, doing as Paul admonished Christians: “Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9) In our battle to overcome our weaknesses, we will need honesty, perseverance, and self-discipline. David requested of Jehovah: “Refine my kidneys and my heart.” (Ps. 26:2) He knew that God can accurately assess our deepest inclinations and give us help when we need it. If we respond to the guidance Jehovah provides through his Word and his holy spirit, we can make progress toward gaining the victory over our shortcomings.
Some may be troubled by issues that they feel they are not able to deal with on their own. The congregation elders can certainly offer loving aid and encouragement. (Isa. 32:1, 2) But it is wise to have realistic expectations. To some problems, there are no complete solutions in this present system of things. Nevertheless, many have learned to cope, and that has enabled them to lead productive lives.
Assurance of Jehovah’s Support
Whatever problems we face in these difficult times, we can rest assured that Jehovah will guide and sustain us. The Bible urges us: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.”—1 Pet. 5:6, 7.
When Kathy, who has been serving at Bethel for many years, realized that her husband had Alzheimer’s disease, she did not feel equal to the challenges ahead. Supplicating Jehovah for wisdom and emotional strength became a daily necessity. As her husband’s condition gradually deteriorated, loving brothers took the time to inform themselves about dealing with the disease and caring sisters gave emotional support. These Christians were part of the strengthening support that Jehovah gave, and Kathy was able to care for her husband until his death about 11 years later. She says: “I tearfully and fervently thanked Jehovah for all his help; it kept me going. I did not know that it was possible to keep functioning for so long while being so weak from exhaustion!”
Help to Overcome Concealed Weaknesses
When individuals feel unworthy, they may think that Jehovah will not listen to their call for help in their time of distress. It is particularly good then to reflect on what David said when he felt remorse for his serious sin with Bath-sheba: “A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17) David was sincerely repentant, and he knew that he could approach God and count on his mercy. Jesus reflects Jehovah’s caring spirit. The Gospel writer Matthew applied the words of Isaiah to Jesus: “No bruised reed will he crush, and no smoldering flaxen wick will he extinguish.” (Matt. 12:20; Isa. 42:3) While on earth, Jesus showed compassion for the lowly and the downtrodden. He did not, as it were, extinguish the last spark of life of one who was like the wick of an oil lamp about to go out. Rather, he tenderly nurtured suffering ones to restore in them the flame of life. That was how he was as he walked among humans. Do you not believe that Jesus is still that way and that he is able to sympathize with your weaknesses? Note that Hebrews 4:15 indicates that he is One who can “sympathize with our weaknesses.”
When writing about his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul observed that the power of the Christ was “like a tent” over him. (2 Cor. 12:7-9) He felt God’s protection through Christ, just as a person in a tent feels protected from the elements. Like Paul, we do not have to give in to our weaknesses and problems. To remain spiritually strong, we can use all the provisions that Jehovah gives us through his earthly congregation. We can do everything humanly possible and then look to Jehovah with full assurance that he will guide our steps. Experiencing how God’s power makes up for our weaknesses, we will be able to say as did Paul: “When I am weak, then I am powerful.”—2 Cor. 12:10.
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Paul continually prayed to Jehovah to guide him in accomplishing his ministry
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King David entrusted Joab with the army
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Joab acted to eliminate a rival, Amasa
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Elders give loving Scriptural guidance that can help us to cope with our problems