Ministry in weakness
I’ve started and deleted this post multiple times. I have so many thoughts on it and experiences with it that it’s overwhelming to try to nail it down to a blog post. But I had to start here, because you will see this is a theme in my life right now and will be a thread woven through the upcoming series on discipleship.
Here’s my focus point:
God gives us ministries in our weaknesses.
God gives us ministries–and has throughout history–that specifically target our weaknesses. We seek ministries in our strengths (and that’s good!) but God blesses us with ministry in our weakness.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.-2 Corinthians 1:8-9
Affliction, excessive burden, beyond our strength, despair, death. What a ministry. No thank you.
Honestly, I only want the ministry (just one please) that is in my strengths. And, I’d like that one tiny ministry to look and be exactly how I want it to be. It should make me feel useful, make me energized to do more, and leave me feeling used and blessed by God, right? That’s all. Just exactly like that please.
But even if I do find an amazing ministry that fits that bill, there are still problems to overcome.
One problem with ministering in my strength, or what I’ve been told are my strengths, is I have self-confidence bubbling under the surface, and honestly, I tend to not seek God. It looks like confidently walking a little ahead of God because “I know how this goes. I know I’m pretty good at this.” And when I enter into any situation with that attitude, it almost always ends up in a spectacular crash. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it takes years to wear me down before I realize I’m trying to do this whole thing in my own strength. Do you want some examples? Let me share:
Walking ahead of God
For example, I’ve been told I’m good at meeting with and discipling teen girls. At the beginning, I knew that wasn’t the truth and I prayed a lot, searched for things to help me be better at it, and sought out a lot of wisdom from the Bible and others. But after a while, I developed a casual attitude of “God will show up. He always does.” And it led to me treating this like a DMV appointment–bring my things, show up at the right time, do the things and leave. I stopped regularly praying for the girls, for our time together, and for wisdom and discernment before we met. And while I know that God will show up, (my prayers don’t magically make God work in the situation) it is also just reeks of pride, and a lack of humility, and self-reliance. Oh, the deceitfulness of sin!
Busy doing the wrong thing
Another example? This blog. Sometimes I write and work without even taking a second to pray or ask Him to guide me, or to even pray for you, my reader, because I’ve been doing it for years and I have an idea of what I should be doing. That kind of attitude is like arrogantly going into battle unprepared. This is a ministry He has given me, and He has managed to grow it despite me. But with this attitude of self-sufficiency (pride) I’m carelessly waltzing onto a battlefield unarmed, unprotected, and without a plan or leader. (We’re fighting the WORLD here ladies!) Again it’s that same line of thinking of “Ah, God will show up. He’ll meet me here where I need to do things.” That’s a terrible attitude to have. It doesn’t work effectively in any other area of life. And it ends up with me cleaning up messes and wasting a ton of time because I’m on the wrong battlefield, or I was super busy over there doing something meaningless when I should have been meeting with my Leader to discern what the actual plan might be.
Another problem with always ministering in your strength is you can tend to overlook people. This is exactly what I was doing in both of the above situations. I was so sure I could do this, that I overlooked time to do some of my most effective work, praying for others. Praying for the girls, praying for you. This is a trap that we don’t even realize we’ve fallen into. Some of you (definitely not me) are really excellent when it comes to fitting all the things into life. Somehow you seem to be able to do all the things, take advantage of all the options, and run life on a razor thin to non-existent margin. And make it look easy, or at least manageable. But, don’t forget to consider the people that you might be passing by to get to the next thing. Maybe people in your own household? Ministering in your strength can make you miss the people who really could be blessed by God through you.
But what about the ministries that are really hard for me?
And that brings us to the humbling option of being open to ministry in our weakness. Right now there are a number of them going on in my life that I want to share with you. These are the ministries where I must be on my knees praying about. If I’m not I either won’t do them, or I’ll drag myself through them like an 8 year old told to pick up his room. Here are some of my favorite excuses of why I can’t do these ministries.
I don’t have the energy.
It is really hard for me to meet and read the Bible with my 80+ year old neighbor. It’s at least an hour one day of the week (I know that is super lame! One hour! Just one hour, Kari!) and it is in the evening when I’m tired and just want to sit on my couch and zone out. And it usually involves listening to her tell me stories of people I don’t know for 45 minutes. And I’m an introvert and I crave silence and solitude. AND she has already said, multiple times, that she’s sure Jesus isn’t God and doesn’t believe any of it.
My temptation is to think this is pointless, she’ll never come to Christ, and I need to take care of myself. Because I can’t be used well by God when I’m not taking care of my own self, right? What a lie that one is, made famous by our culture! I need to “take myself in hand.” (A phrase I love from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones) The biblical truth is not to give myself more of what I crave, but to die to myself and live for Christ. When is enough self-care actually enough? Will I someday have the exact right amount and suddenly be open and eager to be used by God? The truth is there is never enough self-care and if I keep chasing that lie, I’ll be clawing and scratching for more time for me, Me, ME… and never be used by God. I must die to myself.
I’m too busy.
I have been meaning to meet with our other side yard neighbor (who is also a very vocal unbeliever, but we’ve had some interesting interactions over the 18+ years we’ve been here) and have her over for dessert and talk about all her travels. But I can never seem to fit it in because when my son is here, my husband is not, or we have something else going on and the weeks are just too full. But the truth? I don’t plan it. If it is on the calendar, then we can plan around it. But because I’m a little nervous about what it would be like, and how awkward it will be, and what we’ll do if we run out of things to talk about… I just don’t put it on the calendar.
So, this sounds gross. Why would we even do this?
Thank you for asking! I’ve complied a list for myself that I would love to share with you! Here, in no particular order are just a few benefits of Ministering in your Weakness:
It requires humbly seeking God.
When I’m ministering in my weakness it often feels like ineptness, and a little bit like being sick to my stomach, and a lot like I want to throw a fit and say “NO!” This is where I am 99% of the time. And honestly, it’s kind of always there, even if I’ve been doing whatever it is for quite a while. I simply don’t want to minister in my weakness. It’s too hard!
But I do so want to use my life up for the Kingdom of God and for the Glory of God. This is where the “death” comes in. This is where I must take myself in hand and die to my own wants and desires and remind myself of what I deeply want, and to pray for the grace to obey! I love the lyrics of the hymn “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”
Must I be carried to the skies-Isaac Watts
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
We get to see God at work.
Ministering in my weakness gives me a chance to see God at work in ways that I would never have otherwise. When serving this way, I am under no illusions that the outcome is due to my being awesome or really good at this. I get to glorify God in a way I never can when I am serving in my strengths.
We are kept on our knees.
We are in that desperate and humble position of praying and asking others to pray for us. When we minister in our weakness we get to experience “blessed are the poor in spirit.” When serving in something I’m pretty good at, I rarely ask for prayer and honestly, usually never even think of praying. (Ugh. Pride is so ugly. Praise God for weakness!)
It keeps us teachable.
When I am actively serving in my weakness, I am teachable. I want to know what others have experienced. I want to seek the Scriptures for what others have done. I want to learn more, try different things, listen to different people. I pray often for the Holy Spirit to teach me. I get to see Scripture I’ve read a thousand times take on new meaning. It helps me see my habitual sins more clearly and repent more. Ministering in weakness truly is a wonderful and beautiful thing!
Please don’t read this post (or ANYTHING I post) as me having it all together and then teaching others from my expertise. I’m just trying to process and share what pursuing God in ordinary life looks like, and for me, right now, (
unfortunately fortunately) that looks like ministering in my weakness. We are all in different places, different seasons, different situations. Seek the Lord in your situation. Set aside time to pray and read Scripture and examine yourself. I don’t do it well, but by His grace, I’m praying to learn daily to die to self and live for Him.
Back in 2 Corinthians Paul finishes his thought this way:
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.-2 Corinthians 12:10
So now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts about ministering in weakness? Have you done it? Have you avoided it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and we can talk about it.
Very good thought and it hit home with me. I can relate to all your points given! Naturally I feel inward and it’s a constant battle to leave my comfort zone. I love the Lord and enjoy serving Him! Prayers appreciated! Thanks!
Praying for you! Lord, draw us out into the fields, the harvest is plentiful, but it is scary! Give us your grace!
Ministry from brokenness is such a gift from the Lord! Thank you for pointing out all the wonderful benefits of trusting our Father to do hard things thru us. I was encouraged by your blog today to get back on my knees and to trust the Lord to be my Leader in this trying time. Blessings to you!
Amen! Praying for you! May He bring us joy in our obedience.
Very good blog! I am unsure of how I even became subscribed to you…I have no idea, but I am glad that I clicked the email today! His strength is made perfect in our weakness and I definitely understand this more by reading your blog. God is glorified, most through our weaknesses. I normally sulk and become even more introverted in my times of weakness and wonder when I will see better days, but this blog opened my eyes to the priveledge of being weak and not being able. Culture demands that we always operate at 100% but more often than not we are not operating at full strength. The Lord is our source of strength and I hope to look to this blog and His word to remember this very truth! God bless you and keep the blogs coming!!
Amen! So true about the sulking and wondering when it will get better! We need to keep our eyes on Him and remind ourselves of that!
Hooooboy, you hit the nail on the ol’ head!!! You & I are soul sisters, Kari, from the neighbors to the praying and the weak/strong bargaining! God is working on each of us; may we do it all to His glory!
Oh, Kari, can we be BFFs? 🙂 It’s like you’re in my thoughts and say what I’m not even sure of, but seeing it in print, I know you’re dialed in. Yep, just looking for ways to serve that appeal to my strengths so I won’t mess it up and make God look bad! Or worse, mess up other people so they don’t want God at all! But you are 100% correct: the times I’ve been vulnerable and totally dependent on God, He totally steps in and somehow, the ministry/service works. Thank you so much for your blog and keeping me accountable!
LOL! So true that when we are completely dependent on God, He always shows up (though for me it never seems to get easier entering into each situation)!
Yes, yes, yes! In fact, I had someone say to me on Monday that when we are serving in something that isn’t our gifting, perhaps God just doesn’t want us doing that. It struck me as wrong thinking, but I couldn’t put it together at the time. But you just hit the nail on the head. Sometimes, we are called to serve outside our giftings, in our weaknesses, in ways that don’t come naturally to us. I always want to fuss at God and say “but that’s not what I want to do!”, but he is working on my heart, bringing me to a place where I can say “Here I am, Lord, use me.”
Amen! You and I both. May the Lord give us wisdom, endurance, and joy in our weakness.
This post is so perfect for where I am right now. I enjoyed your other blog, but this direction you have taken has really encouraged me. I have been a pastor’s wife for 29 years. I have a Bible degree, but I haven’t really dug deep in doctrine until you encouraged me. I have a few books sitting here that I need to get into, but you prodded. I also started a new job as an assistant chaplain at a care center. I love, love love the job. It fits me so perfectly. I love caring for people, talking about Jesus and doing music, and I get to do all of these things. However, talking about Jesus with unbelievers is not as easy for me. I could spend my whole day visiting with these sweet Godly women who live there, but I know that there is a bigger purpose for me being there. I need to share Christ with those that don’t know Christ. That is outside my comfort zone. I love them, and I want to share Christ, but it is harder for me. I have to go through each day asking God to provide opportunities and help me to see them; give me the words to say, and the love in which to say it. Thank you for sharing your heart! It has greatly encouraged me.
I’m so glad I clicked through your email to read this today. I appreciate the focus you put on prayer in all these things. It’s so difficult to navigate when we really should say yes to things we don’t feel like doing (or feel qualified to do) and when we should say no and accept that God can use our no to enable someone else to serve him in that capacity. We need to be constantly in prayer and relying on his power to work through us regardless of whether we FEEL capable or overwhelmed. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.
Thank you for being transparent. You are NOT alone out there. Pride wants to put us where we are comfortable and self sufficient. But God can work in such mighty ways when we bend to His will and direction-not our own. I have seen it over and over in my own life and still after 60 some years I have to die to Christ daily. I am encouraged though every time I see Him move. It’s awesome!
Thank you for such a humble, open & honest post. Ditto that you are not alone per Christy. As an introvert . . . and life in general, I didn’t think I had any pride left, but a bible study called Fatal Distractions showed me differently. Heavy sigh. Please keep the posts coming!
Thank you Kari for writing this, thank you Jesus for putting it on Kari’s heart to share this with us. I live in an unbelieving family and I’m desperate to show them the love of God but have no idea where to start and since I’m human I’m flawed and sometimes make mistakes and don’t always honour God by acting and reacting with anger to things that happen in our home. On my knees is where I’m going to start. Thank yo u and bless you for sharing your experience.