And he [the Lord] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:26-27).
I delight in the simplicity of the Lord’s words to Paul and Moroni in explaining this paradox; To be weak is to be strong, or rather, strengthened through Jesus’ grace.
When we approach the Savior in our weakness, He makes us strong. Then, when we are made strong in Him, we are charged to find and to help those that are weak; To lift the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees (Isaiah 35:3).
I’ve pondered why the Lord would choose weakness and trial as a means to encourage us to come unto Him to become strong. That alone seems to be a paradox in and of itself. But then, I find it rather wise.
Consider the parallel to how we condition our bodies to become more physically strong. It requires adversity, effort, pain, and exhaustion in order to overcome an opposing force. As we gain strength, those opposing forces become less of a barrier to us, and our capacity to do more increases. There is no other way to achieve strength physically, and it is just the same to overcome our spritual barriers.
This, in one aspect, is what life is about; us overcoming all the obstacles that lie between us and eternal life in God’s presence. That is what Christ did.
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; (Mosiah 3:7, 9-10)
Jesus is the only person who has been given the power to overcome all things, both temporal and spiritual, that would keep Him and us from returning to the Father, thus becoming the Author of our salvation. In other words, this process of overcoming is the essence of the word salvation, which comes by placing all of our enemies or stumbling blocks beneath our feet.
So, now that we know what Christ did, what does it mean for us? Is that it? Are we ok to do whatever now, because Christ “did it all?” Well, if we look back to the example of Paul (and many others for that matter), we can assuredly say: No, that is not all. We have a potential and privilege to live up to, even to become “joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Romans 8:17).” If we are ever to expect to be worthy to sit at the marriage feast [see Matthew 22:2–14, Revelation 19:6–8] of Christ with Paul and others like him, and to receive a crown of glory, we must also strive to overcome the obstacles and weaknesses placed in our path. It may seem a daunting task, perhaps impossible, but it is in this state of weakness or humility that the “good news” of Christ’s birth, death, and ressurection becomes to us ever appealing, moving, and sweet.
Consider the first man Adam, and his wife, Eve. Before their fall they walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. They were clean; without sin. What a wonderful era that must have been! They must have felt fulfilled and strong. However, soon after they transgressed by partaking of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God visited them one last time and explained that they would be cast out in consequence to their disobedience. Think of the sorrow, hurt, and despair they must have felt in that moment; fearing that they might be lost forever. They must have felt shrunken and weak. But then, God informed them of something called the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where they learned that a Savior would be provided for them, and that by accepting Him and by taking upon themselves His name by way of covenant, promising to obey the laws and commandments of God from that time forth, they and their posterity (mankind) could be completely reconciled; clean from their sins and transgressions, and brought back into the presence of the Father. Oh! What joy and relief they must have experienced at the sound of these tidings spoken by our God!
God knew that these things would be. He knew that the fall of man was eminent, and that we, in our fallen state, would be incapable of saving ourselves completely and independently. Therein lies the need of the Savior in God’s great Plan of Salvation. In and only through Christ’s inifinte sacrifice, or Atonement, is grace made available, the way of mercy opened, and justice satisfied.
And so, God gives us adversities and weaknesses, a “thorn in the flesh” so to speak, to help remind us of our dependency on Him and of the grace of Jesus, and of our own nothingness (Mosiah 4). He lets us struggle through our trials in hopes to strengthen our faith in Christ, to learn to rely on Them, and only when we can do no more is Christ’s grace sufficient for us. Only when we can do no more do miracles occur, and only when we can do no more can we know of a surety that Jesus steps in and carries us through. This is how in one way, the Lord’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Another way that the Lord’s strength is made perfect in weakness, or made known to man, is also explained by the apostle Paul, and is expressed as follows:
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1 Cor 1:27)
Similarly, Alma, a prophet in the Book of Mormon taught:
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. (Alma 37:6-7)
The Book of Mormon itself is a prime example of this concept. According to the prophets Jacob and Moroni, in the Book of Mormon, the Lord, by faith, made the verbal language of the Nephites mighty and powerful:
Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea (Jacob 4:6)…for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith (Ether 12:23).
However, both Jacob and Moroni continue by expressing how their written language is very weak in terms of preciseness and power:
Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things (Jacob 4:7).
And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;
And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words (Ether 12:23-25).
To Moroni’s concern the Lord responded:
Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
So, you see, it is interesting how the Lord chose and commanded these ancient prophets to record the words of God given them in their weakest form. Now, consider how the scriptures have been a small means to bring about the salvation of many souls; convincing them of the reality of Jesus, and to have faith in Him.
And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal (2 Nephi 33:4).
Indeed, God has made them strong by the pouring down of the Spirit upon us insomuch that the words contained therein pierce to the very core of our souls, despite the weakness or error found in the authors’ writing ability. What a miracle the scriptures truly are!
Consider also some the prophets like Samuel or David, or Jesus’ chosen twelve apostles. Were not these the weak and simple men of the earth? And yet through their faith in Christ they became inspiring men of strength.
Notice how Lord says in the previously quoted scripture, that the meek “shall take no advantage of your weakness.” The attributes of humility, and meekness are often viewed as a sign of weakness. But rather, they are attributes we can choose to become when we recognize our weaknesses in order to obtain strength and faith in and through Jesus Christ. To me the choice to confess/recognize our weakness and to humble ourselves before God is a sign of courage, and strength; and according to the Savior, only the humble and meek will obtain His grace, and “shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
On the other hand, the scriptures make it very clear that those lifted up in pride, who rely on and boast in their own strength, and that put their trust in the arm of flesh shall be brought low, made weak, and are cursed (Isaiah 2).
In conclusion I echo the promise to us as we live according to this paradox, as explained by King Benjamin to his people:
And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true (Mosiah 4:12).
In time we will be able to look back upon our lives and say the same as the great evangelist, Ammon:
I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. (Alma 26:11-12)
Finally, may we remember in the moments that we feel insignificant or weak, perhaps in a time of trial or tribulation, the “good news” found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and recall the words of Paul that he spake to the Philipians: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philipians 4:13).