When we moved into our apartment in Easton a few years ago, the complex was still being built building by building. Living in the midst of a construction zone and watching the complex come together was interesting.
Near the end of construction, a landscaping company came and planted scores of trees all over the complex. These saplings were scraggly looking. In fact, most of them looked as if a puff of wind could snap them in two.
To protect these young trees from such a fate, their trunks were bolstered by straps that were attached to stakes in the ground. For about two years, these trees were strapped firmly to the ground. During this time, the trees were able to put down roots deep into the soil. Once the trees had grown sufficiently both above and below ground, the stakes were removed.
Now, our apartment complex is expanding. Around the new construction zone is a temporary safety fence. However, this flimsy fence fell over several times in the first week or two after it was erected when a string of strong storms blew through town.
A couple weeks ago, I noticed something interesting about this ramshackle fence. To keep it from continually falling over, someone had placed straps on it and anchored it to a nearby tree. A few years ago, the tree was the one that needed strength. Now, it was providing strength to something else that was weak.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes an infirmity that he calls his “thorn in the flesh.” Although we don’t know what his specific condition was, it was something that caused him great weakness. In fact, he says that he asked God on three separate occasions to take away this weakening agent from his life.
Yet God did not answer Paul’s request in the way the apostle was hoping. He remained weak in his body. But over time, Paul came to an understanding that this weakness was actually beneficial for his life. He said in 2 Corinthians 12:8–10, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he 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.”
Although Paul was weakened through his physical difficulties , he was able to strengthen thousands upon thousands through his personal weaknesses. Like a weak tree that later was able to lend strength to another object, Paul was able to aid untold numbers on his missionary journeys—all because he had experienced weakness in his life. Of course, he couldn’t do this in his own power. It was the power of Christ that were the “straps” that stabilized him and allowed him to grow in his time of weakness.
If you’re going through trials in your life, don’t focus on your weaknesses. Allow the power of Christ to strengthen you so that you, in turn, can strengthen those around you. Take heart in the words of Peter who said in his first epistle, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12–13).