Beware of Your Strength
A friend is in the midst of a trial that blind-sided her. She said, “I don’t understand. Am I doing something wrong? How do I get in messes like this? They seem to follow me around. What have I done?”
My understanding and perspective are limited, but I told her that her problem was her big heart. She is involved in the lives of others who have big needs, and she lays down her life to see that their needs are met. When there are complications for several people at once, it becomes overwhelming to her.
Her selfless love for those in need is amazing. It is an admirable strength that has blessed many people. But her strength also gets her in trouble.
Many of our struggles arise from our strengths.
Have you known someone who is really smart and gifted in learning but has a hard time believing something if they can’t understand it? Sometimes their intelligence keeps them from stepping out in faith to trust Jesus with a situation—or their life. Their strength becomes their stumbling block.
Likewise, I’ve known people who are skilled at stepping into any situation and serving. They instinctively know what to do to help out. But if they aren’t careful, they will be helping someone else while their own family is in need. Their gift creates problems because at home the service becomes mundane and they get special joy in serving others.
Or the big-hearted person that invests in an individual to help them get their life in order and ends up drawing that person to themselves rather than to the Lord. Instead of helping them become established, they develop a co-dependent relationship that is not healthy for either of them. And it all started with a genuine desire to help.
I’ve known several elderly people who become very fearful when they are weakened by age and physical challenges. It surprised me because the fearful ones had been strong, independent, I-can-take-care-of myself individuals as adults, whereas the seemingly weaker individuals don’t become so fearful.
I wonder if the problem is that the I-can-take-care-of-myself people never really learn that God will take care of them. Could it be that the strength of those strong individuals becomes a troubling weakness?
Then there is the strongly self-confident person who has few friends because it seems he thinks he is always right and won’t listen to anyone else. And yet, isn’t it a strength to be self-confident?
Our strengths are a gift from God, and they are given so that we will use them to bless others and strengthen the body. But we need to beware of our strengths. They can lead us into trouble if we aren’t careful.
First of all, we need to realize that they are from God. If we take credit for them, we’ll become proud and will be less appreciative of the gifts that others have. Consequently, we will think too highly of ourselves and look down on others.
Second, we need to submit our strengths to the lordship of Christ. If we seek Him about when and how to use them, He will guide us, either opening more opportunities to use them, or leading us to say no so we won’t be stretched too thin. He will give grace for the work He has prepared for us.
Third, we need to use them as a way to serve God and others, not expecting acknowledgement or reward from man. If we—and our strengths—are surrendered to the Lord, He will reward us (1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 3:23-24).
Forth, we need to be willing to walk in our weaknesses rather than in our strength. It is in our weakness that His strength is most clearly made known (2 Cor. 12:9). If we seek to hide our weaknesses and only engage in activities that use our strengths, we are denying God the opportunity to work through us.
When we do that, we are missing much of what God has for us in life. By not depending on God to work through us when we are weak, we do not experience His grace and faithfulness or the joy of living as His child. There is tremendous joy in seeing God use you when you go beyond your abilities. It builds deeper faith and confidence in Him (2 Th. 1:11-12)..
Denying opportunities that require us to walk in our weakness also limits the opportunities for God to use us for His glory. If we work in our strength, we get the glory, not God. If we acknowledge the Lord in the process, He can get the glory, but if we are weak and dependent on Him, God will be glorified and others will be drawn to Him.
Use, develop, and enjoy the strengths God has given to you, but beware, they could trip you up when you aren’t expecting it.