If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness…(2 Cor 11:30)
Paul’s long list of distressing events could be seen as a complaining monologue. No one likes a complainer. So, why should Paul rattle off a long list of sufferings for the record? Why should we share with one another financial, family, and workplace, and school woes? We share our distress with one another in order to give glory to God and hope to others. When a colleague of mine lost a child to cancer he was so amazingly courageous and strong in the aftermath that he seemed nearly inhuman. Yet, he was so human in that setting that one could see the strength of the Spirit nearly oozing from his pores. He openly discussed his sorrow and shock and how his faith and church community gave him strength. He “boasted” of his weakness and gave glory to God’s faithfulness in the face of an unexplainable tragedy. I can vividly recall how powerfully he ministered to others during that time. No doubt there are many who have taken hope from his witness.
Telling others about the trials that we have faced also allows us to talk about the grace, strength, and/or rescue we received. We tell the story not to boast of our perseverance, but to give recognition to the strength that God and our faith communities provide. There may well be others who daily fight to cover up their financial struggles, their difficulties with their teenage children, or their marital problems. You may have wisdom and hope that they need to hear, but they won’t hear it if you also are covering up your struggles with those issues. We may keep our distress to ourselves in part because we’re storing up the earthly treasure of a good reputation. We want others to think that we are wonderful parents and responsible with our money. In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren argues that the experiences that we are most embarrassed to have others discover are often our most powerful tools for ministry – once we decide to share them instead of hide them. We have boasts of weakness that can offer hope to others who are struggling. If we must boast, let us boast of the things that show our weakness – and the faithfulness of God to rescue, strengthen, and console.
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