What does it mean to boast in your weakness? Are you boasting in your sin, or is there more going on here? I am a jar of clay, but what does Paul mean when he boasts as a clay pot?
I’ll have to admit that I don’t understand this passage of Scripture very well:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
- Is he bragging that he is self-reliant?
- Is he is saying, thank God I’m not able to be strong, but Christ is strong?
- What does that boasting look like practically?
- How is God’s grace sufficient?
- How is God’s power made perfect in my weakness?
Then Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” That sounds like for the power of Christ to rest on me, I need to boast gladly in my weaknesses.
Again, I’m hung up on what does it mean to boast gladly in my weaknesses and how does that cause the power of Christ to rest on me and what does rest on me mean?
You may want to read:
- The reason God wants you to be a fragile jar of clay
- A detailed Mind Map for overcoming self-reliance
- Beyond your ability? God has you right where He wants you
The reason God wants you to be a fragile jar of clay article is an exposition of 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, which is the other place in Paul’s Corinthian letters where he clearly and transparently laid out his “reasons” for boasting in his weaknesses. The more you understand that passage, the more you’ll be able to comprehend the 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 passage.
Being content with being a jar of clay
The clay pot has to accept the fact that he is a clay pot, which is hard for some “pots” to do. For many of people, it takes too long to come to terms with their fallenness.
- Their fathers pressured and expected them to be better than they could ever be.
- Their friends mocked them or made fun of them, which manipulated them into success-centered thinking.
- Their culture has only one view: Winner! There is no place for second in today’s society.
- The Hollywood beauty queens tell them what perfection looks like and many women are insecure enough to go for that worldview.
You see this kind of discontent nearly every week in the sport’s world. The glory of the athlete fades, and the athlete is the last one to accept his new reality. He retires. Un-retires. He retires again. He seems never to accept who he is and what has happened to him.
He does not know how to rejoice in his weaknesses. He has been coached-up since Pop Warner Football to think himself to be the best. His training unleashed him to be devoured by his insatiable desire to compete and win.
The hard truth is that you and I are very similar to that guy. The cravings of discontentment and insecurity easily ensnare us. When it does, being weak, average, different, insecure, fallen, imperfect, homely, unsuccessful, and rejected will spin you out of control.
It is hard for a clay pot to accept the fact that being disposable, not good enough, or not immortal enough is the best he will ever be. Ask Michael Jordan. Ask the average guy who is embarrassed about his career path or the average woman who is overly self-aware of her dress size.
You were born to have cavities
The nature of the jar of clay implies imperfection. The proud heart and the discontented soul will have a hard time accepting this truth. I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, “My kid belongs to the no cavity club.” Really?
I immediately thought about making a bumper sticker that said, “My kid is a B student with three cavities.” The craving heart will always be on the prowl for significance, even if it’s in his bicuspid. (I’m not knocking healthy teeth, but saying the unguarded door of pride is always seeking to devour the high-minded.)
If you think this is not a major problem, I recommend spending time with the abortion advocates or the euthanasia proponents. There is an innate, insidious Adamic reason they want to kill people. Weakness and deformity are contrary to the self-reliant spirit of our age.
Though the “death proponents” are some of the more outlandish illustrations of people who hate weakness, you are not a lot different, in the sense that you have an internal disdain for the “death” that is in your body.
You were born to break. You were born to die. Deterioration is what the curse means. God built you to last, but Adam sinned, and it all went wrong. The LORD condemned you to die (Genesis 2:16-17), though His mercy would not allow you to be trapped in a body of death forever.
Therefore, the deteriorating effect of sin begins at birth. The pot realizes what the pot is. Living in God’s reality is where “rejoicing in your weakness” begins. It’s not the whole story, but rejoicing in your weakness has to start somewhere, and realizing and accepting your fallenness is that starting place.
For the pot, rather than being discouraged by its “disposable-ness,” it presses on into a greater truth. The pot does not sit around bemoaning the fact it’s dirty, disposable, typically rejected, and mostly undesirable.
Are you a happy pot?
The pot has a bigger vision than this kind of self-centered thinking. Like Paul Harvey used to tell us, now, for the rest of the story. The pot is on the road to rejoicing in its weakness because the pot knows it’s not stuck in the rut of its weakness.
He knows that it is only through this kind of “weakness-thinking and application” that the power of Christ will manifest in its life. The pot’s weakness has a higher purpose:
We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. – 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
- Are you discouraged because you are a clay pot? You wish you were not the way you are?
- Does the way some people treat you discourage you? Meaning, are you a pot shaped by other individuals?
There are typically three reasons clay pots become angry pots:
- They don’t like the way God made them.
- They don’t like the way others have shaped them.
- They don’t like a combination of both: what God did to them and what others did to them.
If you are a frustrated pot because of how you are, you will not be able to embark upon the road to rejoicing. You’ll need to come to terms with who you are before you can become a happy pot.
Did you know it is hard for some people to talk about their sin or let others know they sin in particular ways? It’s true. Many individuals in the Christian community hide behind a wall of fear of being exposed.
They are sin-focused. Though these fearful people don’t talk about their sin publicly, they are very much aware they sin. It is hard for them to accept the realities of who they are, which is why they won’t talk about who they are: they don’t want anyone to know.
Because of this fear of being found out or their frustration with personal sin (being a jar), they go into self-pity or angry mode rather than expecting and accepting the fragileness of who they are. “Accepting” does not mean you can never change or that you enjoy sin.
“Accepting” means being honest, open, transparent, and humble about who you are. Calvary is blaring into your psyche that you are a broken person. Your conscience is also shouting at you, reminding you of who you are. Fallenness is only a bad thing for the self-righteous person.
Embracing fallenness is why the Pharisees had such a hard time accepting the truth of the Gospel: they were weak, fallen, inadequate, moral failures, in need of Christ. Rather than accepting their fallenness and Christ, they created a system for overcoming weaknesses. Man-made strategies to “do all things” is at the heart of self-reliance (Philippians 4:13).
A self-pitying person is a self-righteous person. This kind of individual hates the fact he does such and such, and because he has a high view of himself, he shudders to think he can be a bad, broken down disposable clay pot. Thus, he goes into “self-pity mode.”
It’s just another way of thinking, craving, hoping, or desiring to be better than what your fallenness announces you to be. If this is where you go in your heart, you will never be able to get on the path of rejoicing in your weaknesses.
A pot who knows the Potter
The clay pot knows it’s a clay pot and when it breaks, gets dinged, or chips, it is not ultimately cast down or destroyed (Psalm 42:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10) Of course, if no one could fix the clay pot, there would be no reason to rejoice.
Fortunately, for the Christian clay pot, there is not only awareness and acceptance of fallenness, but there is an awareness of the One who made the pot and His ability to overcome fallenness through the power of His Gospel.
The clay pot knows he can rejoice, even in his weaknesses, because he knows that utter destruction will not come to him. There is something profound and other-worldly going on because of the pot’s connection with the Potter.
It’s like a little boy standing in front of his daddy while being accused or verbally assaulted by another boy on the playground. He is not hung-up or overly-focused on his weaknesses, insecurities, or inadequacies because he knows his daddy is with him (Matthew 28:20).
Contrariwise, the self-righteous clay pot will never be content with the fragileness of an accusation. In the illustration of the little boy, the self-righteous pot will always bemoan the fact that he can’t whoop the other boy or that he was made fun of or put down or is inadequate in some way.
He will always long to be better, superior, stronger, or more profound. It does not matter that his daddy is there. What should happen is that he should focus on what his daddy can do because of the boy’s weaknesses, or in spite of his weaknesses.
The self-righteous boy or the boy with a high view of himself will never be satisfied, content, or at rest. He will always be striving to be stronger, bigger, and better. Each time he fails, he will be plunged into more misery, never realizing or acknowledging that his daddy is there to rescue him.
By not relying on God’s strength, he will sin behaviorally, in addition to his self-pity and self-righteous heart attitudes. He will be frustrated in the fact that he can’t be better than what he is.
If the little boy begins to understand and apply the “entire realities of the Gospel,” he will start to become more content with who he is, a simple ding-able clay pot. He will focus less on what he has or does not have while rejoicing in what God can do through him.
Rejoicing in your weakness
Boasting in your weaknesses is accepting the facts of your fallenness while simultaneously clinging to your strong Savior. It is not a zip-a-dee-doo-dah, I have sinned attitude, but a combination of these truths:
- I will never be anything more than a clay pot on earth. I’m inadequate within my strengths.
- I don’t have to strive to be something I am not.
- God made me the way I am so that His surpassing power can work in and through me.
- When His strength works through me, He is glorified, and I am living in the goodness of His immense pleasure.
- Therefore, I have a steady and consistent heart of gratitude; I am rejoicing in my weaknesses.
If it were not for your weakness, the power of Christ could not be in you or work through you, and that causes rejoicing. In such cases, as I have outlined in 1-5, you are a “clay pot” rejoicing in weakness, though cooperating with God’s strength, which is the only way God’s strength is perfected in you (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Your rejoicing is not because of sin. It is because of the combination and the accumulative effect of having a treasure in a jar of clay. It’s like saying,
Yes, I am weak, but you need to know who my daddy is. He’s the one who can do great things through my weakness that will blow your mind. And in that, I rejoice.
Also published on Medium.