Why Our Weakness Is Designed to Draw Us Closer to God
by Emily A. Jensen
My hands gripped the steering wheel like I was driving through a thunderstorm, but the car wasn’t moving. I sat in a dark parking lot with my hands at ten and two while tears streamed down my cheeks. Not the pretty kind you might see in an old film, where a single tear can be gently dabbed away with a tissue. My chest heaved, and I wailed more like a child than the twenty-year-old woman I was. It was a cry from the deep—not just tears for another failed relationship but the physical response of disappointment heaped upon disappointment, mess upon mess that I’d made of my life. I’d lived apart from God, but could I even call it life? For all I’d done and tried, I had nothing but ruins to show for it.
For the first time in my adult life, I raised a sincere cry to God. With head low, I could mutter only two words: “Help me.”
And help He did.
Within the week, I heard the gospel and believed. I surrendered my life to Christ. God helped me not by instantly cleaning up the mess I’d made of life but by giving me new life in Him.
When I look back on those moments, nearly twenty years ago now, I think of the deepest kind of weakness a person can experience. Something worse than being keeled over with back pain or feeling insufficient for a task. It’s the kind of weakness that each person must reckon with before a holy God. Our souls suppress it because we don’t want to face how minuscule, broken, dead and incapable we are apart from Him.
Knowing you need a strength outside of your own might be something you considered at such a young age that your memory of surrendering to Christ comes in shadows and flashes. You’ve spent your life walking with God and experiencing joy in Christ, even though it’s not been a perfect journey. Through the doubts, the ups and downs, you know the weakness of your flesh and your need for grace. For as long as you remember, you’ve lived as a debtor forgiven and saved.
Or perhaps, as in my case, God opened your eyes and ears to the gospel as a teenager or young adult, and you made the walk of a prodigal into the arms of your heavenly Father. He gently sifted your life through a colander, His loving hands shaking away every worthless thing, leaving only bits to build from as you walked forward in faith and obedience.
Or maybe you’ve never reckoned with your weakness. Perhaps you’re tired, overwhelmed, discouraged, worn down and frustrated with your own striving. You’ve tried every option for hope and help under the sun, and you’re out of ideas. You sense a weight on your soul heavier than you can lift, and it’s pressing your knees to the ground. Oh, friend, low is exactly the right direction to go.
In the book bearing his name, Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet, describes his vision of God. Seeing the Lord seated on a throne, surrounded by fearsome heavenly beings and quaking foundations, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me!” In modern English, we don’t use the word “woe” to describe our feelings. But Isaiah’s vocabulary included “woe,” and he would have used it to reflect deep despair and desperation. His listeners would have known “woe” was a cry full of passion and lament—almost an involuntary reflex. For Isaiah, “woe” was a sinner’s wail upon seeing a holy God. And he brings us further into his state of mind when he adds, “I am lost. I am a man of unclean lips.” I love the King James Version’s translation: “I am undone.” When Isaiah finds himself face-to-face with perfection and holiness and unimaginable glory and power, he instantly recognizes his weakness, confesses his humble state and laments over his sin.
At some point or another, like Isaiah, each of us will be undone. You’ll kneel before the one true God (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11). You’ll cry out and feel exposed in your sin (Revelation 20:11-15). This can happen now, or it will happen later, at the second coming of Christ and final judgment. The certainty of our humbling is why Scripture implores us, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15, emphasis added). The gospel, or the good news, is that each of us can turn to Him for grace now, while the joy and reward are immediate, abundant and eternal. God promises to do for us what He did for Isaiah, taking away our guilt and sending us on mission (Isaiah 6:6-9).
As we consider the many types and experiences of weakness we might face, it’s important to have this facet of weakness settled. Our soul-level weakness is not just a feeling and it’s not imagined—the Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But it also says that the grace of God appeared in Christ to save sinners like me and you (Titus 2:11). The strength of our holy God is exercised on behalf of our weakness.
Today, if you feel weak because you’ve made mess upon mess of your life, or because mess upon mess has been heaped upon you, let the weight drop you low. Collapse beneath the load in sweet relief. And leave the weight of your weakness again at the feet of Jesus Christ. There is no reason for you to try to clean up the mess in a strength you don’t possess. Instead, cry out to Jesus Christ. He allowed Himself to be crushed so you could walk freely today. And He lends His ear to every “woe.”
Emily A. Jensen is an author, a podcaster and the cofounder and content director of Risen Motherhood. Emily’s first book (coauthored with her podcast partner and sister-in-law, Laura Wifler), Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments, has sold over 100,000 copies. Emily lives in Ames, Iowa, with her husband and their five children.