Have you ever thought that your spiritual weaknesses might actually help you? In the Book of Mormon, a book revered as sacred scripture by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”), there is a verse that has always stood out to me:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27).
This is something that I know is true, for I have seen it happen in my life and the lives of many of my loved ones. I still have many weaknesses that have yet become strengths, but I know that life is a work in progress and we are only able to go “line upon line, and precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30).
In a book titled, Experiencing Christ: Your Personal Journey to the Savior, written by Randall J. Brown, and published in 2009 by Cedar Fort, Inc. (pp. 10-12), Brown shares doctrine and personal experience that helps us apply this principle that weaknesses actually help us:
Experiencing Glory in Our Infirmities
Through my own struggles to overcome spiritual wounds and unconquered weaknesses, my eyes were opened to the fact that self-sufficiency was keeping me from experiencing the Savior. I was coming face-to-face with my own barriers to the Savior’s grace. The Apostle Paul learned, from his own experience, that his weakness played an important role in teaching him humility and reliance on the Savior’s strength. He also learned that the Lord did not instantly remove his weakness just because he asked. Paul, as an apostle of the Lord, was given a thorn in the flesh, which he asked the Lord three times to remove. Paul was taught that the Lord is more concerned with molding and shaping our character.
The Lord has told us that, through His grace, our weakness will become our greatest strength. This process will always be completed on the Lord’s time frame. In the meantime, however, we have the Lord’s promise that, if we are humble, His grace is sufficient for us. The words the Lord spoke to Paul are recorded in his second epistle to the Corinthians: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In essence, the Lord said to Paul, “No, Paul, you need this weakness to remind you every day that you rely on Me.” In a BYU Women’s Conference address, Robert Millet said,
I rather think that when Paul states that when he besought the Lord thrice for the removal of the thorn in the flesh that he was not describing merely three prayers, but instead three seasons of prayer, extended periods of wrestling and laboring in the spirit for a specific blessing that never came. Indeed, as he suggests, another kind of blessing came, a closeness, sensitivity, acquaintance with deity, sanctified strength that came through pain and suffering.
It was up against the wall of faith when shorn of self-assurance and naked in his extremity and his frightening finitude that a mere mortal received that enabling power that we know as the grace of Christ. As the Savior explained to Moroni, when we acknowledge and confess our weakness, not just our specific weaknesses, or individual sins, but our weakness, our mortal limitation and submit to him, we begin the transformation from weakness into strength (“After All We Can Do,” BYU Women’s Conference, May 1998).
Author Stephen Robinson also added valuable insight:
Sometimes our weaknesses are given to us for that purpose, to remind us that we rely upon the Lord and to train to rely upon the Lord, instead of behaving as if the gospel were a Celestial Eagle Scout program where we are to earn merit badges and check off items on the list until we have perfected ourselves. Through our weakness, we learn that our victory comes through Christ, that we must rely upon him and be contented to trust him to make our weakness strong instead of demanding in our pride that he grant us immediate victory over all our limitations and difficulties” (“With Healing In His Wings,” 2002 BYU Women’s Conference).
Not only can our weaknesses turn us to the Lord, but they can also help us become more compassionate toward others’ weaknesses. Our weak- nesses are actually gifts that can assist us in the development of Christ- like characteristics and divine nature, that is, if we allow Christ to work through them. Our weaknesses can also increase our capacity for compassion. Sometimes we confuse sympathy for compassion, but there is a significant difference between the two. Sympathy is merely being able to say, “I feel sorry for what you’re going through,” while compassion is saying, “I know what you are going through because I have experienced it.”
Recently, I received a phone call from my son, who is serving a full- time mission. He had asked his mission president for permission to call his dad regarding a personal challenge he was experiencing. He felt uncomfortable discussing his problem with anyone else, but he knew that I had experienced the same challenge. When his phone call came, I was filled with compassion because I had made that same phone call twenty-eight years earlier to my own father. I remember how difficult it was to ask my mission president for permission to make the call and the courage it took for me to openly expose my anxieties to my father. My heart melted with love for my son as we spoke because I knew what he was experiencing, and the depth of his trust in me touched my heart.
Our Savior’s experience must be similar. His heart must also melt with compassion because of His perfect intimate knowledge of our trials. He must also be deeply touched by our courage to trust Him and lay before Him the deepest concerns of our hearts. Perhaps He also reflects on the time, long ago, when in His hour of deepest despair, He trustingly called upon His Father.
As we turn to the Lord and experience His perfect compassion, our own capacity for compassion increases, and we are able to see others as the Lord sees them. The Lord’s specialty is turning weaknesses into strengths. The experience and hope we gain through our weaknesses give us the opportunity to minister very effectively to others with similar struggles.
Our ministry to others begins with our willingness to be vulnerable. The more we are humble enough to let down our guard and take off our masks of perfectionism, the better we are able to share our struggles with others. We will begin to see our God-given purpose as the Lord is able to use us in serving others. Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life, said, “Vulnerability is an endearing quality; we are drawn to humble people. Pretentiousness repels but authenticity attracts” (The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 276–77).
When we flaunt our strengths, we usually create competition and jealousy, but when we allow people to see our struggles, we open doors for healing relationships to begin.
If we feel the need to hide our weaknesses behind a mask of perfectionism, perhaps we have not yet experienced Christ. Perhaps we have not seen His purposes in our infirmities that we might glory in them. I can now look back on the most painful times in my life, and while I would never want to repeat them, I can praise God for them because in them I found Him. Like Paul, I can now truly glory in Him.
I invite you to learn more about how to “glory in our infirmities” by reading the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I witness that the things taught above are true; and I witness that the Book of Mormon is true—it is the word of God (like the Holy Bible) in its purest form. I invite you also to pray about these things to know if they are; we have a loving Heavenly Father that will answer your prayers.
Ashley Bell is a 22-year old wife, mother, BYU graduate, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ashley loves to run, cook, garden, read, and most of all spend time with family and friends.