“…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
I still remember where I was the moment that call came, when my mom called to say it really was cancer. We had suspected after her initial doctor’s visit, but you hope until the biopsy results come back that maybe it’ll be benign. But it wasn’t. The call to tell me shook me to the core.
I was terrified. My mind went to the worst place immediately: Life without my mom. I had to talk myself back and quickly. This was just a diagnosis not a death sentence, and with her stage of breast cancer there was a strong chance of survival. But I spiraled quickly to the worst possible outcome and the realization that I could not do a single thing about it.
And that was at the center of it. My loss of control. It wasn’t that I hadn’t walked hard roads before. Life is full of valleys. Suffering wasn’t a stranger to me. But this time, when it was cancer and my mom, I felt helpless.
Honestly, I felt weak.
So many other scenarios I had a “fix” for or could see the end in sight. Not this one. The end was questionable and I certainly did not have the power to do literally anything. Weak, powerless, helpless.
Don’t get me wrong. I tried. What could I control? I could make flights to arrange to visit every other weekend at least. I could try and keep busy in grad school and my job to keep my mind from worrying. I could send care packages in between my visits. I could show I was strong to my mom.
But I couldn’t fix cancer. It revealed a weakness, that necessitated strength from something other than myself.
Thank goodness for God’s word. A source of strength when our own weakness fails us. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians, “for when I am weak, then I am strong” are paradoxical upon first glance. In context of the letter to the church in Corinth, he shares an unnamed struggle that he pleads for the Lord to remove. His circumstances do not change; the “thorn” is not removed. So how could he be strong in the midst of his weakness?
His power, the Lord’s strength is made perfect in weakness. That’s the reply the Lord had for Paul as he begged for the struggle to be removed. Not a promise to remove the weakness, not an explanation or timeline of how long Paul needed to endure or even a roadmap detailing how to endure. Instead, back to the paradox, strength made perfect in weakness.
And that was answer enough for Paul. Answer enough to cause him to claim that he would be content in his weakness, because in that very weakness, he would find strength.
Those verses began to make sense to me when I felt weak, powerless, and helpless.
My strength was not going to come from any solution I could find, but only from my hope in Christ. It wasn’t what I could do to change the circumstance, but where was my steadfast hope through the circumstance.
My mom is a cancer survivor. Some would say this story has a happy ending. And I agree. I’m thankful everyday that I still have time on earth with my mom. But throughout her cancer treatment, she reiterated not once, but often that she was content with whatever the Lord had in store because she knew her eternal home.
That my friends, is strength. It’s HIM being our strength in the middle of our weakness.
Sacred Story is honored to have Ranelle Woolrich as a guest contributor. Ranelle was raised in Oklahoma, but having been born in Texas and raised by parents who were Texans, has always called herself a Texan. After graduating from the University of Kansas, she went on staff with a discipleship youth ministry in Missouri. In 2003, she returned to her roots in Houston and spent the next ten years teaching in both middle school and elementary schools and serving in school administration. In 2013, she joined the staff of Grace Bible Church in Houston as the Director of Women’s Ministry. To read more stories of women walking through health struggles, follow this link.