Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

My Weaknesses – Blessing or Curse?

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.   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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.     2 Corinthians 12:7-10  (ESV)

Paul, a man used greatly of God and also a man given many advantages and special privileges (like personally seeing heaven and the glory that awaits all who believe), also had a great struggle.  He confesses that these wonderful things that he experienced could become a root of pride within his life.  Therefore, the Lord ‘gifted’ him with a ‘thorn’ that he might not become conceited.

This difficulty-weakness-handicap was something physical that limited Paul and made him depend upon the Lord for ability to accomplish his mission.  While not clear what this was (perhaps poor eyesight or partial blindness – see Galatians 4:15 and 6:11), it was burdensome enough for Paul to ask the Lord to heal him and remove the handicap from him.  Three times he asked the Lord for help and three times he was told ‘no.’

Finally Paul came to understand that this thorn was not something to be removed, but rather something to be gloried in.  It demonstrated his weakness and therefore, his total dependence upon the Lord for help.  Therefore, he says, I learned that in my weakness God’s power is manifested more clearly.

What is it that comes to your mind as an impediment to your leadership?  What physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual weakness do you wish were changed or removed in order for you to better serve His purposes?

Perhaps, like Paul’s thorn, what you see as weakness is a gift from the Lord to help you demonstrate His power in and through you.

Are you wishing it were removed from you?  Are you just tolerating it – gritting your teeth and grinding on?  Or are you boasting in your weakness, knowing that He is glorified through it and His power now more evident in you?

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2 thoughts on “My Weaknesses – Blessing or Curse?

  1. Dear Tom
    Thanks for a profound blog message about the weaknesses of leaders. I have two questions:
    1. How do we deal with significant ministry-limiting personal weaknesses as leaders?
    When I would have a little weakness that causes some discomfort, it is easy to trust God to handle this, but when the weakness is so severe that personal functioning in ministry is at risk, it becomes extremely difficult to trust Jesus that only He will achieve anything because I personally cannot. How do you handle this?
    2. Paul was very explicit that he had a very unpleasant weakness, even though he did not write about the details of it. To what extent should leaders disclose their hard personal weaknesses in public, especially on the ever-present digital media?
    I would be interested if you, Tom, would be writing about your personal context in a blog like this, so that others would be able to relate to your situation and be encouraged, or if it might be better for leaders to be cautious about how much they disclose of their struggles in which they learn to trust God.
    Looking forward to hear your input!

    • These are excellent questions…here’s my thoughts.

      1. How do we deal with significant ministry-limiting personal weaknesses as leaders?
      I’m assuming that this is not a sin issue – something like a pornography addiction for example. For if it is sin, then the answer is repentance. 1 John 1:9 But if the issue is something else that puts “personal functioning in ministry at risk” then we ask God to remove it as Paul did with his thorn in the flesh. If God answers no and the weakness remains, then perhaps we gain the perspective Paul did in realizing that through weakness the power of Christ is manifested (2 Cor. 12:9).

      2. To what extent should leaders disclose their hard personal weaknesses in public?
      Here is seems that we must use discretion on how much to share and with whom. As above, I would distinguish between a struggle with sin (don’t hide; bring it into the light to appropriate people who can help) and a personal weakness like poor self-image that leads to people-pleasing for example. If this weakness is the latter type, then we want to be authentic. By this I mean, be transparent, letting people know our our weaknesses. But we must be wise and discerning on how much detail to share and with whom in our move towards transparency. Followers are not looking for perfect leaders, just those who are growing in Christ. Then, to those close who have our trust we can move from transparency to vulnerability, where we invite them into our lives to help us grow and change.

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