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. -2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

You won’t know what real, supernatural strength is like till you’ve given all you’ve got in your own strength, only to get crushed into dust and pieces. There is not one of us who, in our own strength, can conquer any and all challenges.

I’ve been a pro at being stoic and passive aggressive when it came to handling way too much in my own strength. Usually, about once a year, I’d fall very ill, my body just caving under all the stress, forcing me to stop and recuperate. One reason for this I can remember was the comparison my father would draw of me and my siblings against his friends’ kids: He would boast about the other kids’ physiques or what sports they were playing…and how we were just weaklings.

Good times, good times.

So, though I could never match the physical strength of others in musculature, I strained to show I had strength in other ways. Sometimes I’d get a little haughty and confident in how well I could accomplish things. But, eventually, the mountain of things I tried to carry would crush me.

I can see how Paul had to learn the hard way: In his letter to the Christians in Corinth, he tells them about how he thought he was handling everything just fine, even thinking he was rightly persecuting Christians in God’s name–till Jesus blinded him on the road to Damascus. Paul pleaded three times for it to be taken from him. But by blinding Paul, and eventually restoring his sight, God gave Paul vision and strength he never had before.

Paul goes on to say:

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 12:10 (NIV)

When we are finally broken and shattered and can honestly tell God, “I give up,” and let Him work through us, oh! what amazing works He will perform! How people will marvel, and that is your chance to let them know whose works they are!

Real strength is through Christ, who strengthens you. God’s work can begin at the end of yourself.