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In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul clearly and transparently lays out his reasons for boasting in his weaknesses. We call it the thorn in the flesh passage where he plainly said that he would boast in his weakness so the power of Christ would rest on him. The more you understand that section of God’s Word, the more you’ll be able to comprehend the purpose of suffering and how God perfects His strength in our weaknesses. Similar to the clay pot in 2 Corinthians 4:7, where Paul implied we must accept that we are jars of Adamic clay. The most significant stumbling block for anyone to grasp this message is our former manner of life—that time we spent as non-believers, receiving the cultural indoctrination that became our primary shaping influences. Here are a few typical examples of how our former manner of life becomes a deterrent to counterintuitive gospel thinking.
He does not know how to rejoice in his weaknesses. Somebody coached him up since Pop Warner, instilling a mindset that he’s the greatest. His strength unleashed became the zeitgeist that stirred an insatiable desire to compete and conquer. The hard truth is that we are similar to the glory-seeking athlete. Discontentment and insecurity easily entangle us, creating a disdain for being weak, average, different, insecure, fallen, imperfect, homely, unsuccessful, or rejected. Pick your poison; we all struggle similarly. It is hard for a clay pot to accept that being disposable, not good enough, or not immortal enough is the best we can be. Ask the superstar. Ask the average guy who is embarrassed about his career path or the average woman who is overly self-aware of the advancement of old age.
The nature of the jar of clay implies imperfection, but the proud heart and the discontented soul will have difficulty accepting this truth. I saw a bumper sticker that said, “My kid belongs to the no cavity club.” Really? I immediately thought about making a bumper sticker that said, “My kid is a B student with three cavities.” The craving heart will always be on the prowl for significance, even if it’s in his bicuspid. (I’m not knocking healthy teeth but saying the unguarded door of crouching pride always seeks to devour the high-minded.) If you think this is not a significant problem, I recommend spending time with abortion advocates or euthanasia proponents.
There is an innate, insidious Adamic reason they want to kill people. Weakness and deformity are contrary to the self-reliant spirit of our age. Though the death proponents are some of the more outlandish illustrations of people who hate weakness, we are not significantly different because we have an internal disdain for death in our bodies. We were born to break, born to die. Deterioration is part of what the curse means. God built us to last, but Adam sinned, and everything took on the smell of death. The Lord condemned us to die (Genesis 2:16-17), though His mercy would not allow us to be trapped in a body of death forever.
Thus, the deteriorating effect of sin begins at birth. A self-aware fallen pot intuits the death march but pursues self-reliant strategies to resist fallenness, not realizing soon enough that any joy outside of God’s strength is hollow. Living in God’s reality is where genuine joy begins. Rejoicing in our weakness is recognizing and accepting that our fallenness is the proper starting place. We must determine that we will not succumb to discouragement as we consider our disposable-ness. As Christian pots, we must press into the greater truths of the gospel. A sanctified pot does not sit around lamenting that it’s dirty, disposable, rejected, and undesirable.
The pot has a bigger vision than the squalidness of their former manner of life (Ephesians 4:17-22). Like Paul Harvey used to tell us, “Now, for the rest of the story.” The pot is on the road to rejoicing in its weakness because the pot knows it’s not stuck in the rut of its weakness. He knows that only through weakness-thinking and application that the power of Christ will manifest in its life. The pot’s weakness has a higher purpose. Paul said it this way: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Are you discouraged because you are a clay pot? Do you wish you were not the way you are? Does the way some people treat you discourage you? Are you a pot shaped by other individuals? There are at least three reasons clay pots become angry:
If you are a frustrated pot because of how you are, you cannot experience genuine joy until you change your mind. You’ll need to accept your pot identity to become a happy pot. Jesus did not come for pretty pots. Pretty pots do not need His assistance. He looks for the fragile, dinged, dented, and downcast pot. Jesus came for that person who owns his fallenness, recognizes that he can’t do anything about it, and seeks Christ. Did you know it is hard for some people to talk about their sins or let others know they have failed in particular ways? It’s true. Many individuals in the Christian community hide behind a wall of fear of being exposed. They are shame-filled and sin-focused.
These fearful people don’t publicly talk about their sins—to the proper and appropriate friends. They know something is wrong with themselves. It is hard for them to accept who they are, so they won’t talk about who they are to the proper people: they don’t want anyone to know. Because of this fear of being found out or their frustration with being a jar, they indulge in self-pity or choose anger. Acceptance does not mean you can never change or enjoy your broken condition. Acceptance is acknowledging. It means being honest, open, transparent, and humble about yourself. Calvary is blaring into our psyche that we are a broken people. Our consciences are also shouting at us, reminding us of who we are. Fallenness is only a bad thing for the self-righteous person who disdains exposure.
Embracing fallenness is why the Pharisees had such a hard time accepting the gospel’s truth: they were weak, fallen, inadequate, moral failures, and in need of Christ. Rather than accepting reality and Christ, they created a system for overcoming their weaknesses. Manufactured strategies to do all things through themselves are at the heart of self-reliance, half-measures that will end poorly for its participants (Philippians 4:13). A high-minded clay pot shudders to think they can be a bad, broken-down disposable clay pot. On their worst days, they sink into self-pity, dark reminders that crave hope and desire to be better than what their fallenness pronounces them to be.
If this is where you go in your heart when you think about your inadequacies, you will never be able to get on the path of boasting in your weaknesses. This juncture is where you must take your soul to task, reminding yourself that when you break, get dinged, or chip, those things will not ultimately cast you down or destroy you (Psalm 42:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10). Of course, if no one could fix a broken clay pot, there would be no reason to rejoice. Fortunately, for the Christian, there is not only acknowledgment and acceptance of fallenness but an awareness of the One who made the pot and His ability to overcome fallenness through the power of His gospel. Even in his weaknesses, the clay pot can rejoice because he knows that utter destruction will never be his portion.
Something profound and other-worldly happens because of our connection with the Potter. It’s like a little boy standing before his daddy while being accused or verbally assaulted by another boy on the playground. He is not hung up or overly focused on his inferiorities, insecurities, or inadequacies because he knows his daddy is with him (Matthew 28:20). Contrariwise, the self-righteous clay pot will never be content with the fragileness of the moment. The self-righteous boy will constantly lament that he can’t whoop the other kid, was made fun of or put down, or does not measure up in some way. He will always long to be better, superior, robust, or profound. It does not matter that his daddy is there.
What should happen is that he should focus on what his daddy can do because of the boy’s weaknesses or despite his weaknesses. The boy with a high view of himself will never be satisfied, content, or at rest. He will always be striving to be stronger, bigger, and better. Each time he fails, he will plummet into more misery, never realizing or acknowledging that his daddy is there to rescue him. He will spin in a sin cycle by not relying on God’s strength. He will be frustrated because he can’t be better than he is. If the little boy begins to understand and apply the gospel, he will become more content with who he is, a simple ding-able clay pot.
He will focus less on what he has or does not have while rejoicing in what God can do through him. Boasting in our weaknesses is accepting the facts of our fallenness while clinging to our strong Savior. It is not a zip-a-dee-doo-dah, I have sinned attitude, but a combination of these truths: “I will never be anything more than a clay pot on earth. I’m inadequate in my strengths. I don’t have to strive to be something I am not. God made me the way I am so that His surpassing power can work in and through me. When His strength works through me, it glorifies God, and I live in His immense pleasure’s goodness.”
Therefore, we have a steady and consistent heart of gratitude; we rejoice in our weaknesses. If it were not for our weaknesses, the power of Christ could not be in us or work through us, the cause of our rejoicing. We must accept our weaknesses while cooperating with God’s strength that He is perfecting in us. Our rejoicing is not because of sin. It is because of the combination and the accumulative effect of having a treasure in a jar of clay. It’s like saying, “Yes, I am weak, but you must know who my daddy is. He’s the one who can do great and mighty things through my weakness that will blow your mind. And in this, I rejoice.”
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).