Strength out of Weakness
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [my problem] 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."1
In his book, Confidence, Alan Loy McGinnis talks about a famous study entitled "Cradles of Eminence" by Victor and Mildred Goertzel, in which the family backgrounds of 300 highly successful people were studied. Many of the names of those in the study were well known to most of us—including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi, Einstein, and Freud, all of whom were brilliant in their fields of expertise.
The results of this study are both surprising and encouraging for many of us who came from a less-than-desirable home life. For example: "Three-quarters of the children were troubled either by poverty, by a broken home, or by rejecting, over-possessive or dominating parents.
"Seventy-four of 85 writers of fiction or drama and 16 of the 20 poets came from homes where, as children, they saw tense psychological drama played out by their parents.
"Physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs characterized over one-quarter of the sample."
These people who had confidence in their abilities and put them to creative use all have had more weaknesses and handicaps than many who have a lack of confidence because of low self-esteem. So, what made the difference? Probably by compensating for their weaknesses they excelled in other areas.
One man reported, "What has influenced my life more than any other single thing has been my stammer. Had I not stammered I would probably have gone to Cambridge as my brothers did, perhaps have become a don and every now and then published a dreary book about French literature." The speaker who stammered until his death was W. Somerset Maugham, as he looked back on his life at age 86.
"By then he had become a world-renowned author of more than 20 books, 30 plays, and scores of essays and short stories."
Speaking personally, I too came from a psychologically distraught, dysfunctional family. What made the difference for me was a deep sense of God's call and my faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ (with a lot of hard work and growth). However, I tremble to think where I would have ended up had it not been for my Christian faith and practice.
It's not what we have or don't have that matters in life but what we do with what we have—and what we do about facing and resolving our issues. It is very important that we don't allow our past to determine our future and that we use what we have to the best of our ability.
As another has wisely said, "I may have been a victim in the past but if I remain a victim, I am now a willing volunteer." And another, "Hope for the future gives us power in the present!" No matter what our background, when we commit and trust our lives daily to God, we can and do have hope for the future. It's up to us what we do in the present to resolve our past and to become what God wants us to be in the future.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to see all that You envision for me to become and do and that, with Your help, I can become and do. Help me to realize that I don't have to allow my past to determine my future, and help me to face and resolve every issue in my past that might be holding me back in any way. And above all, thank You that when I daily commit and trust my life and way to You, You help me to turn my weaknesses into strengths. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV).