A Christian View of Working in Your Strengths (Especially in Relation to Thinking About Our Weaknesses)

People often ask me “if we are supposed to seek to work within our strengths most of the time, what about our weaknesses?” The question is about more than simply “how do we manage our weaknesses.” Rather, the question stems from the (very good) observation that God especially uses weakness in his kingdom. Does this change anything about the way we should go about our work? Should we, for example, conclude that we should not seek to focus on our strengths most of the time?

I have many thoughts on this, and actually have written a short book (unpublished, and not yet fully polished) on a Christian view of strengths where I also deal with this question in some detail. (That book was originally a very, very long chapter I originally wrote forĀ What’s Best Next.) I hope to publish that book at some point, once What’s Best Next is taken care of.

But for now, here’s a chief part of the answer: There are plenty of weaknesses within your strengths themselves. You don’t need to worry about making yourself weaker than you already truly are.

And, if God has a special weakness he has ordained for your life to make you more fruitful as you have to rely on his power to live in light of it and overcome it, he’ll see to that, as he did with Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Further, what’s interesting from Paul’s experience is that he was actually quite diligent in asking the Lord to take away his weakness (see verse 8). That is the Christian response. It is not Christian to try to make ourselves weaker than we already are. That’s presumption, not Christianity. The Christian response to suffering is to first ask the Lord to take it away. But then in instances where he doesn’t, then the Christian response is to accept it and, indeed, glory in it, as Paul did, as a (forced!) invitation to rely on a greater strength — namely, the strength of Christ (vv. 9-10).

Let me just say one more thing. I would suggest that, perhaps, the notion that we ought to avoid focusing on our strengths is actually somewhat prideful. For it assumes that your strengths are stronger than they really are. You focus on your weaknesses when you are forced to. That’s what makes them weaknesses. A weakness that is “chosen” is not, typically, a true weakness.

Use your strengths. God has given them to you, and you in fact have an obligation to use them for the good of others — that’s what justice is: the strong using their strength on behalf of others (note also the biblical exhortations to do this in 2 Corinthians 8 – 10; also the command in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 as it applies to money and the Parable of the Talents). Please don’t worry about being “too strong.” You’re not. And when God does bring (even greater) weakness your way, first seek to remove it and ask him to remove it and, if he doesn’t, recognize it as an opportunity to rely on God in a different way, and rejoice in that.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    Although spiritual gifts are a unique subset of strengths, I think many teachings about gifts could apply to easily to other strengths. Gifts are clearly given not for the glory of the gifted but for the good of others. In fact, the picture of a body with body parts implies that others are given weaknesses complementary to your strengths (and strengths complementary to your weaknesses).

  • http://callmom.co Erin Lichnovsky

    I hope to read that book one day. Keep up the great work.

  • Matt

    Thanks, Erin!

    Loren: Great point and I agree. On your point of serving others, especially others in the body of Christ, we could even put it this way: not to use our strengths is to withhold what is due from other members of the body of Christ. If my eye said “I’m not going to use my strength of seeing,” my whole body would suffer as a result.

    The whole point of our gifts (/strengths) is to serve others. It’s all about benefitting others first, not ourselves.

  • Lance

    These are tremendously helpful thoughts for me. Thank you.

    I have some ideas of how you would respond to this question, but I would rather hear from you directly.

    How does your thesis here play into James 1:9-10? (I grant that I may be making a false assumption that “high position” = “strength”)

    Thanks for any thoughts…

  • Matt

    Great question. Yes, what I would say there is that I would not equate “high position” there with strength. I would define strength as as an activity you can perform really well, and which you enjoy doing (it gives you energy rather than leaves you feeling drained).

    Hence, people in a “low position” as well as those in a “high position” have strengths. Everyone does. So everyone, whether they are of high net worth or low, in a highly regarded position, ordinary position, or lowly regarded position, should utilize their strengths as much as possible in their job. Further, when doing so, regardless of the status of their job in the world, what they are doing is noble and excellent if done for the glory of God.

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