“Be perfect,” Jesus tells us, “as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). For years, I thought this meant I had to eliminate all my flaws as fast as I possibly could.
Whenever I made a resolution to do something and failed, I’d beat myself up. I would perceive certain parts of my temperament that caused me problems again and again and I’d feel angry at myself for being that way.
I’d sin and spiral down into a pit of discouragement that lasted for days. I would get upset when I wasn’t making the progress I wanted in the timeframe I wanted. I’d think God couldn’t love me because I wasn’t living up to His expectations.
All of this angst drained my hope and made me afraid of God.
A Shift in Perspective
Recently though, I discovered something revolutionary. The only way to a truly deep, close relationship with God is through rejoicing in our weakness. To peacefully, even joyfully, accept our flaws.
But we need to fight sin, don’t we? How can we strive to be saints, but also be at peace with our flaws?
Saint Paul speaks about the importance of bearing with your own imperfections in a beautiful passage from Corinthians. He describes a “thorn in the flesh,” some sort of personal trial that he wanted to be rid of and asked God for release from repeatedly.
God, however, had different plans:
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
-2 Corinthians 12:9-11
Saint Thérèse on Weakness
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux helped me see how crucial is this joy in our own weakness. Thérèse talks about how, far from causing us worry and anxiety, our flaws should give us confidence in God’s love.
God is drawn to the weak. His grace flows into our misery—provided we’re open to it—just as water flows downhill. Instead of trying to fix ourselves on our own, we run to our Heavenly Father and show Him our weakness. We acknowledge our dependence on Him, and we ask Him for help. This humility and confidence attracts His love, generosity, and healing.
According to Thérèse, the weaker and more wretched we are, the more confidence we should have in God. He wants to help us. But He can only do that if we admit that we need Him and give Him the space to work.
I shall always stretch out my arms to you in supplication and full of love! I cannot believe that you would abandon me! -Saint Therese #BISblog // Click To Tweet
We would wish to fall generously, nobly…What an illusion! We would never want to fall? What does it matter, Jesus, if I fall at each moment? It shows me my weakness and for this reason is a great gain for me. It shows you what I am able to do and now you will be more tempted to carry me in your arms. If you do not do it, it is because it pleases you to see me on the ground. Then I am not going to be disturbed, but I shall always stretch out my arms to you in supplication and full of love! I cannot believe that you would abandon me!
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Rejoicing in Your Weakness
Frankly, it feels terrifying to rejoice in your weakness. It means giving up any sense of control you thought you had over your spiritual life. It means embracing the fact that you were never that great or that holy to begin with.
While it may seem admirable to be hard on yourself after you fall, this harshness and irritation usually stems from pride. Often, when we sin or when some part of our personality is found wanting, we’re upset because it shatters the image we had of ourselves. We realize that the emotions and desires we thought we were capable of handling have gotten the best of us and we aren’t self-sufficient. The good news is, God always extends a hand to help us get back on our feet if we ask.
Saint Thérèse goes even further.
She says that God will take us up in His arms and carry us to where we need to go. Unlike us, He is patient and gentle in dealing with our sins and the areas of our lives where we just can’t seem to ever get it right.
Saint Francis de Sales once compared the soul struggling desperately against his flaws to birds captured in nets. By fighting against the ropes so much, the birds actually entangle themselves more and make the problem worse.
“Therefore,” he says, “whensoever you urgently desire to be delivered from any evil, or to attain some good thing, strive above all else to keep a calm, restful spirit.”
We must do our best to fight temptation and grow in virtue, but when we fall, the crucial thing is not to lose our peace. When we fall, we should immediately put it in God’s hands and tell Him, “Lord, I’m sorry. I need you.” We can go to Confession. And then we get right back at it. God will be able to do much more with this than hours of agonizing over our faults.
Trust in His Merciful Love
This is not an easy thing to do. But the truth is, God already knows every single one of our sins. He knows all about that one thing you swore you were never going to do again and then did five minutes later. He wants to love us and help us anyway.
The more we embrace our dependency on Him, the more at peace we will be. Because we realize we don’t have to carry the burden of our darkness ourselves. We don’t have to never fall. All we have to do is give our fight to Him.How (and Why) to Rejoice in Your Weakness #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Maria Bonvissuto is originally from Nashville and currently lives in Washington, DC. She works in marketing and communications for a school in Northern Virginia. She loves writing, reading at least three books at a time, playing classical guitar, dancing, and traveling.