We are uncomfortable with the poor, the mentally ill, and the unlovely-unloveables who do not enhance our Instagram stories. Having been sold a narrative that includes gleaming smiles and answers to prayer that arrive just in the nick of time, we need a theology that is formed by Jesus's teaching in the Beatitudes.

The Treasure Buried in Your Weakness

The phone rang, and it was bad timing, but I answered it anyway out of habit. A friend from church was looking for some very specific information, so the call was quick. We accomplished the purpose and the call ended.

But the phone rang again. My friend had heard something in my voice, and she had heard accurately:  emotions close to the surface, the sound of a day that had already gone on too long.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I don’t recall the specifics of my lie, but I’m certain the word fine would have figured prominently in it, and so I foolishly squandered the opportunity to admit that I was tired, overwhelmed, and feeling like a failure. I dodged an offer of grace.

Fine is a lie that isolates hearts and drives pain underground, and the soul that is determined to be perceived as fine will never uncover the treasure that is buried in weakness. Alia Joy offers readers the gift of words to put a shovel in their hands as she labors alongside them, patiently excavating the truth that blessing comes with vulnerability. Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack reveals Alia’s own story of poverty and longing and unearths her struggles with bipolar disorder, chronic illness, and faltering faith.

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

As North American Christians, we don’t have a category for struggle that does not go away. We are uncomfortable with the poor, the mentally ill, and the unlovely-unloveables who do not enhance our Instagram stories or look the way they “should” in our pews. Having been sold a narrative that includes gleaming smiles and answers to prayer that arrive just in the nick of time, we need a theology that is formed by Jesus’s teaching in the Beatitudes, for, ironically, poverty of spirit qualifies us for Kingdom living.

“We say God is all we need but we don’t live like it.” (37)

Leaning into our longing, listening to all our souls lack, and putting a name on our need sets the table for true biblical lament. Armed with a theology that accounts for emptiness and ache, we are able to sit with our own faithless flounderings and to speak truth into a friend’s anger or loss without expecting an abracadabra moment. Alia’s writing admits the risk in this, for, it is much easier to pray for the good life and to hang out with those who are living it.

For Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven

Fortunately, Scripture provides solid examples of men and women of great faith who poured out their disappointment with God in no uncertain terms and yet persevered in obedience. Their honesty did not disqualify them from God’s love or His service.

“We are not better Christians when we call the hardest parts of life ‘good.’ But we can learn to call God good in the hardest parts of our lives.” (156)

It is an act of faith to embrace the goodness of God while our story is still unfolding. It is a practice of radical hope to invite others into that unfinished story. As we embrace our own Glorious Weakness, we receive a refresher course in the “phonics of hope.” (196)
And who knows?
With a little practice–and a few more disarming phone calls– even the most stubbornly fine among us might find ourselves speaking fluently about a God who sits with us in our sadness and enters our brokenness.

Together, may we find grace to trust for restoration that comes in ways we cannot prescribe and may not have chosen, but that, nonetheless, reveals God’s great Kingdom here on earth.

 

Many thanks to Baker Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Bearing witness to the goodness of God in the most unlikely places,

 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack, simply click on the title within the text of my review, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

54 thoughts on “The Treasure Buried in Your Weakness”

  1. Love this open, honest, transparent post, Michele…reminded me of this word study of 2 Corinthians 12:9:

    NASB: And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

    Amplified: But He said to me, “My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

    A Greek word study of this Scripture reveals that Jesus’ first words are “is sufficient” which places emphasis on our supply of His grace; a truth which gives us encouragement to face difficult times. Jesus’ response to Paul follows a chiastic pattern (a literary device in which a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order. The result is a “mirror” effect as the ideas are “reflected” back in a passage. Each idea is connected to its “reflection” by a repeated word, often in a related form…e.g., he came in triumph and in defeat departs)

    A…is sufficient
         B…for you
              C…my grace
              C…my power
         B…in weakness
    A…is perfected

    “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect IN weakness.”

    IN distresses—circumstances forced upon you, reversals of fortune against your will. This could refer to any situation where you feel trapped. You didn’t plan it or think it would be this way. But there you are, and it’s hard.

    IN persecutions—wounds, abuses, painful circumstances, acts of prejudice or exploitation from people because of your Christian faith or your Christian moral commitments. It’s when you are not treated fairly.

    Whether IN distresses or persecutions, Corrie Ten Boom encourages us…Look at self and be distressed,Look at others and be depressed, Look at Jesus and you’ll be at rest!

    The word grace comes from the Greek word, charis meaning “to rejoice.” Someone has written that the word grace is probably the greatest word in the Scriptures, even greater even than “love,” because grace is love in action, and therefore includes it.

    Charis is a word which can be somewhat difficult to define but one of the most familiar definitions is “God’s unmerited favor.” In the present context, grace speaks of the supernatural power available to Paul to enable him to bear up under his “weakness”, the trial of a thorn in his flesh. Grace is God’s unmerited help for one undeserving with no thought or ability to give recompense. Grace is not some static concept but is a dynamic force, which totally transforms the believer’s life beginning with salvation, continuing in our sanctification, and then all through eternity in our glorification. Grace enables the believer to endure without grumbling or complaining, and enables our weakness or suffering to be used for God’s glory.

    https://bethwillismiller.blogspot.com/2015/11/your-grace-is-sufficient.html

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  2. Michele, such a great message here and one that I am guilty of forgetting too often! Those moments of grace that we are offered are so important and we must remain open to them in order to receive the benefit. I have heard of Alia Joy (and I cannot remember when, where, or how), but that fact that you are writing about her and it is ringing a bell is telling me that I am receiving a divine message of some sort that I need to read this book…so off I go to find it! Thank you for the work you do!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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    1. Well… you are in for a real treat and a challenge all in one read, Shelbee. Alia uses her own story to invite readers into a clear view of their own story and the work God can do when all we have to offer to him is our lack.

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  3. I have not read Alia’s book – but your review reminds me how so many of us put on our Sunday-go-to-meetin’ masks and hide for 2 hours each week. “Oh, yes I am fine.” “Why yes we are great thanks for asking.” And, as soon as we are in the car the masks get ripped off and our own true miserable selves emerge. God, help us to be honest with one another – if we cannot be truthful with our spiritual sisters how on earth can we deliver hope and truth to this world drenched in darkness? Lord God in Jesus’ name give us grace and forgive our shortcomings. For the Kingdom’s sake. Amen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen!
      And you’ve nailed the heart of it here, SS. It’s not just our own hope and salvation we’re messing with here. The Truth of the gospel shines so much more brightly against the darkness of our own need, but we’re scared to death to put it out there.
      Blessings to you, and thanks for the way you share your story of God’s great rescue.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This!

    “Fortunately, Scripture provides solid examples of men and women of great faith who poured out their disappointment with God in no uncertain terms and yet persevered in obedience. Their honesty did not disqualify them from God’s love or His service.”

    Their honesty in their struggles and feelings, didn’t mean that they were not going to obey, or that they would hinder God’s love and plan. I need to remember this and act like it!

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  5. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book though I haven’t read it yet, so it’s interesting to read your thoughts. For a long time I just told everyone I was fine no matter how I was, and I agree, it takes practice to learn to open up and be honest, but it has been such a blessing to find people with whom I don’t need to pretend.

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  6. Such an important message Alia Joy is addressing. To admit that we’re overwhelmed, exhausted, or frustrated-enough-to-scream feels like we’re not trusting God enough to get us through a tough day or season. But knowing that the discovery of the treasures in our weakness is part of God’s plan gives meaning to such circumstances. And when we share such times with others, the treasure is surely expanded in us and in others. Thank you, Michele, for introducing us to another worthwhile book!

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  7. You hit a nerve.
    You should know by now I might have a slightly different take on this topic. While I am always at the ready to listen to someone else’s troubled heart, I am not inclined to seek comfort from anyone else. Why? In a word, habit. My lifelong habit is toI fret, then pray and wait. He always works it out so then I’m relieved that I didn’t burden anyone else. I just go straight to Him. He leads I follow.

    However…

    Here’s the downside to this – I know I’ve missed the chance to demonstrate to someone else how faith works. I’ve also missed the opportunity to let someone else pray for me, to connect with Him.

    Thing is, I’m too independent so I’m never ever a good example for anyone else to follow.

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    1. Well, I disagree with the content of that last paragraph, but the rest of the story is a helpful perspective on the following life. I think many of us practice internal processing and that includes prayer, and sometimes the person I have to admit I’m not “fine” to is myself!
      God already knows.
      Glad to have “hit a nerve” because I love it when you show up here with your accumulated wisdom.

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  8. Your posts always seem to come to me at exactly the right time. Right now I am not fine. What I am finding is that by being honest and reaching out to others and yes praying too I have an umbrella for the days that feel rainy and that umbrella weirdly helps show me the sunshine too. #TwinklyTuesday

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    1. Well, that’s really good news to me, Kate. I’m glad the words fit the timing for you, but I’m sorry to hear that you are not “fine.” However, your honesty puts you on the right track for healing, and that umbrella metaphor is just priceless, so thank you for speaking up here!

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  9. This sounds like another good one! We do need to learn to embrace “the poor, the mentally ill, and the unlovely-unloveables who do not enhance our Instagram stories or look the way they ‘should’ in our pews.” This reminds me of a friend from college who stopped attending our church because he struggled with depression. It seemed that there was always this attitude from people at the church that he would get better if he just prayed more, had more faith, would try gratitude journaling, etc. This sounds like a useful resource on how we, as the church, should respond.

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    1. We do WAAAAY over simplify life in general and mental health specifically, and I’m thankful for voices like Alia’s and also Amy Simpson and Michelle Bengtson who are sharing their own struggles, not prescriptively, necessarily, but in order to encourage those who struggle and to enlighten those who don’t understand.

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  10. We do tend to answer “fine” far too often, don’t we? Of course, I think many people (not your church friend) ask the question “How are you?” with expectations of hearing “fine” as the answer. Any other answer would be almost unacceptable.

    When I first began teaching, my classes consisted of kids who were considered misfits, outcasts, and unloveable. It was intimidating, but eventually, after making a lot of mistakes, I did finally learn to love the unloveable.

    This book sounds like a “must read”.

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  11. THIS —> “We say God is all we need but we don’t live like it.” is SO TRUE! Thank you for this honest and transparent post Michele. I love Glorious Weakness. It’s such a good book. I keep recommending it to people. 🙂 Tweeted. Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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  12. Michele,
    Having struggled a lot with these issues myself, I need to get my hands on Alia Joy’s book. God still is good, even when things are “bad”. We do miss out on a lot of grace when our pride makes us say we are “fine” when we know darned well that we aren’t. It’s only in our weakness that He is strong, and often he brings strength to us through others. Thanks for sharing this review!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  13. This really spoke to me: “We say God is all we need but we don’t live like it.” So convicting! So true!

    I also need to admit I am one of those who always says fine when asked how I am. I think there is a little fear of self-fulfilling prophecy that lingers in my mind – I don’t want to confess for fear of bringing more of it! But as we’ve talked about many times, doing life together is a goal of the church (the main goal is glorifying God), but how can we do life together if we are less than honest with each other about what is going on in our lives?

    I really need to read Alia’s book because I’ve been down in the trenches with bipolar in the family for 30 years now. When it first happened, I thought we were the only ones! Since then, I’ve seen a lot of families struggle with it. How great it is that there are now conversations about the problem!

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    1. I know you are a blessing to others in your church family, and it’s good that you are open to receiving the blessing of help and input from others.
      And I was not aware that you have been dealing with bipolar disorder in your family, so I’m glad you have become aware of Alia’s story. Yes, it’s not something we need to keep as a secret, and conversation opens the door to help from knowledgeable sources!

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  14. Thanks for sharing your heart once again. David many times “poured out his complaint” to the Lord. I like this line: “We are not better Christians when we call the hardest parts of life ‘good.’ But we can learn to call God good in the hardest parts of our lives.” It is so important to be able to discern between the two outlooks. God is good no matter how “bad” everything around us may look. That is the beauty of it: He never changes, but He can change us. God bless you, Michele.

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    1. Recently, I heard someone say that we can’t help the WAY we see (speaking of temperament and Enneagram type, etc.), but we can help what we do about it, and that’s my goal. I want to respond in a right way to my own brokenness and to others’ needs. Thanks be to God: we don’t do this alone.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What a perceptive friend to call back. I’m currently reading Glorious Weakness myself. Alia Joy went through some really tough times in her life; makes me sad. But I’m glad that she is finding the glory in weakness; it helps me find it, too.

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  16. This sounds like another great book. Great post! There really are treasure in weakness. He shows us His strength and comes through for us when we can’t. All glory to Him! The Lord promises to give us “treasures hidden in darkness” in Isaiah 45:3. He is faithful to His promises! Blessings!

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  17. Michele, what a powerful post. So much of spoke to my heart. I have been that one who tried to look like all was well in my life, when really? On the inside I was falling apart. Like you shared, I missed out on offers of grace.

    “It is an act of faith to embrace the goodness of God while our story is still unfolding.”

    This spoke to me too. Sometimes, we have to cling to the truth of who God is (He is good), even when our story is in the messy middle. Thanks for sharing about this book. It sounds so good!

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  18. A worthwhile excavation, surely. This topic always brings me back to 2 Corinthians 4 – treasure in jars of clay SO THAT it will be clear it’s Gods glory at work, not ours. Thanks for the thoughtful and poignant book review, Michele!

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  19. OK – just those few quotes from this book are already hitting me in the heart. This sounds like an incredible book.
    I heard someone talk about that before – dont ask someone “How are you” if you dont really want to sit & listen… but then the opposite, how often we just automatically say “Good” “Fine” & never really share our truth. We need more of those real moments with each other.

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  20. I vote to banish the word ‘fine’ from our dictionary. I am never fine. I am happy or sad or angry or jubilant or just relaxed and ready to nap. I’ve never been ‘fine’ because the word doesn’t feel like anything to me. When I hear the word, I perk up and pay attention because the person who said it is most usually not ‘fine.’ #GlobalBlogging

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  21. Oh I have had my eye on getting this book for over a month and it will be the next book I purchase. Every person I’ve read that gives feedback on it really speaks powerful things. We definitely need to face weaknesses so that a compete surrendering of them can be used for God’s glory!

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    1. It is counter cultural to own our weaknesses and to live authentically in an air-brushed world. I think Alia’s book and her example are going to make it a bit easier to do that–at least among the community of readers!

      Like

  22. I think “im fine” is a symptom of western society, eapecially in Britain where traditionally we’ve been taught to keep a stiff upper lip, put on a brave face and stoically get on with things.

    #abitofeverything

    Like

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