If you're reading this, let me tell you my story.
This past year, for almost three months, I genuinely wanted to die. More specifically, I wished that I could fall asleep in my bed and never wake up again. I wanted my death to be painless, and eventually came to realize that I could never bring myself to directly cause the event I so greatly desired. I have learned that I wished to die because I was plagued with mental illness. At the time, I had no methods or desire to combat the effects of my disease. I now take medication every day to supplement the levels of serotonin in my brain, and I regularly attend counseling sessions to keep my thoughts where they need to be.
I hurt a great number of people during this dark season of my life. Some of my closest friends and family members were scared in a way that they had never experienced, truly hoping that by the grace of God I would still be alive when they saw me next. Although I resent the fact that so many people I love had to suffer in such debilitating ways, I am thankful that so much goodness has come from that season of darkness.
There is a church in Charlottesville called Trinity Presbyterian. I love this church for many reasons, one being that the sanctuary is almost constantly filled with natural light that pours in through a giant window located right behind the altar of worship. The main reason why I love Trinity is that a very talented preacher named Robert Cunningham works there. He has given several incredible sermons that I am lucky to have witnessed. He led a sermon series last fall on the Book of Lamentations, called Tears for the World. In one sermon from this series, he quoted a famous theologian in saying something along these lines:
“We often find that we learn things through pain, through tears and real, genuine grieving, that we could have never known while we were dry eyed.”
I loved that sermon, because it applied directly to my life. I have learned so many things through humbling myself to analyze the various anxieties and fears that continue to pester me day after day. I now realize that only by confronting these fears through accepting my own weakness can I find true freedom and relief. I have learned to love my own weakness, and would encourage everyone reading this to do the same.
Most people hate weakness. It is not valued in our society. When we see weakness in another person, we immediately deem them to be undeserving of admiration and unqualified for responsibility. This could not be further from the truth. It is those people who can be honest and vulnerable about their weakness that deserve to be our leaders and mentors. These people know true strength.
Academics throughout history have claimed that women, in general, are weaker than men. They claim that women have less muscle mass, are built for less demanding tasks, and were never meant to work in physically demanding roles, such as those in farming, manufacturing and construction. Even the Bible, a text that many look to as an authority on truth and ethical living, seems to claim that women are weaker than men. In 1 Peter 3:7, the author commands husbands to love their wives and treat them with respect as “the weaker vessel." Many women are rightfully outraged by this passage and others like it. For centuries, men have looked down on women because of their supposed weakness, and the condescending stereotypes that these ideas can breed must be brought to an end. But, I would argue, there is no reason that anyone should feel offended after being called weak. We, all members of humanity, are weak, and need to come to terms with this truth before we can learn to live freely and beautifully.
My favorite verse in the Christian New Testament, 2 Corinthians 12:9, says the following:
“So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].” (AMP version)
I believe this to be true, and necessary for all to understand. When we are weak, vulnerable, humble, honest, etc., then, and only then, are we truly strong. There is strength, a beautiful, everlasting strength that is found through accepting weakness. We will always be weak, especially when we juxtapose ourselves to the immense glory of The Lord. We must remember that our weakness is a blessing, because it allows us to more fully experience a right relationship with God.
Never feel ashamed for being called weak. Treat it as a compliment, because, when considered with an eternal perspective, it is just that. Love your weakness. It is weakness that makes you human; a creation fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the everliving God. Cherish that forever.
I know I will.
Sean M., University of Virginia