Dr. John B. MacDonald
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My alternate title was too long: How your major strength is your main weakness, and what you can do about it.

Here are two questions for you.

1.     What is your main strength? 

2.     Second, is that strength your major weakness?

The second question may appear to be a contradiction, but it isn’t. Let me show you why. 

Your major strength

Perhaps it’s a strong intellect, good looks, a magnetic personality, great wealth, enviable social status, a particular skill, or something else?

Take a moment to identify and 'name' your major strength. 

Let me illustrate such a strength in the life of the patriarch, Jacob. 

Jacob was born holding on to the heel of his older twin brother, Esau (Genesis 25:26). That’s how he got his name: “he grasps the heel,” or, by extension, “supplanter” – one who trips up or overthrows. 

What Jacob wanted, Jacob got – by any means necessary. Here are a few examples: 

  • He demanded the birthright from a hungry Esau for a bowl of stew (25:29-34);
  • He tricked his blind father into thinking he was Esau, so he could get the family blessing (27:1-40);
  • He bargained with God when fleeing from an angry Esau: God, “if you do x + y + z for me, then you shall be my God” (28:20);
  • He struck a deal to work seven years for Laban to get Rachel (29:15-20);
  • He negotiated with Laban to acquire an abundance of livestock and wealth (31:4-16).

Jacob was a master of deals to gain status and wealth. He was determined to get what he wanted. Then, as now, this ability is viewed as a natural and enviable strength. 

Your strength as your weakness

How can your major strength be your greatest weakness?

The simple answer is: Because your strength gets in the way of experiencing God’s best!

Again, in Jacob’s early life he had no relationship with God. Even when he talks about God he refers to him as “your God” (27:20), or simply “God” (28:20).

God had already promised Jacob pre-eminence over his brother prior to birth (25:22-23). The Lord also unconditionally promised to bless and protect Jacob when he fled from Esau (28:13-15).

Despite these divine gifts, Jacob continued to default to his strength and turn everything into an opportunity to gain status, a bride, and wealth.

Jacob’s major strength became his greatest weakness because it got in the way of Jacob experiencing God’s best. 

A crisis

If you are to experience God’s best, you will experience a crisis.

That crisis will be in the realm of your major strength. 

Jacob’s crisis is recorded in Genesis 32. This is one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. Take a moment to read it

Jacob had just survived an encounter with his angry father-in-law. God intervened – but that was not the end. 

News reaches Jacob: Esau “is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him” (32:6).

He does what he can to protect his family and wealth from the expected attack by Esau (32:7-21).

Jacob is so desperate that he prays for the first time (32:9-12). 

After a life-time of living from his strength to get what he wanted, “Jacob was left alone” in the darkness with nothing but his fear (32:7, 24).

At this point, without explanation, we read (32:24-25): 

… a man wrestled with [Jacob] till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.

We realize that Jacob was wrestling with God in a way that took Jacob to the limits of his strength – and beyond. 

Weakness to blessing

In this crisis, Jacob’s strength is broken. All Jacob can do is hold on: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (32:26). He can no longer grasp and take; he can only receive

Jacob receives a new name and blessing (32:27-29). His new identity is now “Israel.” The meaning of this name is somewhat difficult to discern, but it probably means God prevails; he struggles with God; or God perseveres. 

Bruce Waltke writes: 

… at daybreak [Jacob’s] antagonist changes his name, and Jacob comprehends that the man is none other than God. Finally, as the sun rises above him (32:31), he walks away, better, limps away, a new man.

Your strength to blessing

Each of us tend to rely upon our major strength to define ourselves.

Your strength becomes a key to your identity – who you are.

From that strength, you seek to influence and control ideas and decisions, people and institutions. You use your strength to get what you want. 

Living from your strength will continue until you encounter the one true God who demonstrates that His foolishness is wiser than your wisdom, and His weakness stronger than your strength (1 Corinthians 1:25). 

Here are four questions to ask yourself, and to act upon: 

1.     What is your major strength, and how does it manifest itself?

2.     How is your strength getting in the way of experiencing God’s best?

3.     How does Jacob’s experience in Genesis 32 speak into your life?

4.     Will you invite God to “wrestle” with you to the breaking-point so you can receive His blessing?

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Photo credit: image by Ira Thomas

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