Limitations are Opportunities

Paul Clark

“God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him.” (James Hudson Taylor, 1832-1905)

I was born with a congenital eye problem which meant throughout school I could not see from my desk what the teacher wrote on the blackboard.  To read then, as now, I place my nose closely to the page of a book to see letters and words. I found out very quickly in school how cruel children could be as they often made fun of my eye condition, calling me names like cross-eyed and sometimes hitting me simply because I was different. Growing up in the United States and knowing that you would never drive a car, was for me a very discouraging thought.  I still remember, almost turning red for embarrassment, waiting in front of my college dorm to be picked up by my date who would drive us to a concert. Back in the day, usually the guy DROVE!

I am very thankful for loving Christian parents who showed me compassion but never allowed me to feel “too sorry” for myself due to my limitations. I am also very grateful for school teachers who understood my situation and went out of their way to give me special assistance.

It is amazing how God used men and women throughout the Bible as his choice servants in spite of their various limitations:

  • Moses had a major speech impediment;
  • David surely dealt with depression;
  • Jeremiah thought God could not use him because he was too young;
  • Paul pleaded to no avail that the Lord would take away his thorn in the flesh;
  • Timothy suffered from some kind of stomach ailment.

I vividly recall sitting in a car driving through former East Germany with two other pastors shortly after the Berlin Wall fell.  At that time, we were assessing what could be done to help plant new churches in former communist Germany

  • One colleague in the car had a nervous twitch which made him jerk his head from time to time.
  • The other colleague was very hard of hearing
  • And of course I was blind in one eye and could hardly see out of the other.

I thought to myself back then this is hilarious! God truly has a sense of humor! All three of us today are over 60 years of age and continue to serve God zealously in various ministries.

In my estimation, Rick Warren is one of the best communicators of the Gospel living today. However, recently I was surprised to learn that Rick was born with a brain disorder that makes public speaking excruciating for him much of the time. His brain overreacts to adrenaline, causing vision to become blurry and sometimes everything goes black.  Because of this disorder, he suffers with severe headaches, hot flashes and dizziness.

What about your limitations?

Rick Warren writes: “The fact is, everybody has weaknesses. And our weaknesses are multi-faceted. We have physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual weaknesses. The question is, what do you do with your weaknesses? While most people deny, defend, or excuse their weaknesses, Christian leaders can embrace them and ask God to use them! When God works through weak people, His power is shown more clearly!”

Reggie McNeal in his book, A Work of the Heart, How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, reflects:  “All leaders limp. Leaders become leaders, in part, because they are willing to wrestle with who they are, who they want become, how they can overcome some deficit in their own lives. They often need to achieve, need to be admired, even loved, need to bring order to some chaos that is within them. And almost always, these vulnerabilities are established in the leader’s family of origin, the early community that begins to shape the leader’s heart before the young child can even speaks.”

Over the years, I have learned very slowly, and sometimes quite painfully, that my limitations open a door giving opportunity for God’s amazing grace to enter my life in a more meaningful way. The men and women that we serve daily in local church ministry are constantly battling every variety of limitation and weakness. God desires that you and I help them find their way through our own personal example as “weakness overcomers.”

Rick Warren writes again: “While most people deny, defend, or excuse their weaknesses, Christian leaders can embrace them and ask God to use them! When God works through weak people, His power is shown more clearly!”

The apostle Paul sums up the topic of personal weakness so profoundly:  “For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.” (2 Corinthians 13:4, KJV)

I highly recommend that you read Rick Warren’s article How to Lead (and Preach) Through Your Weaknesses. 

In spite of our limitations, God’s grace is more than sufficient to help you and me thrive in the ministry that God has called us to. When we are weak then we are truly strong!  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NIV)