If I could take on a superpower it would be not to need sleep. I like sleep, yet it doesn’t seem to fancy me, especially this past week as jet leg kicks our butts something fierce. Insomnia, no matter the reason, forces us to face the reality of our human weakness. Even when we desperately desire and need sleep, when we’ve tried all the tricks in the book minus hard narcotics, we lack the power to make ourselves fall asleep. (Blessed are those who are the exception.) What’s more, try as we might with coffee in hand, we can’t decide we don’t need sleep.
Our reliance on sleep is one small reminder that God is not like us. God does not sleep. (Psalm 121:4) Which is why I find it so comforting, especially in those near-to-tears bleary moments in the day after a sleepless night, to read that Jesus did sleep. Jesus did get tired (John 4:6). Jesus slept in the back of the boat as the wind, and disciples, howled. (Mark 4:37-39) Self-sufficient God took on human flesh in Jesus and experienced needing sleep and can empathize with our human weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15) That is a high priest who cares, who understands, who gets it, who gets us.
As an American living in London, one of the cultural differences I’m gradually realizing is this: Generally speaking, Americans talk about their weaknesses more readily than, well, maybe the rest of the world. Both sides of the spectrum – talking too much about your weakness and never talking about your weaknesses – are dangerous. It’d be exhausting to hang out with someone who is a hot mess (a phrase I haven’t heard since moving here) all of the time. But on the flip side, you can’t have a real friendship with someone who never shares their weaknesses and struggles. One side can lead to self-absorption and habitual complaining, the other denial and isolation.
When I was asked yesterday at church how I was doing I answered like the American Gen X-er that I am: “Jet lagged and sleep-deprived!” And I was glad for the ‘I’m sorry’s’ and ‘I’ve been there too.’ I’m glad no one spouted off a Bible verse. Empathy is what we’re really after, to cash in on the common bond of humanity we share, no matter what (or if) we profess about God.
Paul takes it a step further. Paul boasts in his weaknesses so that God’s strength can shine through. I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Cor. 12:9)
Do I tether my weaknesses to God’s strength, or do I merely whine?
Both. And I’d like to decrease the latter.
Here’s what I’m thinking. We are called to bear with one another and help the weak, to be patient and forgiving. And that’s what we’re hoping for when we share a weakness: understanding and acceptance, not a sermon. But if we’re the weakness sharer we can link it to God’s power at work in our lives. That’s where the boasting comes in, showcasing what God is doing through our weaknesses. It’s admitting that we struggle with anxiety and rejoicing in the ways he empowers us to socially connect with others anyway. It’s sharing our struggle with anger and sharing how meditating on God’s word has taught us to give pause. It’s recognizing our tiredness and sleep deprivation while giving God credit and praise for giving us the strength to work and parent and live. It’s accepting we are children of weakness, empowered by a righteous and loving Father.
Superheroes we’re not, nor are we meant to be. And yet, through Christ, his power is at work in us.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Phil 2:13 NLT)