I feel the pressure. Perhaps you feel it, too. It manifests in the amount of time I spend carefully curating my Instagram profile, in the clothes I buy, and in the daily decisions I make. It manifests in the way I interact with certain friends and the details I might choose to share (or exclude) from any given conversation.
What's this hidden desire? It's the desire to seem like I've got it all together.
This is a temptation many of us face. But when we fall into it, I fear we miss out on the chance to share the incredibly unique story of God at work in our lives. Instead of acting like we've got it all together, what might we gain by embracing vulnerability?
The Power of Vulnerability
One online dictionary defines vulnerability as a "willingness to show emotion or to allow one's weakness to be seen or known; willingness to risk being hurt or attacked."
I don't know about you, but my natural instincts are quite the opposite. I don't want to show my weaknesses. Honestly, I'd rather avoid vulnerability at all costs, keeping people at arm's length instead of being courageously honest about what I'm really going through.
In the Bible, the apostle Paul serves as a powerful example of what it looks like to live with vulnerability. Typically one to write with boldness and courage, in his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul admits a personal struggle he faced, which he described as a "thorn in the flesh." Whether this was a physical, psychological, or spiritual ailment, we do not know. But we do know Paul asked the Lord three times to remove this "thorn" from his life.
"Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me," Paul writes. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9a).
God didn't immediately solve Paul's problem. Instead, He invited Paul to be vulnerable in his weakness. Through his vulnerability, Paul was actually able to glorify God in a unique way.
Paul continues: "Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more in my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10).
Paul learned not to hide his weakness or vulnerability. Instead, this became the very avenue in which Paul found his strength. As we trust in Christ, we can do the same.
Unlike Paul, I often let the fear of what others might think keep me from boasting in my weaknesses. Instead, I try to manage and mitigate my weaknesses in my own strength. While this might feel like a safer approach in the moment, in the long term, it can limit the true impact of my gospel witness.
Personally, I first began to learn the power of vulnerability a few years ago when I started leading a group of high school girls in a weekly Bible study. I remember feeling so nervous as I began–unsure if I was qualified enough or if I would even be able to answer their questions.
I'll never forget the piece of advice a friend gave me. She reminded me that I didn't have to be perfect or have all the right answers to build relationships and share the gospel. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have all the right answers anyway. But even then, I could share what Christ has done for me. In my weakness, I could point to Christ's strength.
It sounds simple, but that was the most liberating piece of advice I could have received. As I took it to heart, I learned the more vulnerable and authentic I was, the more room there was for Christ to be glorified.
Bearing One Another's Burdens
A few years later, I struggled with a season of discontentment and insecurity at work. I felt stuck, unable to move forward in my own strength. For too long, I kept quiet about these feelings, afraid to admit my weakness and appear inadequate.
However, one night, I finally decided to share my struggles with my small group. When I did, I wasn't met with judgment or disdain–I was met with the love and support of my community. They prayed for me, and I really felt their prayers in the weeks that followed.
By God's grace, my situation began to change: I got a new job! But perhaps more importantly, I felt my heart begin to change. It became easier to trust God was working in my life–regardless of the outcome–because I had friends continually reminding me of this truth.
In Galatians 6:2, Paul exhorts believers to "carry one another's burdens." As my community lifted my situation in prayer, they reminded me I don't have to carry my burdens on my own. What's even better, as I began to see God working in my situation, I had a community of people to witness it alongside me and join me in giving glory to God.
Slowly, I'm learning that when we try to appear like we have it all together, we miss the opportunity to share the gospel at work in our lives. When we gloss over our failures and insecurities, we're not honest about our true need for Christ, and we miss the chance to tell others about God's power.
In what areas of your life are you currently struggling? How can you be more intentional about living with authenticity? Look at the people God has surrounded you with and pray He would give you the courage to be vulnerable.
When you do, I pray you discover the beautiful ways your weakness can point back to Christ's strength.