Thursday, July 7, 2011

Turning Weakness Into Strength

Ten days ago I wrote about personal inventories, and a week ago, I wrote about sharing those inventories.

An inventory will likely include at least three things: some strengths (what we’re good at), some weaknesses (what we’re not so good at), and maybe some sins (what we’ve done wrong).

There is for me a key difference between weakness and sin. To me, a weakness is a lack of strength. It is an area where I may not have a natural talent, or where I may struggle with a particular temptation. A sin, on the other hand, is action taken by me to transgress God’s law. My sin may grow out of weakness. But it may also grow out of strength if my pride (a weakness) leads me to overestimate my strength.

Scriptures teach us that the redemptive nature of the atonement can save us from sin if we repent, and it can help us turn our weakness to strength. If I identify physical weakness, I might engage in a program of exercise and physical training to overcome that weakness. I may be more successful if I engage the help of a guide who understands the science of exercise. My personal efforts may lead directly to my overcoming my weakness.

Heber J. Grant is famous for overcoming his weakness in baseball and handwriting. Persistence and exercise helped him.

When I struggled with my response to stress in my life, a professional therapist helped me work a series of exercises that allowed me to have better control over my response to that stress, contributing to an improvement in my relationship with my wife and children.

Our trials may reveal weaknesses. In Ether we read:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27).
In addition to whatever we may do by ourselves, the power of the atonement can also help us to overcome our weaknesses. That change may not come on our timetable, and we may not be able to control the outcome of that change. But it can come.

In the twelve-step program, the next step after sharing our inventory is preparing to have God remove our weaknesses, and then asking him to do so. Those steps make me think of Lamoni’s father who was willing to give away all his sins to know God (Alma 22:18). I think of preparing ourselves to have God remove our weaknesses like a visit to a chiropractor: the chiropractor aligns the spine for optimal performance; we align ourselves to God’s will for our optimal performance.

In the case of sin, we can repent. In the case of weakness, it’s not really repentance we need, but grace. In the case of our strengths, it’s humility. All three come to us through the atonement.

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