Monday, November 7, 2011

From weakness strength

My present church assignment is to work in the Addiction Recovery Program as a group leader. The Addiction Recovery Program, and its companion the Family Support Group (not yet available everywhere), are there to assist those struggling with addiction and also to assist their loved ones. They are twelve-step approaches to help one -- either an addict or a loved one -- learn to enter recovery.

I’m not new to twelve step programs; I actively participated in another 12-step program before working with ARP (and I still participate there). One of the things we do in a 12-step program is to acknowledge our own powerlessness over addiction and over the lives of others. In accepting our own powerlessness, we also admit our own weakness.

We spend a lot of time in addiction recovery talking about weakness, and one of the steps of recovery is to prepare to have God to remove our character weaknesses; the next is to ask God to remove our shortcomings.

What I’ve wondered about over the last while is the difference between our weakness and our weaknesses.

Often when people (including me, like here) paraphrase the weakness scriptures (2 Nephi 33:4, Jacob 4:7, Ether 12:27, to note a few) they say God will make our weaknesses into strength. But Ether 12:27 reads:

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.
This verse talks about weakness, not weaknesses. In fact, all of the verses in the topical guide on this subject use the collective noun weakness, not the plural noun weaknesses.

It makes me wonder just what that weakness is. I think about what King Benjamin taught:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Mosiah 3:19).
I wonder if our weakness is our natural-ness –- the fact that by our nature we are not submissive; by our nature we do not yield to the enticings of the spirit. Any individual weaknesses I have stem from this overarching weakness, namely that I am natural.

In both Ether and Mosiah we read the remedy: we must come unto Christ. We must humble ourselves. We must yield to the enticings of the Spirit. We must accept the blessings of the atonement in our lives. We must have faith. We must submit.

In those acts of submission, those acts of humility before God, those moments of faith we become strong. We receive the power of the atonement in our lives and become prepared to yield to the enticings of the spirit.

As we, through the grace of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice, conquer our weakness as humans, God will help us conquer our weaknesses through the blessings of the atonement.


  1. Well said. My husband and I were ARP group leaders for 2 years in Boston. To date it is my favorite calling in the church!

  2. Thanks, Danika! And thanks for reading. I agree, ARP is a great place to be. Like a roadmap to atonement application.

  3. So cool. I have read those scriptures a zillion times and always add the "es" to weakness. What a great insight! - It provides a much broader brush to encompass all weakness, rather than our idiosyncrasy of the moment.

    Thank you!

  4. Thanks, MMM, for reading and for your comment. Amazing how we can read the same thing for years and then have a light bulb go on... (I guess that's why we read the scriptures more than once.)

  5. One part about weakness that stands out to me is Christ's statement that "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:41) So our weaknesses are typically due to not being able to discipline our physical aspect. Meanwhile, it's most often our spirit that is strong, i.e.-willing to submit.

    Our physical appetites in whatever manifestation they come, including giving in to addictive substances, or feeling too lazy to go help someone, or being too concerned about getting tasty food instead of nutritious food... these are the common areas of what pulls us toward the weaker side, while the spirit is pulling us toward what is strong and meaningful. Fleeting vs. lasting. It's all about our individual mortal struggle to win ourselves.

  6. Rusty, thanks for the comment. I agree with you -- essentially our weakness comes from The Fall. And the atonement is the only way back.