Contributor: W. Travis Stewart, LPC, NCC writer for Addiction Hope
Google the phrase “turning weaknesses into strengths” and you will find a plethora of articles on the subject. Most of them give you practical tips for making personal and professional changes. Few of them speak of real transformation like those struggling with an addiction truly need.
Speaking of the word plethora (see above), I love that word. To those who have seen the classic comedy The Three Amigos starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short, this word alone may easily bring a smile to your face—along with the phrase, “Lip balm?”. In fact, The Three Amigos is a film three men facing up to their weaknesses.
The Amigos are three fictional actors working during the silent film age of Hollywood. Together they have starred in a string of movies including Shootin’ for Love and The Ride of the Three Amigos in which they heroically save damsels in distress, rescue villages from destruction and sing their way out of trouble. Unfortunately, their acting days are coming to an end and they are fired from the studio.
Desperate for money they accept a job south of the border and unwittingly end up facing a real-life villain known as El Guapo. Unprepared and ill-equipped to to fight a real battle, they learn they must rely on one another and use their creativity to win the day. What once looked hopeless turns into a happy ending.
Unfortunately, this side of heaven, life rarely has truly happy endings and we cannot rely on a screenwriter to get us out of our messes. Our weaknesses continue to haunt us and we too find ourselves facing real villains.
As I wrote in the article Humility Before Change, our best strategies are generally part of the problem and our character defects seem immune to personal efforts at change. So what do we do with our weaknesses? I want to suggest we move toward them, but not with intent to change them. Rather, we move toward them and carry them to God and (as Step Seven instructs) we humbly ask Him to remove them.
Before I go on though, let me address a misconception of what that means. God, it seems, often has different semantics than we do. His idea of what is good may be different than ours. His timetable for removing or transforming defects and weaknesses may be eternal in perspective rather than immediate.
The Apostle Paul testified to this when he wrote 2 Corinthians, chapter 12. He says that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble. We don’t know what the thorn in the flesh was but, some have suggested a physical problem or other weakness. Paul also says he prayed to have God remove it. God choose not to. That does not mean that God did not transform it. If fact, Paul writes, that God used it to make Paul “more perfect.”
How does this happen? What does it mean to be made “more perfect?” It means to be made more into the likeness and image of Christ. It means to be made whole. It means to be healed of something deeper than the “thorn”. There was evidently something lacking in Paul’s character or ability to trust God that God could heal best through allowing this weakness to remain.
What should we expect God to do in our lives with our weaknesses when we ask Him to remove them? Weaknesses are turned into strength when they create empathy, remind us of our need for community, increase our dependence on God and reveal God’s transformative glory.
Weaknesses Create Empathy
Never trust your weakness to someone who thinks they don’t have any, unless you desire judgement and contempt. Go instead to someone who displays humility and awareness of their own flaws. This is because, when we admit our insecurities, failures and frustrations, we develop the ability to love others well. We lose our judgement and we create space for others to feel safe with us.
Weaknesses Remind us of our Need for Community
Only a fool will try to overcome a weakness alone. A wise man learns to ask for help. A wise man knows his limitations and the strengths of others.
I recall thinking at one point in my college years that I had one “big” issue in my life and that if I could figure that out I would pretty well have my stuff together. What a fool I was. Thank God that he has revealed to me, gently and over time, the many flaws and distortions in my character. Because of that knowledge I have developed richer relationship and experienced more love and grace than would have been possible if I had remained blind to reality.
Weaknesses Create Dependence upon God
Weaknesses become strengths when they turn our eyes toward the healer of our hearts. If not for the pain and weakness in our lives we would never turn toward a Savior. In fact, we would have no knowledge of or reason for rescue. And if God instantly matured and healed us upon conversion we would likely go on our merry way and not give another thought our need to trust God.
These thorns in the flesh, though God will ultimately heal us (Revelation 21:4), keep us relying on Him for not only our daily bread, but for the Bread of Life.
Weaknesses Reveal the Glory of God
Brennan Manning, a man who held onto God’s grace for dear life, struggled with alcoholism until his dying day. He also wrote and spoke some of the most life-giving words of the gospel to our generation. In his memoir All is Grace, he writes:
If we really believe the gospel we proclaim, we’ll be honest about our own beauty and brokenness, and the beautiful broken One will make himself known to our neighbors through the chinks in our armor—and in theirs. 
Phillip Yancey, in writing the introduction to this memoir reflects, “As you read this memoir you may be tempted, as I was, to think, Oh, what might have been… if Brennan hadn’t given in to drink. I urge you to refrain the thought to, Oh, what might have been… if Brennan hadn’t discovered grace.”
Our weaknesses are turned into strengths at the Cross of Christ. This is the place we find our value, our purpose our freedom. This is the location of our healing—not in self-effort or triumphing over the villains of our character—but in trusting the work done for us when Christ willingly laid down his strengths and intentionally entered into weakness in order to rescue us.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
How have your weaknesses been transformed into strengths? How has this impacted your recovery? Has it also impacted others?
About the Author
Travis Stewart earned a Master of Arts in Counseling (2001) and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2003), both from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Travis is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Missouri and a writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope.
- Manning, B., & Blase, J. (2011). All is grace: A ragamuffin memoir. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.
Addiction Hope is proud to announce the initiation of a special Christian Track of blogs and articles to commemorate the blessing of our sister site, Eating Disorder Hope’s 10th year anniversary. Watch for further content noted as “Christian Track”.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals. We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 4, 2015. Published on AddictionHope.com