By WALTER ALBRITTON
As I have grown older, I have grown weaker physically. It is one of those problems that I call the fleas that come with the dog of old age. My “handicap” has to do with my legs; they have become gradually feebler during the past five years. To cope with this I turned first to an ordinary walking stick, then to a stronger staff, like Moses used. I was not distressed by this mild limitation; it was fun having my friends call me Moses!
A couple of years later, I found that my “balance” would require more than a staff. Resisting pessimism, I laughed about being the most unbalanced preacher in Alabama. That’s when “Wally the Walker” became a daily requirement. And that’s also when my Enemy began to hound me with the idea that “nobody wants to listen to the preaching of a crippled old man who has to use a walker to get around.” Sadly, I confess that I figured the devil was right so I began declining invitations to preach.
Then one day I came across Saint Paul’s words about his weakness, in the 12th chapter of Second Corinthians: 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
As I read those words I heard the Lord saying, “Paul didn’t quit.” That got my attention. So I began to wrestle with how differently from Paul I had responded to my weakness. I had certainly not “taken pleasure” in my weakness; instead I had felt sorry for myself. The big question I had to answer now was this: Could I come up with the faith to “gladly boast about my weakness so the power of Christ could work through me”? I struggled intensely with that because I kept hearing another voice saying, “Your time is up, old man; it’s time for you to sit on the porch and listen to the birds sing!”
I turned to The Message by Peterson to see how he translated Paul’s words and found this: Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty. At first, I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size — abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over. And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
My friend J.B. Phillips stirred my soul with his translation of what Paul said: I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him.
I am pleased to report that my struggle is over. With the Lord’s help, I told the devil, “Paul didn’t quit and this unbalanced preacher is not quitting either, so you can get off my back.”
I decided to rejoice in my weakness so the power of Christ can rest upon me. And as long as the Lord gives me the mind and voice to proclaim the good news about Jesus, every chance I get I am going to push Wally the Walker up to the pulpit and invite people to trust and obey my Lord Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!