“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. 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.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
For the last month, I have been researching the backgrounds of some of my favorite hymns. Of all that I have learned, the chief lesson has been that the overwhelming majority of these precious songs of the faith were born out of suffering and hardship.
Those who have penned these great messages of faith experienced great trials and sufferings that prepared them for the specific message they shared. Joy sprouts from the cultivated soil of heartbreak. One such example can be found in the life of George Matheson.
George Matheson was only a teenager when he learned that his poor eyesight was deteriorating further. Not to be denied, he continued straightway with his plans to enroll in Glasgow University, and his determination led to his graduating at age nineteen.
But as he pursued graduate studies for Christian ministry he became totally blind. His sisters joined ranks beside him, learning Greek and Hebrew to assist him in his studies, and he pressed faithfully on. His spirit colapsed, however, when his fianc’ee, unwilling to be married to a blind man, broke their engagement and returned his ring.
George never married, and the pain of that rejection never totally left him. Years later, his sister came to him, announcing her engagement. He rejoiced with her, but his mind went back to his own heartache. He consoled himself in thinking of God’s love which is never limited, never conditional, never withdrawn, and never uncertain. Out of this experience it is said that he wrote the hymn, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, on June 6, 1882.
George Matheson became a powerful and popular preacher pastoring in the Scottish village of Innellan. Despite his flourishing ministry, there was one winter evening when the Sunday night crowd was miserably small. George had worked hard on his sermon, but the empty chairs nearly defeated him. Nevertheless he did his best, not knowing that in the congregation was a visitor for the large St. Bernard’s Church in Edinburgh, which was seeking a pastor. As a result, in 1886, he was called to St. Bernard’s where he became one of Scotland’s favorite preachers.
“Make every occasion a great occasion,” Matheson later said. “You can never tell when somebody may be taking your measure for a larger place.” What a word of wisdom and counsel for us!
Through our heartbreaks and setbacks, God may be measuring us for a larger position! Jesus himself expressed this truth when he said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities…(Matthew 25:23).”
We must learn to value our weaknesses as opportunities to reveal the strength and glory of God through us.