The difference between affliction and weakness is that the world may boast in one but shudders at the other. Wearing affliction as a badge is common today – the more affliction you endure shows how much the stronger you (supposedly) are in yourself. But weakness is the one quality with which no person wants anything to do with.
Weakness is the end of ourselves, the place in which our physical energies, mental acumen, and spiritual resources have been expended. It is not uncommon that once we are met with our weaknesses we are immediately led to despair. We despair because we have finally met the end of ourselves – the place where the circumstances we encounter demonstrate the sheer weakness of our humanity.
This is why the world hates weakness – they do everything they can to hide from it. They will find any sort of fig leaf to hide behind. But the Christian glories, yes, even boasts in their weaknesses. The very thing that this world despises and shuns, the Christian holds high as that one thing which prepares them for entrance into Christ’s kingdom. It is in weakness that God has everything to do. He boars a man down until he grinds his self-reliance, that one thing which disqualifies him from entrance into Christ’s kingdom. It is not of coincidence that Jesus says:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3)
The reason this is not a coincidence is because the life of the kingdom which Jesus reveals in his Sermon on the Mount begins with this poverty of spirit – it begins with a grappling with, acceptance of, and admission to God of our utter inability. Only those who have been brought to this place find a place for the further blessings announced by Jesus.
Affliction certainly has its place in the Christian life, but hordes of men in the world are no better off for the afflictions they endure. Often times it makes them much worse men than they were before. Even at times for the Christian, the temporary results of affliction are not all-to-sightly to behold. Yet the place where the world and those of Christ’s kingdom depart from each other is in their response to weakness. One embraces it and calls it his dearest friend, while the other is repulsed and spends his life covering his tracks.