Saint Paul claims, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). There is paradox at the core of suffering. It often is difficult to understand and endure. Paul struggled. He asked God to remove his suffering. He received the answer, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Sometimes pain teaches us that we are not in control.
At the same time, knowing our limits, becoming humble, makes us strong. Humility is not the same as humiliation. Someone who is humiliated is broken down, torn apart—disgraced. Humiliation means we have lost our dignity, our strength of self.
Genuine humility on the other hand is a deepened insight into our self, into our real limits and genuine strengths. It takes humility to admit when we did not act, when we stood by or refused to take up our part when we could have helped. A humble person admits his/her limits, knowing they are gifted with God’s grace and life. In humility we are moved toward another deep theological root Saint Paul wrote about: “Love…is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it…rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13:4b–6).
The subtle challenge of discipline—of legitimate pain—asks: can I live with a balanced set of choices; can I say yes to some choices while recognizing I am not able to do everything?