One of the remarkable things about the gospel is that God saves us, not through strength and victory, but through the weakness and defeat of Christ on the cross. Not only is this how God saves us, but the pattern of how God works through us. This has a profound effect on the way we look at life.
Take for example, the realm of storytelling. On the one hand, you have a Christian like J.R.R. Tolkien whose fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, centers around four unassuming little hobbits. As anyone familiar with the story knows, hobbits are not particularly remarkable for anything other than their large appetites and unusually hairy feet. But it is precisely their weakness and frailty that equips them to fulfill the quest of slipping past the vast armies of Mordor to destroy the one Ring of Power and so save Middle Earth.
On the other hand, consider another popular fantasy story – Conan the Barbarian. The creator of the series, Robert E. Howard, who tragically committed suicide at age 30, was not a Christian. You can see how this influenced his storytelling. Conan also goes on epic quests, but it is the very fact that he is a muscle-bound swordsman that enables him to best all his opponents. This was captured well in the movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the reoccurring motifs in the movies, which is somewhat comical, is that before Schwarzenegger’s Conan does battle with anyone, he first does a series of muscle poses with his broadsword. It’s silly but it perfectly captures the spirit of Robert E. Howard’s unflinching worldview. There’s a classic line where someone asks Conan the Barbarian what is the greatest pleasure in life. He answers without skipping a beat, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” This is a worldview without space for weakness or failure.
But the Apostle Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.