What does strength look like? The Incredible Hulk? Atlas – who could hold up the world? Mohammad Ali – one of the greatest heavyweight fighters ever?
What does strength look like?
Maybe strength looks like this:
- A lone man standing in place while tanks prepare to run him over in Tiananmin Square.
- A nun cradling poor people dying in the streets of Calcutta.
- A woman daring to open her heart to someone new after being abused and shamed.
So often what we perceive is strength is actually bluster. An attempt to hide fear. And what looks like weakness is where true strength lies.
Goliath was a powerful giant who threatened to obliterate the Israelite kingdom. Yet he was defeated by a shepherd armed with a slingshot. The Israelite soldiers laughed at David as he went out to battle. Yet he had the conviction of truth and honor to carry him forward.
Sauron’s power was over much of Middle Earth and growing. Yet he was taken down by two Hobbits who could scarcely crawl to the edge of the mountain and throw the ring into the fire. Very few knew Frodo and Sam were even on that mountain, let alone believed they could do what no one had been able to do – not even the most powerful wizards. Yet they were desperate to save their land, and kept going in the face of unspeakable horror.
Strength is found in the ordinary everyday battles of life. Moments that sometimes turn out to have more import than we realize at the time.
- When you turn toward your spouse instead of away, even though you’re hurt.
- When you use the pain of rejection to fuel greater empathy and love toward others.
- When you face your greatest fears and act anyway.
Maybe you don’t feel strong. If you’re anything like me, you feel weak. Small. Yet, Paul tells us in a letter to Corinth, speaking about Jesus, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s saying that God’s strength shows up all the more when we feel weak. When we acknowledge our weakness and rely on God’s strength to boost our own. Like a child whose father helps him swing the bat.
Whether you’re a person of faith or not, you can see it happen in other ways too. When you get to the end of yourself, you find it’s not really the end. And you knew only when you reached what you thought was your limit. Like when the exercise instructor pushed you to do 10 more sit-ups after you thought you couldn’t do any more.
That’s what it looks like to experience strength in weakness.
A.A. Milne says this in “House at Pooh Corner”:
There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
In Episode 068, I talked about Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B”. What resilience looks like and how to build post-traumatic growth. Strength in weakness is another way to describe post-traumatic growth. Growing and stretching in ways you maybe didn’t want and couldn’t have imagined. And yet here you are living out the equivalent of the lone man facing a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square.
What are you facing right now? Does it look like a line of tanks ready to gun you down? Have you tried to kick a habit that keeps coming back? Are you trying to connect deeply with a loved one – and feeling rejected? Whatever you are facing, remember this: you are stronger than you seem.
Fear? It isn’t as creative as you. Failure? It can’t last as long as you. Rejection? It doesn’t care as much as you.
When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: there will be something solid for you to stand upon, or, you will be taught how to fly. –Patrick Overton
Where have you found you were stronger than you believed possible? Please leave a comment. It will encourage you, me, and everyone who reads this blog.