All of my life I have been influenced by the idea that I need to be strong. As men, we are overwhelmed with images, icons, examples, celebrities, etc. that portray what it means to be strong, but the definition of strength is hard to get a handle on. Does it mean physical strength? Emotional strength? Spiritual strength? All of these?
Whether it is one of these or all of them, the message the world gives us is that we must find this strength on our own. God, on the other hand, has a very different view of what strength is and where it comes from. We are so caught up in how the world views it that we have missed the importance of God’s way of approaching strength and the only way to truly find the strength that we need in this world.
- Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
As a boy growing up, and particularly as an athlete, I always wanted to be physically strong. In many ways, achieving this drove my idea of what it was to be a man. Professional athletes, bodybuilders, and rugged men involved in a variety of different professions all depicted this type of strength that I thought from a young age would make me happy and successful. As I grew in age, I learned that it took a whole lot more than physical strength, but somehow the need to be physically strong persisted.
God carefully designed each one of us, knowing full well the type of physical strength we are capable of, and what that means for His greater plan. He also knows that our bodies will age over time, so he does not see us merely as our physical bodies or the challenges we may face. God sees our soul and our devotion to Him.
Emotional and Spiritual Strength
As far as our emotional and spiritual strength, God wants us to be personally weak so that He can be our strength. That seems backward, but remember, we were designed by God for His purposes. Because He offered us free will, we have the right to choose how we view or use our own strength. When we turn away from God, or try to act as though we know better than He does, we are on our own when it comes to figuring out the meaning of strength or how to apply it in the world we live in. But when we choose to humble ourselves and recognize our dependence on God, we find our strength in Him—and He will not abandon us.
- Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
- For we are glad when we are weak and You are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.
—2 Corinthians 13:9
Once we come to terms with the fact that we are weak without God, He not only gives us strength, but He calls upon us to use that strength in different ways. One is the call to join with others to be a unified voice for God. We are always stronger as a collective than we are as individuals.
- The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.
—1 Samuel 2:4
- He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
Just as God calls upon us to use our strength together, He calls upon us to use our strength for the benefit of those around us, especially those who cannot fend for themselves.
- Turn to Me and be gracious to Me; give your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.
In addition to using our strength on behalf of others, He wants us to apply our understanding, just as He has shown us.
- Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any; He is mighty in strength of understanding.
True Source of Strength
Once we conclude that God is truly the path to our strength, He stands with us and prepares us for what lies ahead.
- For You equipped me with strength for the battle; You made those who rise against me sink under me.
- But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
If I’m being honest, I have to confess that understanding strength continues to be a struggle for me. There are so many days when I want to revert to being in my own strength—not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I want to take control. That said, I know this path only weakens me and over time saps me of the strength that I need. It is my prayer for all of us that we can be willing to see ourselves as weak on our own, but strong through the power of God.