It is often said that what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. I guess I’ve lived long enough now to learn the truth in that maxim. As much as we might want to avoid it, suffering and pain and challenges do often make us stronger. In my church, we are taking a three-month period to study this very idea of suffering and what connection God could possibly have with it. We are discovering that it should really be no surprise to the follower of Jesus when tough times come. After all, Jesus was constantly facing sorrow, wasn’t he? And he told us that if we follow him, we will have both the fullness of joy AND sorrow. Why? Because that was his path through this world, and if we are walking in his footsteps, it should not be surprising that we walk through difficulties as well. This world was not his home and neither is it our home. It shouldn’t be expected to be always comfortable.
The idea that trials make us stronger doesn’t mean that we can’t also learn through joy and happiness and blessings. We can and we do learn from the good times. But, like it or not, it is when we are in the darkest of the dark that we scramble hardest for a match. And when we get a spark, we are so much more grateful for its light than we are when we’re walking in the cloudless sunshine.
It’s a fact. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Still, it’s important to add one condition to this truth. That condition is that while we are suffering, we find ourselves clinging to Jesus during the difficulty.Otherwise, we just survived. There’s a difference, isn’t there? We cansurvive trouble without becoming necessarily stronger. We can still be alive, but wanting to be dead. To come to the other end of the darkness and actually be stronger, means that we have had an encounter with the Man of Sorrows. It means that we can actually look at the pain we endured (and still may be enduring) and yet be grateful for the opportunity to connect with Jesus in an intimate way.
So, with the condition of going through sorrow with Jesus, we can truly say that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. More important, however, is our new awareness that what doesn’t kill us makes GOD stronger….in our eyes. After all, God is the Hero of each story. No matter what the trial is, in the end God is the One who reaches down and strikes that match in the darkness. It is God’s strong hand that picks us up. It is the strength of God’s own words that bring hope and restoration and peace to our weakened condition.
Some people believe God is incapable of allowing bad things to happen to good people. But if we are honest, we must realize that it is because of enduring some bad things, that we know more about the good things of God. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJ that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. “Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When the next wave of difficulty washes over us, or even crashes head-on into our faces, we can remember that in our helplessness, God is made powerful. And in God’s power, we will be made stronger too.