Growing Strong

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I’ve always believed that difficulties have a unique way of strengthening people.  I still believe this is true, but I no longer believe it’s guaranteed.  In other words, I now believe that difficulties can have a unique way of strengthening people.

The difference may seem subtle, but it’s more than a minor nuance in a sentence.

Trials, struggles, and challenging life seasons present an opportunity for increased dependence on God and trust in His Word.  When the storms cause us to cling more tightly to Him, our faith is bolstered.  When we witness the firmness of our foundation, we grow stronger spiritually.

This strengthening, however, can’t be taken for granted.  While hard times have strengthened me, I have also experienced the difficulties hardening me.  Resilience and perseverance are not synonymous with callousness and resentment.

When our view of God shapes our understanding of our circumstances, we grow strong.  When our view of our circumstances shapes our understanding of God, we grow hard.

My bad day doesn’t make God a bad God.  But if I choose to look at God through the lens of my circumstances or emotions, I will inevitably become hardened and bitter.  Projecting my situation on God causes my confidence in Him to wane.  If, on the other hand, I choose to look at my circumstances through the lens of God’s character and His promises, I will find myself trusting Him more deeply.

A clue that I’m growing hard is when my sensitivity to God’s Word decreases and I am bitter about my circumstances.  But when I have a tender heart toward the Bible and I embrace life with confidence in God’s goodness, I am seeing evidence of increasing strength.

The difficult circumstances of life can, to borrow a phrase, make you bitter or make you better.  Trials can cause you to grow hard or grow strong.  Strength is developed through the constant, humble acknowledgement that God is God and God is good, no matter where I am or how I feel.  As David put it in Psalm 16:5-6, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

God’s work of strengthening us is demonstrated by our ability to honestly say, regardless of circumstances, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”  Pleasant, not necessarily because of where we are, but because of Who goes before us.

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