Strength is There
By: Jared Wallace
“God, please just give me strength.”
Ever thrown that little gem out there? I’m fairly certain that just about everyone in the world has said that sentence at some point in their life – whether sarcastically or not. Likewise, I am equally sure that no one walked away from that prayer instantly “stronger.” Don’t get me wrong here, I am sure that people have asked God for strength and instantly felt better, or perhaps calmer.
Many of us have felt instantly better after pouring our hearts out to God, having been to hear a rousing speaker, or been moved by a particular song or message. We leave that place feeling rejuvenated and ready to face the world. And, almost invariably, what happens in the following days? The world meets us head on.
As the old saying goes…if you pray for patience, God doesn’t give you patience. He gives you opportunity to practice patience. The same holds true in our request for strength – and any number of things we want Him to provide for us at our beckon call. Just because God doesn’t immediately “reward” us with our desire does not mean that He hasn’t answered our prayer. In fact, it’s the opposite that is true.
Forgive me, but I am going to move into a sports metaphor at this point. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of a sports fan, but even if you aren’t, this will not be difficult to follow.
I have coached football and basketball for several years, and there are a few truths that have come from those experiences. One is that things are never going to go completely according to plan. Another is that you are never going to improve unless you practice. And the third is that you are always to have at least one “helicopter parent.” (Okay, that last one is really just for people that have experienced that particular situation.)
Let’s begin with that first truth. Things are never going to go completely according to plan. There’s a reason I thought of that one first. How many times have you thought through a situation and just knew exactly how things were going to go, what you were going to do, or what would happen next. And then, once the time came everything you had all “planned” went completely in the toilet? Many, I’m sure.
It happens to all of us. “The best laid plans…” and all that fun stuff. It’s at this point that our strength can feel the most depleted, and ultimately, we feel defeated. We feel beaten and that somehow God has failed to answer our prayers. This is simply not true. God gives us strength, but it’s up to us to use it.
Moving on to the second truth. No team walks out onto a field or court and gets everything right the first time. Or the second. Or the third. Or the…you get the idea. It takes a lot of practice, and there is a real possibility that you will never get it perfect. Nonetheless, after several times of working on it, things start looking a whole lot better than they did that first time.
So, what is God doing when He answers our prayers for strength, patience, courage, etc.? He gives us the opportunity to “practice.” We may not get everything right that first time. Or the second. Or the third. Or the…well, you know. And we will likely never get it perfectly right, but I can promise you that it will start to look a whole lot better than it did the first time.
I like to think of strength very much as I see courage. There are a multitude of quotes and sayings regarding the true meaning of courage. I selected a quote from the great American author Mark Twain. He said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” Point being, you can’t show courage when there is nothing to be afraid of. Likewise, you can’t show strength when there is nothing to push/fight against.
Didn’t like the sports analogy? Think about it like this. Are you more proud of the things you have been “given” or the things that you have “earned” – through your hard work and practice? Also, if you are a parent, are you more proud of your children for the things you have “given” them or the things they have “earned” – again, through hard work and practice?
As a parent myself, I know how I would answer that. I think I know how my Mom and Dad would answer. I would also like to think that I know how our Father would answer as well.
So, the next time you fall on your knees and ask God to “please just give me strength.” Trust that He will provide it. Trust that it is there, but know that you are the one responsible for using it.