Recently my boys have begun asking me the question “Daddy, how do I get strong?” Usually, it’s because they’ve just finished watching Lego Batman for the ten-thousandth time and like the idea of fighting crime, and owning the Batmobile. The answer is pretty simple; Batman is strong because Batman regularly lifts heavy weights, and he consumes enough protein. If you’re looking to grow in physical strength then the method is actually very simple. If you focus upon lifting weight, progressively overloading your muscles over many years, your body can be trained to lift large amounts of weight. The process of growth, however, involves the breaking down of muscle fibres so the body is forced to regrow stronger. This growth is very painful at times, both at the time of lifting, but most notably a day or two later as the body repairs the damage that has been done. But, as my boys asked, if you want to get strong then that’s what you have to do. As the old saying has it, no pain, no gain!
This principle has multiple applications, even making it into Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul very confidently asserts that Christians glory in their sufferings because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). In other words, suffering makes you stronger. And, though we wish we didn’t have to suffer, suffering makes us stronger, stronger than last time. In the same way lifting a heavy weight tears your muscles only for them to grow back stronger, shouldering suffering produces greater perseverance as we get used to the weight and learn how to carry more. For Paul, beyond perseverance is the development of a certain richness of character, one that Peter believes comes only through being refined through fire (1 Peter 1:7). This character produces hope, this is the hope found only in Jesus; a reason to live, even a willingness to suffer, and the hope that at His return all suffering will pass away.
We may begin today in very different places and, as always, please do get in touch if you’re finding the weight of life right now too much. Jesus Himself promised to help carry our burdens, and as important as resistance is to our growth, so too is rest (Matthew 11:28).