Strength vs. Will

Exercise: If I do the workout, I will get stronger. I can build the strength, but I must have the will.

Nutrition: Sugar or alcohol or both. Do I have the strength to abstain? Of course, the strength is not a problem. Do I have the will? Ah, that is the problem.

Sleep: Early to bed, early to rise. Strength or will? It takes extraordinarily little physical effort to get out of bed. But to turn off the television and the phone at night, to resist hitting the snooze button in the morning, that takes will.

Mind: Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. What physical strength is needed to garner these? It is not a matter of strength but one of desire. It is a matter of choice. Do you seek to learn? Are you willing to observe? Do you crave wisdom?

Soul: Courage, bravery, the ability to keep going despite the odds. Indeed, this does require a certain amount of strength within the soul. But like the body, it can be developed. You must be willing to do it. It is better to develop the heart of the warrior before you go to battle.

Lacking in strength is a problem, but it can be corrected. In almost every facet of your life, you can become stronger. Do you have the will to make it happen? Do you have the discipline to see it through?

Victor Hugo once said, “People do not lack strength; they lack will.” The great French writer knew what he was talking about. Les Misérables took over twelve years to write and had over 655,000 words. It was not strength that got this work done, it was will. It was discipline to see it through to the end.

Strength to Carry the Load

I remember the early days of road marching. My rucksack, loaded with all my gear, was heavy. The rifle I carried got heavier with every step I took. My muscles ached. My feet hurt. As the strain in my back and neck crept toward what I thought was the “unbearable” threshold, my thoughts turned to wishing I had a lighter load, wishing I had a shorter distance to travel. “If only…” was always in my mind.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” –Winston Churchill

What should I have been thinking? What should I have been praying for? Not that I had less to carry, but for the strength to continue on. I should have been praying for the courage to keep going. If I could have got all the negative wishes out of my head, I may have actually enjoyed those forced marches.

An amazing thing happened as I continued to march over the weeks. The more I carried that weight, the stronger I became. In time, with much repetition, that burden was no longer unbearable. The load wasn’t lighter, my ability to carry it was stronger.

Be patient and tough; one day this pain will be useful to you. -Ovid

Last week, I had a conversation with a friend concerning a professional trial he was enduring. One of his department heads, bitter for not getting the same promotion, was continually trying to undermine his authority. Upset with the previous command, this department head is determined to continue adding a layer of toxicity to the new regime. As frustrating as it is for my friend, this complex relationship has a few benefits that can make him stronger for the future. It is a constant test with many eyes watching his every move. He has to be impeccable in his behavior and conduct.

As I listened to my friend discuss his trials, I thought of the ones I am closest to that are going through their own set of trials. I considered loved ones who are going through some of their roughest times physically, financially, and emotionally. And then I thought of Job. Do you remember the story of Job.

Job had a good life. He had a good wife, healthy children and close friends. He was doing well financially and really wasn’t lacking in any area of life. On what seems like a whim, God allowed Satan to test Job. So Satan took it everything from Job. Gone were the children and gone was the wealth. This would have been enough to destroy most people, but not Job. His response, “The Lord gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Satan thought it was too easy, so he went after Job’s health. Even after this, Job remained faithful.

Not many of us have ever endured the level of suffering that Job went through. But the trials we go through are real enough. They are hard and often unfair. Nobody deserves an unwarranted enemy or a physical ailment that takes away the joy of living. But we have it, even if it is unfair. The temptation would be to pray that it all just goes away, that we could live a life free of stress and hardship. But our lives would be of little strength and substance if we lived it under those terms. Instead we should pray for the strength to endure. We should pray for the courage to withstand the trial knowing that we could come out on the other side victorious. Maybe a little scarred but still victorious.

Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom. –Jim Rohn