When you’re going through a hard time, people don’t always know what to say. The result is meaningless clichés or trite attempts to cheer you up. I’ve always had a problem with cliché phrases—the kind that don’t mean anything to the person saying them and don’t actually help the person hearing them. Silly things like, “Chin up” and “It’ll get better.” Really? How do you know? You don’t do your friends any favors by giving them light, fluffy hopes that aren’t rooted in anything. When deep pain hits we need rock solid truth to sustain us.
During his bout with cancer, the well-known atheist, Christopher Hitchens, voiced similar frustration with some of the meaningless phrases we throw around. He spends a few pages attacking one of them in his book, Mortality. He says, “In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that ‘whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.'” He goes on to say, “In the brute physical world… there are all too many things that could kill you, don’t kill you, and then leave you considerably weaker.” Can’t you just feel the joy?
It sounds depressing, but I think Hitchens is right in a sense. It is quite possible that we can go through difficult things that only weaken us and bring us closer to death. I can imagine someone asking the question, “How could something this terrible make me stronger?” Even the most positive people can be broken down by the brutality of our fallen world.
Optimism can only survive so many beatings until it breaks, and reality finally chokes it out. Phrases that once sounded cute now seem worthless. But is the well-meaning sentiment Hitchens attacked ever true? I think so.
When Is It True?
“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” can be true, but only if there’s something beyond this life. If this life, this world, and this body are all there is, Hitchens is right. It’s a lie. It would be like saying, “What doesn’t total my car makes it stronger.” That’s ridiculous. You’d have to ignore the truth to believe that. But if our temporary trials have some kind of eternal meaning it changes everything.
Paul tells us, “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” This verse is sometimes abused, but it’s one of the most beautiful promises in all of Scripture. This doesn’t mean that Christians are invincible. All of us will face trials, but we can’t finally be defeated by them. Even our worst enemies, like suffering and death, become our friends in Christ, because they ultimately work in our favor.
So how exactly can these devastating trials actually make us stronger? Here are three ways (with significant overlap):
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
This post originally appeared at Trip’s website, www.BuiltToBrag.com