“Things will probably come out all right, but sometimes it takes strong nerves just to watch” (Hedley Donovan).
LIFE IN THIS OLD WORLD IS A CRAZY MIXTURE OF DELIGHT AND DIFFICULTY. Some days are easier than others, of course, but on most days the delight is so mixed with difficulty that the result can be intimidating. Sometimes it takes strong nerves just to watch!
Clearly, “strength” is something all of us need. But like physical strength, inner character is not easily obtained. “It takes courage to live — courage and strength and hope and humor. And courage and strength and hope and humor have to be bought and paid for with pain and work and prayers and tears” (Jerome P. Fleishman). We need not expect to grow strong if we take the course of least resistance.
Acquiring strength is a gradual process, and so is losing strength. If we’re doing the things each day to build strength, we probably won’t see the results until later. And similarly, if we’re defaulting on life’s responsibilities, growing weaker each day by taking the easy way out, we probably won’t see the results of that until later, either. But eventually we will meet some great test of our character, and when that time comes, it will be plain whether we’ve grown strong or not. As B. F. Westcott wrote, “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or we grow weak, and at last some crisis shows us what we have become.”
So right now, we need to be very honest about both our strengths and weaknesses. We need to appraise accurately the points at which we’ve gained some strength, and we need to identify carefully the areas in which we’re weak. Most of all, we need to make sure we don’t mistake our weaknesses for strengths, which is what many people do.
Finally, gaining strength requires two things that we’re reluctant to do: looking “upward” and looking “outward.” Looking upward means placing our faith in the unseen things, the eternal verities, and looking outward means doing what is right toward those around us.
For strength to bear is found in duty alone,
And he is blessed who learns to make
The joy of others cure his own heartache.
(M. V. Drake)