Because You Are Strong
J. R. Miller, 1904
It used to be a custom for travelers in Switzerland, to bring home clusters of the edelweiss. The flower is not sought because of its beauty or for its fragrance—but in recognition of its bravery and victoriousness in living and blooming under hard conditions. It grows on the Alps and Pyrenees, at lofty altitudes, where almost nothing else lives, and on crags difficult access, and is among the hardiest of all plants. Thus the edelweiss becomes the symbol of noble life which endures hardness, which is victorious amid antagonisms, which rises superior to obstacles.
The man who has never known a hardship, who never has had to practice self-denial or make a personal sacrifice, may be the envy of other men whose lives have been one continued struggle. They may think that if they could have had his easy circumstances they could have made a great deal more of their life. But really their chance in life thus far has been far better than his. Manhood is made in the field of struggle and hardship, not in ways of ease and luxury. Hindrances are opportunities. Difficulty is a school for manhood.
Strength is the glory of manhood. Yet it is not easy to be strong—it is easier to be weak and to drift. It is easier for the boy in school not to work hard to get his lessons—but to let them go, and then at the last depend on some other boy to help him through. It is easier, when something happens to make you irritable, just to fly into a temper and say bitter words, than it is to keep quiet and self controlled. It is easier, when you are with other young people and they are about to do something that you know to be unworthy, just to go with them, than it is to say, "I cannot do this wickedness against God." It is easier to be weak—than to be strong. But we know where weakness leads in the end.
Nothing is impossible to young men. General Armstrong said, "Doing what can't be done, is the glory of living." Anybody can do the easy things, the things which can be done. A young man who has no higher goal than the things he knows he can do—will never rise to any sublime height. "What are Christians put into the world for—but to do the impossible in the strength of God?" said General Armstrong again. Jesus said the same—that if we have faith we can move mountains—that is, do things which are impossible to human strength, because faith unites us to God—and His omnipotence works them in us and with us. God expects a great deal of those who are strong. He does not expect much of babies, of invalids, of paralytics, or of feeble minded people; but young men have in them vast possibilities of power. Is it manly not to use this power for God—for truth, for service? One of the most pitiful things the stars look down upon, is a young man with fine gifts, with strength, with love, with genius, able to do some noble work—yet wasting all his possibilities in some form of debased living. Strength is God's gift, and should be used only in worthy ways; to use it in any unworthy way, is sacrilege.
Young men have superb strength—God's wonderful gift to them. Let them not waste it in sin, nor squander it in uselessness of any kind. Let it not wither and shrivel away, wrapped up in any napkins of non use. It is sacred, this marvelous strength which hides in our hands, in our brain, in our heart; it is part of God's own life given to us. It is Divine. It should be used only in ways which will honor God. We should not answer every call to pour out our strength, nor draw our sword in every cause. We should keep our life sacred for our Master and for the cause that is dear to Him.
We are exhorted continually in the Scriptures to be strong. Christ is strong, and we are to be like Him. We need to be strong in order to stand firm and true in the midst of the fray of life, and to do our duty faithfully and worthily. But how can we be strong? We need the strength of God in our arm, to make us equal to the stress of duty and responsibility that we must meet. How can we get this strength?
One way is by prayer. Prayer is linking our little life to God, when His grace will flow into our weakness, and make it God's strength. If we would be strong—we must pray!
Another secret of strength is found in fellowship, companionship, with Christ. Moses knew this secret, for it is said of him that "he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." We grievously wrong ourselves, when we do not accept the help of Christ in our tasks and struggles. Even in a strong human friend, we may find inspiration and help which will make our lives mean more, stimulating us to bravery and fidelity and enabling us to be victorious. The other day a friend traveled ten miles to be helped through a terrible temptation. "If I can only sit here a few minutes and have you pray for me and say a strong word of cheer, I shall not fall." Even a human presence often carries one through danger and makes one strong to overcome. Infinitely more is the presence of Christ to us when we are weak.
It is told of the widow of Schumann, the musical composer, that whenever she was going to play any of her husband's music in public, she would read over some of his old letters to her, written in the lover days. Thus, she said, his very life seemed to fill and possess her, and she was better able then to interpret his work. If we will read over Christ's words of love to us until His life enters into us, and His spirit breathes itself into our lives—then we can be brave and strong in resisting evil and doing His will.