The Trouble with Strength

Wisdom deepens as strength falters. George Bernard Shaw quipped that youth is wasted on the young. One may long for younger days but when we do we are largely pining for two things: strength and ignorance. We are confident and carefree in our youth in large part because of all we do not know. However, as our vitality falters or our circumstances press against us, the reality of our relative weakness comes into focus.

Today’s reading provides, among other things, the antithesis of what we read yesterday. King Jehoshaphat acknowledged his powerlessness and looked to God. King Amaziah and King Uzziah each came to a time when they failed to see what Jehoshaphat saw. Uzziah is described this way: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” (26:16)

Ezekiel 7:24 refers to this as “the pride of the strong.” Proverbs 11:2 shows the connection between such pride and the foolishness that both precedes and follows it: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”

The rebuke of the unnamed prophet against King Amaziah, who wanted to increase his strength by hiring unrighteous mercenaries, is right:

“O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” (25:7-8)

Whether I am weak or strong, victorious or defeated, persecuted or popular, is ultimately found in the will and power of God, not me, my plans, or my muscles. This is neither excuse for fatalistic thinking nor lazy living, but we act in our weakness knowing that in our weakness God shows Himself strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

If you are feeling weak today, embrace the wisdom that grows in this soil. Let it lead you to a deeper reliance on His ability to help. Why indeed should we assume that He will cast us down?

If you are feeling strong and confident today, understand that it is merely a passing shadow obscuring your view of reality, and trust entirely on His strength which never fails.

Psa 20:7-8 (ESV)  7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.