God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers

toughestBattles

In this post I’m going to tackle a cliche I’ve heard recently. Before a few weeks ago, I’d never heard it. I’m not sure where it came from, but it is completely unbiblical.

“God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers.”

We say this a lot when someone’s facing a particularly tough trial or attack of Satan. The person feels weak and incapable of going any further. So, we of course encourage them by telling them God has allowed this in their life because they are strong enough to handle it, but this is simply not true. We want to boost their confidence and faith in God, but we should be doing this in a different way. My reasoning behind this is that there is simply no verse in the bible that states this (I throw it into the same category as “God helps those who help themselves,” another unbiblical phrase). You can use verses, mostly out of context, and extrapolate this concept, but if the bible doesn’t explicitly state it at least once, I would be wary of the claim. The verse that is used, more often than not, to support this claim is 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  What people miss is that the verse is specifically talking about temptation, not trials or circumstances, and that makes all the difference. Of course God would never allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear because He doesn’t want us to sin and would never cause us to sin, or stand by doing nothing to stop us from sinning. Furthermore, all the verses leading up to this verse are talking about sin and idolatry in particular. To say this also applies to trials would be taking it out of context.  Going through difficult situations and persecution are very different than temptation and sin. Namely, sin is not meant to be a part of a christian’s life while trials/persecution will definitely be.  So what does the bible say about trials and persecution? It actually says this:

The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. -Exodus 15:2

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. -1 Samuel 30:6

Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. -Nehemiah 8:10

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. -Psalm 46:1

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. -Ephesians 6:10

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Peter 4:11

In addition to these specific verses, take a minute to think about certain figures of the bible: Moses, Jesus, the Apostles, etc. What do they have in common? They all went through situations that they were not strong enough to bear on their own, whether it was persecution, threats of death, slavery, or performing the impossible. The truth is that we will face things that we aren’t strong enough to handle on our own. But the good news is that we will always have God’s strength, even when our’s fails.

There are many more verses and stories I could reference, but I think you will be able to see a common theme. Our strength is to come only from and through God, especially in difficult times. We cannot and should not boast in ourselves or try to rely on our own strength. (But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14) We can only boast in Jesus Christ. It is only because of Him that we can have right-standing with God and receive His grace. We do not have strength on our own and we should not be telling others that they have this strength, let alone more or less strength than others, because we do not truly know how much strength/faith a person has. Also, personally, if this was said to me, I would feel pressure to be stronger and to do better, I would not be comforted in knowing God is helping me or feel like I could “let go and let God” because He’s looking at me wanting me to use all my strength. But this is what the bible says about relying on our own strength: This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD” Jeremiah 17:5. God takes this pretty seriously. This cliche is not only false, but can possibly encourage others to boast in their own strength and rely on that instead of on God.  Besides, God doesn’t choose people according to their strength, intelligence, power, etc. He only looks at the heart and often uses those who are unqualified. God wants a willing and humble heart. Take David, for instance. God did not give him the battle of slaying the giant because he was strong. While David was able to protect his sheep from large animals, David was still just a boy. God chose David because he was willing and obedient. That’s all God wants from us or needs from us. It’s not about us or our strength.

Next time you need to encourage someone going through a really hard circumstance, please find scripture to support and encourage them, and above all, pray for them. Don’t use this phrase because it simply doesn’t have the power of God backing it. It’s just a man-made platitude. The word of God is most powerful and helpful and will bring life to the person in need. Remember “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” 1 Peter 4:11.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Pingback: The joy of the Lord is my strength. Nehemiah 8:10 | Bummyla

  2. Hi Christian,
    I just read your comments on the cliché. Quite insightful, but I think it would be wrong to totally discard the saying as false. Even though I understand your perspective, I do not think that people use this phrase in order to promote reliance on self in hard times.
    I rather think that the phrase reflects the truth about people who I term “God’s friends”. From the Old Testament to date, people who are really close to God have never had it easy in life-Moses, Abraham, David, Job, Jesus, Mary His Mother and even his Apostles. Even St. Teresa of Avila, after a particularly difficult journey to set up a convent, asked God why He had let her suffer so much in the bid to do His work. God replied her saying, “Teresa, that is how I treat my friends.” “No wonder you have so few of them,’ she retorted.

    So I think that this phrase, more importantly, reminds us of how God reflects His glory through the lives of His faithful ones especially through suffering which became inseparable from the human existence after the Fall. But God shows his victory over suffering when his friends suffer and still overcome by their faith in Him-”Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all” Psalm 34 vs 19
    That’s my two cents worth.

    • Thank you for your reply, Lily. I appreciate your insight. I do agree that suffering and hard trials are a part of true disciples’ lives. I think that your comment demonstrates a very important point I like to make about cliches: They hardly ever convey the entire truth. There’s so much more to the truth than a cliche can point out or describe. This is one of many reasons I prefer not to use them and I write posts to elaborate and make the truth clearer. Cliches reduce an idea (especially a biblical one) to an explanation far below the required elaboration and detail needed to fully understand the matter. Perhaps there are many way to think about these sayings as well, provided they aren’t false completely!

  3. While I am certainly not a worthy adversary for an educated theological discussion, I must respectfully argue that you have failed to make any sort of valid point that proves that cliche wrong. When I hear that saying I imagine that if God has a plan for each and every one of us he would need some of his soldiers to be stronger, spiritually and emotionally, than others. I believe, at least my own experience tells me, that with each hardship we face and ultimately rise above, our faith in God becomes stronger and stronger. I believe that all of the emotional pain and turmoil that I have experienced in my life have led me down a path to a spiritual awakening. Having had that spiritual awakening, I can now use His love for me to strengthen me so that I may carry out what I believe is his plan for m., and share my faith in Him with others who may also question his existence.

    Not everyone is born believing in God or taught to believe that there is a God. But if we endure enough hardship and see enough evidence of his existence and that he has in fact been walking beside us through everything that eventually we will believe. And that because of all of the pain and suffering we endured that arguably we are his strongest solfiers.

    • Thank you for your respectful reply. The main reason I do not use this cliche is because there is simply no verse that says this. While we can surely look around and reason that this happens, I prefer to use the bible for the basis of any saying and not only experience. The bible says that God chooses people who are humble and most willing. Nowhere have I seen that He says He picks then in the basis of strength. Whether you agree with me or not is fine. I don’t expect everyone to! But I prefer not to use cliches in general because of their limited scope. They only say so much and I think it does the bible a disservice by trying to fit many concepts into cliches. Anyway, thank you for your input. Have a blessed day!

  4. I gave this cliché to my son in law who is almost two years trying to recover from a car accident…I don’t think it helped him at all….He should have died and he still wishes he had as he may still have to amputate a leg and he cannot walk…He is mad at God and cannot understand why God allowed this to happen to him and his family…I can’t understand it either…my daughter is so broken she doesn’t know what to do anymore and is considering divorcing him…they are living with his parents and thankfully have state medical coverage but hardly no money and cannot afford to have their own place…they have a little two year old who has brought the only joy to fill our days….in spite of all this sadness, my husband and I and my son still attend church and pray to stay strong in the faith for our family’s sake…but some days it’s very hard and I just want to drink beer or wine to dull the pain of all this…I just thank God for Godly parents who have passed on but took me and raised me in the church…and I just hang onto My Hope is in the Lord…and the shape our country is in makes me sad too…if things get really rough, we will need our son-in-law to get well and be strong for his family….

    • I will be praying for your son and his wife. It’s very important to remember in these hard times how Jesus suffered for us and also how other people in the bible suffered for Christs’ sake. Suffering is a part of life, it always has been, but we must never forget the victory that Christ has won for us! If we give up in hard times, we are giving up on Christs’ work on the cross. We don’t always understand why God allows certain things, but that’s why He’s God and we aren’t. I don’t want to belittle what your son-in-law has been through because I know that would be difficult to endure, but many people have been through this type of thing and have remained positive no matter what. People who are disabled have done amazing things and it sounds like your son-in-law needs to take a look at these people’s lives. But first and foremost, he needs to take another look at Jesus’ life. The bible is full of people who endured great suffering. We are no different. So, instead of asking God why and being bitter, we should always be trusting Him to bring us through whatever comes our way.

    • Hello Nicole, I am sorry to hear about your son-in-law. How is he now? I hope he is much better.
      And I also pray that your daughter be strong for her family…divorce is not a solution.
      As ChristianGinger commented, all suffering seems meaningless and useless except united to that of Christ. Many Christians don’t quite get that, but St. Paul helps us to understand that; maybe you could get your son-in-law to meditate on Colossians 1:24 which says “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church…”
      I also read something this morning, form the Book of James Chapter 1: “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it…”
      It is well with you and your family. We will keep in you in our prayers.
      Abundant blessings.

  5. First, thank you for your insightful opinion of how some may think this phrase is wrong. I personally believe when someone tell some else this phrase its not to say they have strength to go through trials and tribulations on their own, but to say that their strength they have in the faith of God is why god gives he’s hardest battles to them and consider them his strongest soldier. Because they are a strong soldier of God. God knows that this person will trust in him through whatever their going through.

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