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.