Often I will hear or read the words (usually in the context of someone going through a trial) 'be strong', or, 'you are so strong'. Sometimes it comes out like this, 'stay strong'. It may have a tinge of flattery with it (ex. 'you are such a strong person'). But my question is this; does God want us to become strong in our difficulties, or does He want to become our strength in hard times?
Certainly, there are many verses where we are instructed to be strong. If a situation will come up where our faith could falter, God tells us to 'be strong'. The epistles tell us that God wants to strengthen us to do His work. "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy..." Colossians 1:11 ESV. I don't really have a problem with that because God strengthens us in order for us to serve Him. God wants us to be strong in our faith. But, does God use circumstances to make us stronger? I think sometimes this is the case, however, there is a difference between God strengthening us in our faith and God using circumstances to make us stronger.
In 2 Corinthians 12, we read about Paul's struggle with his thorn in the flesh. He asks God 3 times, to take it away, and God doesn't. Instead, God provides His grace in Paul's weakness. God becomes Paul's strength. Why? Because God doesn't want Paul to become proud. He leaves Paul in his weakness, and God Himself becomes Paul's strength.
It is the same for us today. Rather than God putting us in circumstances so that we can become stronger, God wants us to see our weakness and turn to Him for our strength. If it were the other way around, we could easily become independent of God. God would make us stronger and we would rely less on Him. I believe this is a universal problem we all have. It is called, 'self-sufficiency'. It teaches us that if we are really good Christians, then we become stronger in our difficulties. It is true that we grow in character through hardships and are changed, but its our faith that should become stronger. We have this inherent belief that eventually we can be on our own. We compare God as our Father, to our parents in this type of thinking. Parents work with their children until the children become adults or are ready to be on their own. That is the goal of parenting, but with God, the parenting is different. Even if God blesses us to have a relationship with Him for 80 years, we do not grow independent of God as we grow older. In fact, we grow closer to God and recognize our need for His strength and help.
So, God becomes our strength when we need to be strong. God doesn't give us difficulties so that we can become stronger and become more independent of Him. Next time you read a consolation message from someone telling the grieving person to 'stay strong' or 'you are so strong', remember that the grieving person needs God's strength during that season of his or her life. Something to think about.