There are two kinds of strength in the spiritual life: Human strength and divine strength. It’s critical that you learn to embrace and experience both kinds.
Human strength is everywhere. Books, television, gaming, movies—they’re all built squarely on human strength.
The message is clear: Heroes must be strong to prevail. They can begin their journey weak,or even relapse for a season, but they must become strong or find their strength before it’s too late.
Weakness worries us.
Weakness is the foundation of all fiction. We put a would-be hero into a situation that stretches them, tests them, or overwhelms them. We hurt them, break them, and watch them hit rock bottom. As their weakness is exposed, we worry. As they plummet, we fret. As they wallow, we hold our collective breath. The best writers render their heroes so weak that we’re tempted to write them off.
Meanwhile, without the hero’s strength, the world goes to pot—dragging them even further behind the proverbial eight-ball.
But at the bottom, in the eleventh hour, against all odds, you know how the story goes. The Dark Knight must rise. He or she must find their strength—which, often enough, they discover already existed within them. With this newfound vision, they must stand up against all odds. They must come out on top by exerting their personal strength and will.
This may sound unbiblical, but it’s not. As John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart reminds us, “You have what it takes.” Or, as Paul put it, “(God’s) divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3). Sometimes God gives us strength, unleashing our human potential by helping us dig deeper into courage and energy than we thought we could. Our partnership in life and ministry includes human sweat, human tears, human pain and passion and effort.
When we ask, “Lord, please give me strength,” he often responds by giving us the strength we need. Often we feel it come and marvel at the change. This is the strength we’re familiar with. But we’re talking about human strength and divine strength. Let’s explore the other side of this coin.
The difference between human strength and divine strength is huge.
Divine strength is largely missing fiction, so we find it foreign to our daily experience as well. By divine strength I don’t mean that God gives us strength; I mean he becomes our strength. When this happens, we’re not just augmented humans; we’re channels for divine power. God takes over where I leave off, and when he’s done his work, I’m no stronger than I was before. I didn’t rise from my own ashes. I’m still sitting in them. And God worked a miracle anyway. You could say human strength is about being more effective, while divine strength is about supernatural outcomes.
The Psalms in particular are riddled with this language. “I love you O Lord, my strength,” David wrote in Psalm 18:1. Paul described it this way: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9,10).
I can hardly count how many times I reached the end of myself and cried out to God to be my strength. When the dust cleared, I wasn’t any stronger. I felt no surge of energy or inspiration. I couldn’t point to a moment when “I found my strength.” And yet, at the end of the day, God worked and lives were changed—not because of me, in these cases, but in spite of me.
Human Strength and Divine Strength
I have often experienced both human strength and divine strength at the same time. God often answers my prayer for personal strength with empowered humanity, but also steps in to work out something I could never take credit for. I think the most amazing Christian lives are a beautiful combination of human strength and divine strength, working in Spirit-led harmony.
Have you experienced human strength and divine strength? Please comment below: