What makes you feel strong? Where do you go to find strength to walk through life? Even though the strength issue is a huge question for men, women also need to feel strong in their own way. Both genders are looking and often not finding.
When I taught high school, I watched young men try to find strength in all sorts of ways: aggressively pumping iron, hyper-focusing on athletics, bullying others, using drugs and alcohol, flirting with girls, trying to be the alpha male, being a part of the cool crowd. You can see how these could convert into destructive lifestyles as adults. What was interesting in our conversations about strength is that those outward attempts to feel strong never translated into an interior sense. The strength question was unresolved.
I see parallels in my own life. I have done my share of exhausting workouts, sports competitions, and attempts to be Mr. Know-It-All. I ran a marathon once with the hope that it would settle the question once for all. But it didn't. None of it replaced the weakness I still felt inside. None of it dispelled the fear that haunted me.
The Bible is filled with paradox. What we think is the way to life is death. What we think is the way up is down. The same paradox happens with strength. Isaiah pictures the best that humans can do: "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall" (Is. 40:30). Here is the epitome of strength, when a child has boundless energy, when a young man adds muscle to sinew. But they all fail. It's not the deep, abiding strength. Where does Isaiah tell us then to find strength? "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength" (v. 31a). Because of hope there is priceless exchange. We exchange our weakness for God's strength.
Why does hope do this? Because we look outward and open ourselves to the deep strength behind creation, the Creator Himself. And in that expansive opening, something miraculous happens. His strength becomes interiorized in us. Hope opens the door to take what is true (God is strength) into what is real (God is my strength). It's not that we quit exercising or being properly assertive. It's just that we no longer look to those for the deeper strength. Indeed, God longs to renew our weakness with His strength. He desires to connect to us this way. Becoming aware of this is how our hope grows.
How does this happen? It can happen in the silence when we are alone with HIm. It can happen in a growing awareness of His presence through the day. But it can also happen with others. I was recently with a small group of men, sharing some of our core struggles and sins. I didn't see these men as weak. Instead, the connectedness we felt became the deeper strength. We had admitted weakness before each other and found strength.
Hope in God offers us a continual resupply of this inner strength. It's the waterfall that never runs dry. Our job is to get in the waterfall and let it run over us and through us. As we do, God offers this hope in return: "They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (v. 31b). We don't just fly. We soar. We don't just run or walk. We do them effortlessly.
Don't be ashamed of your weakness. Nothing is wrong with you. It's the gateway into His strength.