The Best Place to Buy Strength and Courage

I have a friend who’s father disowned him. My friend was studying to be a lawyer at the time but (to make a very long story short), decided to go in a very different direction, one that wouldn’t bear much money or prestige. So his father, not knowing what to do, kicked him out of the house.

My friend had recently become acquainted with the teachings of Jesus and decided to apply them to this situation. On one particular occasion he broke into his father’s house, shined every one of his shoes, then left a note, something akin to “I really want to be your friend.” He bombarded his father with this Jesus stuff – no preaching, no “you’re going to hell” – just merciful acts that required a level of strength and courage that few can muster. It took a really long time, but it worked.

Put that in your Bible.

This guy, in many respects, is my hero. Knowing him has changed my life. We have alot in common – lots of past hurts – but we’ve lived different lives. Whenever he runs into something difficult, he tends to chose the path that requires strength and courage. I tend to take the easy way out. It’s no surprise that he’s stronger and more courageous than I am, despite the fact that he’s really, really skinny.

I used to think that strong people were born that way, but knowing him has convinced me otherwise. Strength and courage aren’t inherited, they’re built in moments that really suck, places that are scary. We might not “win” or “prevail” when life dumps something miserable in our lap, but we’re guaranteed to come out the other side a changed person if we can somehow manage to hold fast and engage the suckiness.

We’ll change if we run away too. Weakness and fear are built in those moments when we (understandably) find some reason to excuse ourselves from the hard stuff. Ironically, it’s just as hard to stay put in the difficult moments as it is to live in weakness and fear.

One thing that we all have in common is the hardship that seems to be constantly nipping at our heels. Life isn’t fair, nothing good is easy, there are no good pursuits that don’t require some level of sacrifice, pain, and courage, blah, blah, blah. We’ll never be left wanting for hard times.

But don’t go it alone. I have another friend who recently faced a horribly difficult situation – worst case scenario – but for some reason felt that he had to figure out everything by himself. It didn’t work. To navigate the hard things alone is to fail. Every time. Mentors, therapists, honest friends, strong people, cheerleaders, etc. come part and parcel to a not-miserable life. You won’t make it without them.

If we want to have anything resembling a decent life we’ll have to get used to difficulty – let it in, stay put, give it permission to shape us into the kind of people that know joy, peace, hope, influence, etc, regardless of what’s going on around us. That’s the life we want for our kids. It’s the life that God wants for us.

Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying.
Nelson Mandela

Whatever it is inside that locks us to the ground in hard times has to be challenged, like a muscle. It can’t be worked out in a gym where everything’s safe and predictable, a place where we call the shots – it’s only stretched and shaped in dark places. The more we work it out, the stronger it gets, the easier it is to stay put – to do what’s right when everything goes wrong.

Few things are more fundamental to a great life than staying put when everything inside is telling us to run.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Winston Churchill

43 thoughts on “The Best Place to Buy Strength and Courage

  • This is an amazing reminder for us all. As Teddy Roosevelt said:

    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  • I struggle a lot with this. My family did a lot of crappy stuff to me. My mom died 6 years ago and I am still on their crap list. Last Christmas, I wrote a letter saying how I was sorry for my part in the breakdown of our relationship. I wanted to work things out and talk. I got a letter back from one sister saying I wasn’t loving and I could have put action into my words by showing up to family events. The problem was, all 4 of my siblings were gossiping, bad mouthing me, ect and showing up to family events was scary to me. It felt like me vs a bear. Further, she had Christmas parties the last 5 years and didn’t bother sending me an invite. I felt like it was a hypocritical response. I have chosen to completely disengage. One of my nieces accused me of lying because I didn’t show up to her wedding. While I accept the fact that suffering is apart of life, I don’t need to let toxic people suffocate me in the process. As much as it sounds heroic to kill someone with kindness, there comes a point where enough is enough. The kindest thing I can do is walk away.

    • Ugh, that sounds horrible, and really sad. What really sucks about family hardship is that we love them, regardless of how they’re treating us – our souls long to reconcile, and won’t quit. I hope you didn’t hear me say “kill them with kindness and all will be well,” but I will maintain that engaging this will be easier (but scarier) than walking away. I wish you the best of luck, and so appreciate your thoughts and your vulnerability.

      • My door is always open to reconcile but I also know that I am not gonna put myself in a situation where I am constantly mistreated. My kids too. It’s a weird place to be where I feel better off without them. I really do. Is that selfish? Maybe. I also am protecting my kids and trying to protect the life I have made without them. It’s a very tricky thing.

      • Long story but if you mean the church–I just left an abusive one. Lost all my friends in the process. I have one friend who is a Christian and she is moving 900 miles away. Honestly, it’s been hard to make real connections with people who love me where I am at. Since I am not in a church right now, that’s become much more hard. I think I am starting to see why ppl become hermits lol

  • Love your recounts, God bless your friends who have raised above all the negativity. I know that the power I have is miniscule compared to the power of God. When I pray to God through His son Jesus Christ, God changes everything. When God deems to be the right time, He can move mountains. He can change statutes, policies, rules, situations, sicknesses overnight, He can change the path that you had picked out for yourself because God knows what’s best for you, He has the much bigger picture. Just wait and have faith to believe.

  • This is such truth. This is the year of mercy and treating others with mercy and grace is the best we can do. It does take practice but gets easier and makes us stronger. Thanks for your wonderful post!

  • Standing ovation, Brother!!! Your messages are so timely for me–like many, I’m in a tough place, and every other minute the enemy suggests I seriously give up on life itself, the easy way out x 1000. But God is SO Faithful–I was at online church today (nothing prevents me from that, thank You Lord), and the message was given by John Bevere (co-founder of Messenger International); his latest book is “Good or God?”(“why good, without God, is not good enough”)…and it’s not related to your message here–my point is that, wherever we are during a given day, there God is, waiting to encourage us. Thank you so much–God bless you and your family with His favor.

  • 🙂 Liked it. Read it just as I was tidying up the SEO on an old post I wrote long time back. But from a slightly different angle though. Trials as food for us (yes, there was such a verse!). Num 14:9. Drop me a message here if you want the link to my post! Don’t wanna hijack a thread, unless it’s with permission.

  • I L O V E this post! You are right when you say we all experience hurts and there are two roads on which we can choose to travel. I love that your skinny friend has been a model of strength and courage for you! We all need someone like that in our lives– to push us, to show us the hard road will not destroy us, etc. I am certain he sees a rare beauty in you as well! Thank you for sharing!

  • So cool knowing that dark moments, whatever dark moments to come, are ones that are shaping me to be a stronger, better individual. Thank you for this post:)

  • “It can’t be worked out in a gym where everything’s safe and predictable, a place where we call the shots – it’s only stretched and shaped in dark places.” Phew!! That’s so much truth it takes my breath away. So hard to see those dark places as shaping us for the better, but they absolutely do.

  • I agree here. You wrote an exceptionally beautiful piece. I also however, believe courage and strength can be forged in times of great happiness too.

  • Some nice ideas here. I don’t particularly like gyms for other reasons, but yours are very good “… where everything’s safe and predictable.” Isn’t it ironic that they are called ‘health clubs?’ I always feel like I am in prison when I am in one. Everyone seems to be doing time.

  • Mark. My dear friend whom I’ve never met (until an hour ago). How do you understand me so well? I clicked on your name when it popped up in my notifications and I’ve been reading ever since. Pages and pages of truth! YES! He SO GETS IT! What a relief and a humble tear-provoking reminder that life is beautiful, frustrating and ultimately, OURS. Thank you for your wisdom and simple yet empathetic honesty.

    • That’s so encouraging to hear. I’m working on a book too and really struggling with the ever-present feelings of “this sucks, it’ll never get published.” So thanx for boost. I appreciate the connection, and thanx for reading!

      • My friend, you are not alone in this. EVERY author thinks their work sucks. In fact, that was the subject of my very first blog on here. Fear of Failure. But when you step back and see how many people ALREADY love your work and appreciate how your words touch their hearts, you really just gotta keep going. You HAVE to. For our sakes (and for yours!) 🙂

  • How did we ever come to believe we could have light without dark, music without silence, happiness without suffering? Thank you for the clues you leave for us along the way…

    • I really do think it’s a product of living in a wealthy, well protected, tech rich culture. We can separate ourselves from the hard stuff like no culture before.

  • Agreed and nice to meet you and your blog! Thanks for your writing. Have an awesome day! (For some reason, my like/icon doesn’t always show up, so I comment 🙂

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