The last post spoke about woman’s desire for beauty, and how external beauty complements a much more important inner beauty (Missed it? You can read it here.) Now we’re going to talk about man’s desire for strength, and how physical strength complements a much more important inner strength.
Part 2: Man’s Desire for Strength
Just as woman’s desire for beauty is natural based on their roles as wives and mothers, so too man’s desire for strength is a natural desire placed in man’s heart by God to point them to their role as husbands and fathers. While woman’s role is to receive and nurture, man’s role is to give, provide, and protect. Obviously, protecting and providing for one’s wife and family requires strength, especially in times when man had to physically fight off danger and till the soil for food.
Again, the problem occurs when strength is treated as an idol or used in a way not intended by God. If we become too focused on becoming strong for the sake of power or looks, in order to control or impress, we lose sight of what’s most important and the greater purpose God intended this strength for. Even worse, some use their strength to take advantage of and harm others. Unfortunately, again, the devil twists our perception of good things and tempts us to pursue them for the wrong reasons or the wrong purpose. And he tells us that we must rely on our own strength, be it physical, mental, or emotional. But God reminds us that the strongest men are the virtuous and those who rely on Him for their strength.
Scripture often reminds us that God’s people did not win their battles by their own strength, but were given victory only by God’s power. In Psalm 33 it says:
“A king is not saved by a great army, / nor a warrior delivered by great strength.”Psalm 33:16 (NABRE)
And again in the Book of Judith, speaking of God:
“Your strength is not in numbers, nor does your might depend upon the powerful. You are God of the lowly, helper of those of little account, supporter of the weak, protector of those in despair, savior of those without hope.”Judith 9:11
Throughout the Bible, Israel tried to win battles by their own strength, and that is when they failed; they only succeeded when God granted them the victory. This is a reminder that if we want true strength and victory, we must rely on God. We can’t rely on our own strength, physical or otherwise. For as Psalm 28 says:
“The Lord is my strength and my shield, / in whom my heart trusts.”Psalm 28:7
And Philippians also reminds us:
“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”Philippians 4:13
We have nothing to fear if we have our strength in the Lord—with Him, all things are possible, all obstacles conquerable. This inner strength that we receive from God, we call virtue. We receive this power through the Holy Spirit:
“But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:8 (emphasis added)
The apostles were only able to find the strength, courage, and wisdom to share the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Or take another example—the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson received an incredible gift of physical strength from God, but he would lose this strength if he cut his hair (he promised to never cut it as a symbol of his dedication to the Lord). However, Samson’s physical strength, ironically, could not help him against his one great weakness: his love for women. He fell in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah, who used her beauty against Samson (also an example of a woman misusing her beauty given to her by God) and convinced him to tell her how he would lose his strength. He submitted to her to cut his hair, and thus lost the strength given to him by God and was captured by the Philistines. In the end, he was only able to regain this strength when he humbled himself before God, offering his life to take down the Philistines when he pulled down the pillars on them.
Evidently, we can draw several conclusions about strength from this story: his strength came from God, not himself; he lost this strength when he sinned; he regained this strength when he was virtuous. If he had had the inner strength of virtue to send Delilah away to begin with, he would never have lost his strength in the first place. His lack of inner strength was his undoing, not his lack of physical strength.
We can see that there is incredible strength and value in virtues such as fortitude, courage, and trust in the Lord. We must strengthen our souls by the practice of virtue, as it instructs in 2 Thessalonians:
“Encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”2 Thessalonians 2:17
Man’s physical strength, like woman’s beauty, is meant to complement and assist this practice of virtue, not to hinder or work against it. Our strength is meant to be used to serve and love God:
“Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.”Deuteronomy 6:5
In the end, what good does physical strength alone do for our souls? Both physical strength and beauty are passing. We might protect our body from harm by our strength, but bodily strength alone cannot protect our soul; nor can it even protect our body from illness, old age, and death. The inner strength of virtue, however, will serve us well to protect our souls from evil and will have eternal rewards in Heaven.
Ultimately, our relationship with God and practice of virtue will fulfill every desire we have for strength. If we are seeking strength for power, we find it in the Holy Spirit; if we seek it for control, we can surrender to Him, for He will care for us; if we seek it to impress others, then we must remember how it is virtue that will make Our Heavenly Father proud. Just imagine reaching the end of our lives, being able to say: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7), and the Father says to you: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
(Continue reading: “Value in Virtue Part 3: The Productivity Mindset”)
God bless you and keep you!