There are tons of websites, books, and shows about self-improvement. It's a billion-dollar business. Everywhere you look, there's ads for someone offering to help you become a better person.
Is this what God really wants of us?
We know that God can use the weak things of the world to defeat the strong. We know he uses the simple things to confound the world's wisdom. So where is there room for us to want to become stronger, wiser, and better?
I know it sounds preposterous at first. "Why would God not want us to become stronger?" But there are people who, by their actions, believe exactly that. They have become so weak, that they fear any kind of strength.
David, the second King of Israel, was a strong, fighting man. And yet, we see how God used not David's strength, but his devotion, to defeat his enemies. Does that mean it was wrong for him to be a strong fighter? Certainly not! It is who God intended David to be. David's strength was useful in all areas of his life, not just the battlefield. And in the end, he still had to fight battles.
One of the interesting things about training to become stronger is that you have to come to grips with how weak you currently are. You can't focus on eliminating weakness unless you can spot it. This applies to mental and spiritual weakness as well! And everyone- everyone- has weakness.
Is Weakness Bad?
I can categorize weakness three ways:
Some people honestly just don't know that they're weak in some area because they've never even considered it. Some would consider the failure to examine every area a weakness in itself, which is true. But for most people, considering difficult doing things (like enduring extreme temperatures, or learning to memorize important facts) never crosses their minds, so they don't realize their weakness.
Some people know they're weak in certain areas, but think it will never be something they are concerned about. Not everything in this category is bad. Most people know they can't run a marathon, and don't care because they think they will never be required to run that far, ever. This is the majority of people, for the majority of things. This is simple laziness, or (hopefully) a calculated risk due to lack of time. Some things are not what I'd consider a critical skill, given my circumstances.
Then there's the group of people who intentionally shun strength for victimhood, manipulation, or worse- those who think getting stronger is actually wrong, and being weak is a virtue. There's a word for this kind of behavior: sin. This is not what God wants for us.
We as Christians should strive to become the best that we can be, and let God change us internally through perseverance. We shouldn't be afraid to do difficult things.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. - Romans 5:3-5
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - 1 Cor. 9:24-27
Paul highlights the core of it: it's self-discipline. The key to becoming stronger, both physically and mentally, is self-discipline. And that, as we know, is a product of the Spirit of God. We will always have areas that God can use in our weakness. We are human, after all.
While God can use us through our weaknesses (and everyone has them) He does want us to grow in self-discipline.
Again, Paul says to Timothy:
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:6-7
Power, Love, and Discipline. That's what we should embody.
Some of the websites I read (and podcasts I listen to) about getting stronger and more resilient are more worldly than others. Not all of them have ideals that align with mine, and so I'm careful to differentiate from opinions and simple truths about cause and effect. But regardless of who says it, truth is still truth, and there are many, many ways to teach yourself to be stronger- resilient, focused, driven, and disciplined.
One of my favorites is The Art Of Manliness, but there are many more.
In the near future, I'm going to be writing more on lessons I've learned from this process, and how you can sift through all these self-help websites, discern what's useful, and discard the rest.