The Strong Heart is Not Callous

Gary Henry

“I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears” (Psalm 6:6).

IF WE THINK THE STRONG DON’T FEEL PAIN, WE KNOW LITTLE OF WHAT STRENGTH IS ABOUT. Soldiers know that courage is not the absence of fear, but fortitude in the face of fear, and those who are truly strong understand that strength is not the absence of pain, but nobility in the face of pain. The strong are those who deeply experience pain without giving up either their reverence or their gratitude. Rather than going AROUND pain, strong people go THROUGH it. There is no shortcut to any place worth going to.

We normally think of “skill” as the ability to do “difficult” things. If because of natural talent a person finds himself easily able to do things that are difficult for other people, that may be somewhat impressive. But how much more impressive it is when someone has the drive and the discipline to do things that he himself finds difficult. In a similar way, it would be no great accomplishment for a person to bear an emotional pain that he didn’t really feel. But those who open their hearts and feel the pain this world can inflict, still maintaining a gracious respect and gratitude toward God — those are the folks with an admirable strength!

When we’re suffering, friends frequently remind us that God’s intent is not to shield us from all pain, but to strengthen us so that we can deal with the pain in the right way. Do we really believe that? Perhaps what we believe is something slightly different: that God will help us find a kind of “strength” that will anesthetize us so that we won’t feel the pain quite so much. Perhaps we don’t really trust God to help us acquire REAL strength, the kind that protects us without deadening our hearts and rendering us unable to feel what we need to feel.

The immense spiritual strength that Jesus possessed involved much more than mere anesthesia. He not only felt the full range of emotions that are the lot of humanity, but He felt them intensely and vividly. We should aspire to a strength that is no less alive. Genuine discipleship to the Son of Man will not turn us into unfeeling robots. It will teach us to feel what God feels.

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full” (Marcel Proust).