On Monday, November 17, 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger was inaugurated as the 38th governor of the State of California. In his acceptance speech, he recognized the difficult times ahead, pointing out that California has the largest deficit, the worst credit rating and the worst business climate in the nation. At the same time, he described himself, in the words of John F. Kennedy, as an “idealist without illusions,” while seeing California “as the golden dream by the sea,” adopting a thought from President Ronald Reagan, who had spoken of America “as the shining city on the hill.”
When alluding to the momentous task ahead, Governor Schwarzenegger drew an interesting lesson from bodybuilding. He said, “I learned something from all those years of lifting and training hard, when I didn’t think I could lift another ounce of weight. What I learned was that we’re always stronger than we know.”
When I heard these comments, I had to think of their spiritual application. We might go through tests and trials, thinking that we cannot take them anymore. We might conclude that we have reached the end of the rope. We have just had enough — “so far and no farther” — with no more strength to go on.
Elijah felt that way. He tried to run away from his problems, willing to die. He exclaimed, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4). Jeremiah thought that he could not go on anymore. But God showed him how much more he would be able to endure. God said in Jeremiah 12:5: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?” He went on to say, in Jeremiah 15:20: “‘And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; And they will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you And deliver you,’ says the LORD.”
God tells us, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (New Jerusalem Bible): “None of the trials which have come upon you is more than a human being can stand. You can trust that God will not let you be put to the test beyond your strength, but with any trial will also provide a way out by enabling you to put up with it.”
Yes, it is true: We are always stronger, spiritually, than we know. But, our strength does not lie within ourselves. It is strength which we receive from God. God tells us in Isaiah 40:29-31: “He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”
We must embrace and put to use God’s strength. And when we do, we will soon learn that no problem will be too hard for us — no trial will be too difficult. We, too, will be able to say: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Our burden will be light (Matthew 11:28-30). And it has a purpose. Notice 2 Corinthians 4:17 (New Jerusalem Bible): “The temporary, light burden of our hardships is earning us for ever an utterly incomparable, eternal weight of glory.”
With God’s help, we are so much stronger than we might ever have thought possible. In fact, when we believe that God’s power, might and strength are at our disposal, and when we use the strength that God offers us, nothing will be too difficult for us. Let us always take courage from Christ’s words, as recorded in Matthew 17:20: “… for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU.”
Governor Schwarzenegger faces a tremendous challenge to solve California’s staggering problems. He recognized that he cannot do it alone — that he needed the help of all Californians. The time will come when all of us will be called upon to rebuild our ruined cities and our destroyed countries. Now is the time to prepare for this prophesied future event. Now is the time to conquer our fears and frustrations, to face our problems and to pass the test. But we, on our own, can’t do it, either. We need God’s help and strength for this challenging task. When we are tempted to throw in the towel, let us remember that for true and faithful Christians who “go in the strength of the LORD God” (Psalm 71:16), no trial is too difficult and no test is too hard. We will find out that we are so much stronger than we might have ever imagined.