When you want to get in shape, it’s actually through the process of tearing your muscles down that you build them up. The first day of your workout isn’t so hard. But the next day, you’re in some serious pain. Everything hurts.
The next time, you feel weak, but you work out anyway. A couple of days later, you’re still weak and sore, but you’re also a little stronger. You increase the weights a bit; then you do a little more. Pretty soon, you notice that you’re getting stronger.
It is through the breaking-down process that the building up comes.
In the same way, we need to build up our spiritual muscles. God allows us to go through difficulties. He increases the weights on us. Pretty soon, we are benching a whole lot more than we ever thought possible. We’re learning more than we ever thought we would learn. We’re doing more than we ever thought we would do. Iron is entering our souls, and we are developing that heroic endurance, perseverance, and strength that only comes through difficulty.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and said, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3–5 NKJV).
The Bible tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4 NKJV). In the original language, the word used here for “patience” means “perseverance,” “endurance,” “steadfastness,” or simply “staying power.”
If you find yourself going through a time of testing and trial, realize that God has a purpose in it. Most likely, He is preparing you and training you today for what He will do in your life tomorrow.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!