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Asking the clergy: If it doesn't kill you, does it make you stronger?

We've all heard the expression, and even used it. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But where does the strength come from? This week's clergy discuss this common expression:

Pastor John Gravagna, Connect Church, Bellmore:

"What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger" is not a quote from the Bible but a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. However, it is a biblical principle. Trials, adversity and tragedy are part of human life. We all go through things that can shake us, overwhelm us, even destroy us if we allow them.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (New Living Translation): "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."

Yes, we will have troubles, but God is willing to go through them with us, bringing us on the other side.

"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" is a statement that gives encouragement and inspiration in the midst of our daily anxieties and stresses in life. Many people are going through life thinking they are alone, with no hope. This will cause anyone to feel overwhelmed and think of giving up. The great thing about God is that no matter what we go through, he is faithful.

To those who are going through life's trouble right now, realize you are not unique in your problems. There are many who are going through the very same thing. Don't give up, persevere and you may find you are stronger than you think. In fact, you may one day be the help and strength for someone else (Romans 5: 3-4).


Pastor Danielle Miller, Oceanside Lutheran Church, Oceanside:

Scripture says rain falls on the good and bad alike, the just and the unjust. God is not trying to teach cosmic lessons by giving us cancer. We live in an imperfect world. While I don't believe everything happens for a reason, I do believe that God can create reason and purpose through everything. If we are open to God's guidance and are listening, we can hear him speaking to us in our lives. He will bring blessings and challenges and help us grow and learn meaning in the things we experience.

We have a God who created a world where roses grow best out of manure. It is trusting God's guidance in those moments of challenge that brings great rewards, but you must be open to his guidance.

One of the things we do often in my congregation is have the "Yea, God" moments. It is an exercise to see God's hand at work in different situations. For example, one of my congregants has a son who is ill and she is struggling. The "Yea, God" moments include being thankful for the nurses and doctors who are there with him. She now knows that even if he passes away, he will not be alone. God will walk with him. Those "Yea, God" moments are the times when we can see God working through others and take strength knowing he is there.


Rabbi Elliot Skiddell, Reconstructionist Congregation Beth Emeth, Rockville Centre:

Certainly, the challenges we face, and we all face them, do indeed make us stronger. We have the strength and power within ourselves to overcome obstacles in life. With the help and support of loved ones, family, friends, and, very importantly, the care and support of a community, be it a synagogue, church, mosque or wherever we find our spiritual home, we will find strength.

I wouldn't say that it is God who makes us stronger. It is the God who resides within us. We don't have to look to outside sources.

It has never been my view that God is someone who is testing us. He doesn't say, "I give you this challenge to see how you do. If you emerge stronger, I'll give you some kind of reward."

The challenges we face are just a part of the world we live in. It is part of the nature of living. Also, if you attribute adversities to God, you come to the point where you begin blaming God for things, for hurricanes, for cancer, for ferries that sink. We, in a sense, begin to abdicate our responsibility for our actions. We forget that we have a responsibility to make the world better for ourselves, our family, the world at large.

When you are suffering adversity, think of all the wonderful people in the world who do such amazing things to help others. That is God at work. To those who say they don't know how they found the strength to get through something, I'd tell them that I do know. They reached down deep inside to the strength that was always there. They also looked to family and friends.

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