Trials Can Make Us Stronger

makes us stronger
I never thought that I would be using a quote from the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in one of my blog posts, but…

This quote came to my mind the other day and I began thinking about it and the man that wrote it. I spent most of February sick or recovering from the flu and other health issues. What little strength and energy I had before the illness has finally returned in the last few days. I’m definitely not physically stronger than I was before the illness. But I do feel spiritually stronger than I was before my battle with “that which did not kill me.”

As an atheist, Nietzsche only believed in the physical world so I can only assume that this quote was referring to trials making people (himself) physically and/or emotionally stronger. I wonder if he still believed those words while lying helpless and suffering from the effects of Syphilis for the last eleven years of his life.

As someone who has relied on caregivers for even longer than Nietzsche had to (ALS, not Syphilis), I empathize with the helpless, the suffering and their caregivers. But I feel great sympathy for those that do not place their hope and strength in Christ, regardless of the state of their health. I feel sympathy because, like Nietzsche, the “strength” and “hope” that they derive from physical/temporal pleasures do not provide genuine and lasting joy or peace. As King Solomon concluded, it’s “all vanity.”

I am convinced that the following is the only strength that can be gained from “that which does not kill us”:

“…we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed (strengthened) day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

There are so many great earthly pleasures and blessings, but not even the best of them deserve our hope. If Christ is our hope, the pleasures we enjoy on earth will be so much more enjoyable because we’ll have our priorities in order and we won’t have to rely on the physical/temporal things for happiness.

aim at heaven
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25)

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on March 2, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 110 Comments.

  1. If that’sthe case,I should be able to bench press a Buick.Just kidding. (kindof)Thank you for following my blog., I’ll look forward to getting to know you better.Debbie

  2. “If Christ is our hope, the pleasures we enjoy on earth will be so much more enjoyable …” I thanked God yesterday for: bringing us to a new home where we are within walking distance of a Ice Cream Store, the new grass growing outside that’s beginning to cover up the mud, my new hospice patient who is the biggest Army football fan I’ve ever met, and the strength to console our son who is suffering through a broken, discinigrating marriage. How is it that a God so big can love someone as small as me so much to bring me His hope in ALL which touches me.

    …because He can.

    Thanks for that warm hug & reminder!

    Blessings my friend!

  3. Hope you are feeling better…
    I know for sure you are stronger…
    2 Cor. 4:16-18 one of my favorite passages… Thanks for sharing a great encouragement!

  4. I missed your posting… I am so sorry to hear of your February issues but I am so glad to know that you are better. It seems that with each wave of sickness there is less strength in the human body but more strength in the spiritual part–that is not a bad thing. I wish and pray for the best as always. Take care! – Amy 🙂

    • Thank you, Amy. Yeah, it seems that as we age, sickness takes more and more out of us – like a car battery that never fully recharges 🙂 Thank you so much for your prayers.

  5. I’m glad I read your blog, many times we forget to be thankful for just the breathe we take daily. Through our pains and suffering we are not alone. Our heavenly father is with us and will see us through once we don’t loose our faith in him. All the best to you in your health and continue to strengthen your spirit. 🙂

  6. I hope you continue to feel better Bill. Your faith and writing is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Great post Bill! You continue to inspire to placing our trust in His ways, not the worlds! Refreshing reminder! Glad you’re feeling better! Blessings!

  8. Beautiful Bill! You speak of a hope that only comes through Christ in us, our hope of glory! Thanks for liking my recent post. May the Lord continue to strengthen your inner man as you share the hope of the gospel with others! Jesus Reigns!

  9. Hi,

    I am happy to hear that you have regained some strength. I am even happier to hear that your faith is deepened, because that is so important.

    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.


  10. Your messages always encourage me so much, dear brother Bill! You and your family remain in my prayers. I am sorry to hear that you have been ill. May our Heavenly Father send you rivers of healing mercies and make you healthy, strong, and sound in every way above and beyond what you were before your illness this winter. In Jesus’ name.
    In our precious Lord’s wisdom we can be healthier on the inside though apparently broken and feeble outwardly, than many who appear to be perfect specimens of health but are poor and dying spiritually where their decay goes unnoticed and unheeded.
    God corrects those He loves, this is why so many of His precious saints suffer. His dear children are His beautiful masterpieces that He is chiseling, refining to become glorious cathedrals of His praise. His refining process can cause great pain but because He is within us He suffers alongside of us. Every tear we shed, He is silently weeping with us as a parent weeps in distress over their child who is suffering great distress.
    Our Lord cherishes us. As Paul writes in Romans, if we want to reign with Christ, we must also suffer with him.
    One day He will complete us. And He will show us off in triumph as glorious trophies of His amazing grace. Glory to our awesome Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
    God Bless you more and more, dear brother! 🙂

  11. Glad to read you are feeling better 🙂 A very meaningful post, and may the Lord continue to be your joy and strength… Kind regards, Iris

  12. Bill, You’ve been on my mind and in my prayers for weeks. I’m so grateful God spared you this time–even though that’s probably a selfish attitude! Your post overflows with your vibrant faith and outlook on life. I pray your days ahead are sweet.

    • Thank you, Elouise, for your encouraging comments and for your prayers. Did Diane ever get the flu or Pneumonia when she had ALS?

      • Yes, she did have pneumonia. It was a dreadful experience–hospitalized. She asked me to come, thinking it would be the end. That was in December 2002. She survived it and was with us until February 2006. From my perspective (as an onlooker/family member) is was the most horrendous situation possible. I think I’ll do a letter-post to Diane about this. I’ve thought about it before, but your experience and question have gotten me thinking about it again. I’m so grateful to have found you and your blog. I’ve prayed many times that God would be with your family right now–your protracted silence was unusual.

        • I got Pneumonia about 15 years ago (3 years after being diagnosed) and it was horrible! Even with my breathing machine on it was difficult to breathe. After 4 days in the hospital I finally convinced the doctors to let me go home; I couldn’t sleep or get comfortable… I had flashbacks to that experience when I got the flu this time and wanted nothing to do with going to the hospital.
          Thank you again for your comments and prayers…

  13. As we can expect from you, another word of deep truth! Thank you!

  14. I love the C.S. Lewis quote. So true. By the way, I’ve reading the Book of Acts, which makes me feel like just a baby in Christ. If only I could say, “Silver and gold have I none, but in the name of Jesus Christ, walk [my paraphrase].” God bless you, Bill, and may your Spirit soar and your health improve beyond all expectations. In Jesus’ name.

    • It’s good to hear from you again, Sheryl. I love the book of Acts and the healing of the lame man at the Temple gate is my favorite part of that book. I want to meet that man in heaven 🙂

  15. Your wisdom and maturity, not to mention your courage, never fail to inspire us, Bill. Thank you!

  16. I am so sorry you’ve been sick! That must have been very frustrating and discouraging! (Could there ever be more of an understatement??) But excellent post. I can’t imagine trying to do life without Jesus.

    • Thank you, Jennifer. It is extremely frustrating for an ALS patient (or any wheelchair-bound person) to have something like the flu; probably more frustrating for the caregivers. Thankfully, Mary and my other caregiver didn’t catch it.

  17. Lovely post and poignant reminder Bill! Thank you for sharing and I pray you continue to feel better!

  18. Great post, Bill. You may have used an atheist’s quote, but it was God who formed his brain. 😉 I love the encouragement in your words, and I love Who you lean on. So glad to see that you’re well enough to post again. It’s an impressive battle you’ve won. And what a blessing you are to all of us because you’re on the winning side of the most formidable battle of all.

    Blessings to you & Mary ~ Wendy ❀

  19. Hi Bill, how lovely to read your post and to know that you are recovering from the flu and feeling better again. A rough month for you, so sorry. As always, you are spot on, and your personal message and the scriptures have blessed and encouraged me greatly. Love the C.S. Lewis quote, says it all really doesn’t it? God bless you and your family Bill, and may the joys of early spring shine on you all ~ Sherri

    • Thank you, Sherri. I’m so glad to leave February behind. I really like that CS Lewis quote too. Thinking about heaven keeps us hopeful and motivates us to do good in this life. This is why I also like the following Lewis quote – “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

  20. As I got to the end of your post Bill, all I could picture was the joy when you get to heaven. No more pain, fatigue, inability to do the many things you would like to do etc etc. I hope we meet up in that day, I want to celebrate with you.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post. We all have much to be thankful for. I do not think we really grasp just how much. There are so many who have lost their homes and have had to flee for their very lives in the middle east. There are children with no one to care for them, no place to lay their head. We are blessed indeed. The world is a needy place for many.

    I am glad you are feeling better. Many blessings, Bill. Leslie

    • Thank you, Leslie.
      You are so right, we have so much to be thankful for – especially the “little things” like spending time with family and friends… Like you, I am really looking forward to heaven.
      I hope you’re doing well.

  21. So very sorry to hear that you have not been well but you return strong and steadfast as ever – you are a precious one ! I found your topic interesting because in the past I have purposefully stayed away from quotes and mentions of those in the darkness. My thinking was that I did not want to shed light on their works in the same vein as my Savior. But lately I have been considering how God is Good and how he has so many times used evil for his Good. What brought me to this “pondering” was scripture in Joshua 5:13-14

    “When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, No, but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come”.

    I just loved that – he is neither for nor against – he is for the Lord. I don’t know if that strikes you like it did me. but I still read that and stand amazed.

    I have purposefully been reading Joshua lately for some morsels of strength and holding firm to Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you “Be strong and courageous. do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
    I strayed a little from the topic but it reminded me of you [strong and courageous}. You are a blessing ~ Amen :Y

    • That’s good – Joshua 1:9 is such a great verse. As I mentioned, I never thought I’d be quoting an atheist in one of my posts, but, from a Christian perspective, it’s a good quote. It just doesn’t make sense to me from an atheist’s perspective. Like you, I’m much more comfortable quoting scripture 🙂

  22. A wonderful, encouraging post 🙂

  23. Great article, Bill! 🙂

    It is clear that you speak about what God has shown you in your own life and, for me, it is always very touching to read your posts, knowing that God gave you a huge burden to bear in this life.

    Well, I just thought I could post another quote from my German fellow countryman. 😉

    “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
    (Friedrich Nietzsche)

    Indeed, as long as we we have an eternal goal and hope for tomorrow, thank God, HE provides the strength to endure (although that does not mean it would be easy, does it…).

    May God bless you and your family richly in the days ahead!

    Susanne from Bavaria

  24. The Lord blesses you mightily Bill for your immensely encouraging spirit.

    About the same time as opening this on my WP Reader, my wife received a card from a friend many miles away. She’d called months ago with Exod 14:14 for her just as her health went downhill. This weekend a picture came to the lady of the upwards rebound on a trampoline being much stronger than the depth to which my wife has recently been living. May you be likewise strengthened Bill.

    Thank you for your timely ‘confirmation’ from the Lord 🙂

  25. What a wonderful, encouraging post! We won’t be disappointed either.


  26. I love this Bill. When our hope is in the eternal then we can enjoy the temporal knowing that our real joy is found in our hope in Christ. Thanks for the reminder.

  27. It is so hard to imagine if we did not have the hope that is found with faith in Jesus… As many years as I was in depression I never lost that hope…. So sorry you haven’t been well… Diane

    • Thank you, Diane. Even the best of Christians can (as you know) go through times of depression. But even in the darkest times, our hope in Christ is like a light that keeps us moving forward.

  28. SO sorry to hear you had to battle the flu. But what an inspiration you are, as you persevere through everything that comes your way. You always maintain a positive, God-focused outlook. Thank you, Bill!

  29. Even atheists can have stray good thoughts!

  30. Very timely for me Bill, and an encouragement as I begin my day. Love those scriptures!

  31. So good to hear from you again, Bill. I always appreciate your encouragement and insight.

  32. Thank you Bill I’m glad your back! Makes my heart full to see your blog. You help me understand suffering a little more with each update. God help me. Appreciate your love, courage, perseverance and wisdom.

  33. Reblogged this on Elaine's Random Thoughts and commented:
    Wonderfully encouraging post from a fellow blogger. Bill’s attitude and love for and reliance on Christ despite many years of suffering from ALS never fails to touch my heart! Oh to have such a strong faith! Bill, you are an encouragement to all!

  34. Thank-you for the encouragement you brought me today. I too suffer from ALS. I’m living each day with hope and faith in Christ my Lord. How blessed are the faithful who trust in Him!

  35. Glad u r well & survived Feb! Missed ur posts! U r an overcomer & a blessing! Linda menaugh

  36. Wonderful post…thanks for sharing, my friend.

  37. Amen, Bill. I cannot wait to shake the dust of this earthly temple and put on the eternal, where all things will be made new. Blessings. I just got over the flu, too. No fun!

  38. You are so right, Bill! Even those who rely on what they call their own strength are relying on strength the Lord has graciously lent them. It can comes as a rude surprise when that runs out.

    We who have wrestled with chronic health issues, in a sense, have the advantage. We know already that we have limitations. There’s less pride to be overcome.

    As you say, the world is filled with wonderful blessings. But the greatest of all is Christ.

    Your friend,


  39. I feel such sadness for those people that they refuse to know God.
    Hope you get to feeling better soon!

  40. I’m so sorry you haven’t been feeling well. I certainly can empathize. Your devotional, however, is most uplifting in the midst of your adversity. Thank you
    for your faith-inspired words!

  41. We heard a sermon in church yesterday on how looking towards deliverance isn’t the same as hoping in the Lord. He doesn’t always give deliverance in the way we think it should look–He often allows us to go through a trial for our growth and the growth of others. I’ve been so inspired by your story, because you’ve pursued God, not just healing. Your heart is His, and your hope is most definitely in Him. Thank you for your genuine and heart-felt sharing. For reminding me that strength, hope and eternity are in the One who created us all. Not in what this life looks like.

    • Thank you, Dayle. The message you heard at church yesterday is right on. God’s ways (of deliverance) are definitely not our ways. That is a frustrating, but rewarding lesson to learn. Unfortunately, we have to go through trials to learn that lesson. His ways are always better.

  42. So Beautiful. I needed this one! Like all of your others.
    I hope you know you are my church! God’s Vessel. In sync with just exactly what I need to hear and knowing you are my teacher and your heart makes mine open more I guess. Thank you my friend.
    You are ALWAYS in my prayers!

  43. Reblogged this on Is there anyone listening? and commented:
    The peace you receive when you have accepted Christ is really not the peace as the world gives but it can be compared with an “unshakable hope”, Thank you friend for sharing!

  44. I agree, how sad it is for those who do not put their hope in Christ but in the temporal things of this world – it never lasts and we end up on a continual search for the things we think will fill us. Christ is our portion! I’m glad you’re feeling better – I smiled at your clarification of your suffering against what Nietzsche suffered from. 🙂 Great Post & God bless!

  45. Thank you very much for the re-blog, Bruce.

  1. Pingback: “Trials Can Make Us Stronger” 3/16/2015 by my Bill Sweeney, stricken with ALS 18 years ago | God's group

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