“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or does it?
This saying is used a lot, as an encouragement and a call to persevere and prevail through tough periods in life. Scientific studies have even been conducted to confirm the validity and truth of this claim. Researchers, like Mike Steery, a psychologist at a university in Buffalo, observe that a small dose of trauma makes people resilient; that those who go through adversity are able to handle more pain; and that the most impaired people are those who have suffered least in life.
But how true is this statement? Does it apply to every person, in every situation, every time? Does it apply to physical pain or just psychological pain? I had an accident when I was a child, in which my eye was injured. I didn’t die, but the accident left me completely blind in one eye. My sight is impaired. I don’t see as well as other people with two eyes. Apparently, what didn’t kill me blinded me, and made me weaker.
I know a young woman who has been a constant victim of physical abuse by her husband. She is not yet thirty, but has given up on life. The light in her eyes is gone. She is always unmotivated. Her smile is rare. She has little passion in life. Though her husband has not killed her, he has obviously made her weaker emotionally and psychologically.
These two examples clearly show us that what doesn’t kill us doesn’t necessarily make us stronger. That statement, if true, is only valid for a very narrow set of circumstances. It depends on WHAT doesn’t kill you, WHO is not being killed, WHY they chose to be strong rather than weak, and also… our definition of strength and weakness.
Is a brokenhearted girl stronger because she made a decision to never give her heart away again, to never be vulnerable?
Is a divorced woman stronger because she developed a thick skin from the constant beatings by her husband and made a decision to never trust any other man?
The truth is that what doesn’t kill us doesn’t always make us stronger, if at all. The odd thing is that this is not news, I haven’t just made you realize this in this post. You’ve always understood, subconsciously, that this statement is highly subjective, and you had no qualms about that fact.
So how come we don’t give the same benefit of doubt to the Bible? Why are atheists so quick to strip the Bible of any inkling of subjectivity and context? The Bible has often been accused of being self-contradictory. For instance, the same Bible that says in Genesis that God caused confusion and divided the people (at the tower of Babel), also says that God is not a God of confusion in 1 Corinthians 14. The same Bible that tells us “do not kill” also shows God commanding the Israelites to go kill every man, woman and child in the Promised Land.
The Bible is a library or stories punctuated with commands, proverbs, sayings, conversations and other elements of story-telling in different contexts. We cannot read it merely as a series of transcendent platitudes and nothing more. Some promises are aimed at specific people groups and for a specific time period, they are not for anyone who gets his hand on the Bible.
We would avoid a lot of meaningless debates if we would only come down to earth and looked at the Bible for what it is, a book written by different authors, in different styles and forms, for different types of audiences and in different contexts. All, of course, inspired by God.
Speaking of “what does not kill us makes us stronger,” I find it ironic that the person who originally said that statement was one of the most notable atheists in history, Friedrich Nietzsche. A year after uttering these words, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown that eventually took him on a downward spiral ending in his death. I guess what didn’t kill him, only served to accelerate his journey to death.
For the fame of His name,