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    When I think of emotional strength, the first image that comes to my mind is someone like Luisa in the Disney movie Encanto.

    Luisa is tough and even-tempered. She has the incredible ability to shoulder every heavy burden that comes her way (and I can’t say more so as not to ruin the movie). 

    I am so far from being tough and even-tempered, and as I embarked on writing this article, I was hoping that reading these stories of emotional strength in the Bible would help me become like her.

    I was wrong. 

    Well, at least partially wrong. 

    Certainly walking with God does help us become calm, cool, and collected under pressure. But I discovered that increasing my own emotional muscle mass is not really the right goal. 

    Emotional strength is about bouncing back

    Some of the most powerful stories of emotional strength in the Bible involve people who were actually very weak. They failed, had character flaws, and were familiar with setbacks. They gave in to their emotions at times. They felt afraid. 

    But as they came to the end of themselves, they discovered God—a God whose kindness, love, and power helped them stand again and become stronger than they ever could have been on their own.

    My body and my heart may grow weak. God, you give strength to my heart. You are everything I will ever need.

    Psalm 73:26 NIrV

    God gives strength to the heart. As we walk closely with God and decide he is everything we will ever need, he gives us the incredible ability to get back up again emotionally in even the most difficult circumstances. 

    In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Guy Finch gives one of my favorite definitions of emotional strength:

    Emotional strength has little to do with stoicism and even less to do with any momentary reaction. Rather, emotional strength is something that can only be assessed over time. By definition, it involves a person’s ability to deal with challenges and bounce back from them, not how they respond in any given moment.

    Guy Finch, Ph.D “7 Characteristics of Emotionally Strong People … and why criers can be just as tough as anyone else” (Emphasis mine).

    So perhaps the “strength of heart” God gives has less to do with walking through life with perfect composure and more to do with our ability to bounce back from challenges. Do you have the strength to get back up again after real or perceived failures? Do you have the emotional strength to love even after real or perceived rejection?

    Emotional strength is essential to our faith, our relationships, and to living out our purpose and our destiny. Emotional strength enables us to keep trying, keep believing, keep loving, and keep getting back up again no matter what life throws at us.

    Can you “get up again”?

    The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.

    Proverbs 24:16 NLT 

    One time, after I had made a particularly bad mistake at work, a friend happened to show me this verse of the Bible. She explained that one of the true measures of being “godly” is not having a flawless record, but the ability to get back up after you fall down. 

    I tend to measure my success in life (and even in my relationship with God) by my achievements and accomplishments. But the Bible teaches something different. Godly people are not perfect—they may fall down a lot. But they can get back up. 

    Emotional strength—or the ability to “get back up again”— is not something we have to muster up; it’s just a byproduct of having a close relationship with God. He helps us believe in what we can’t see. He promises to clear our record of guilt so that we can face challenges or failures in our lives with the resilience to start again. 

    In that same article I quoted earlier, Dr. Guy Winch gives seven characteristics we can use to assess our level of emotional strength:

    Emotionally strong people …
    1. are less discouraged by setbacks and disappointments.
    2. are more adaptable to change.
    3. are able to recognize and express their needs.
    4. focus on getting around a hurdle rather than on the hurdle itself.
    5. can learn from mistakes and criticism.
    6. tend to see the larger perspective in a challenging situation.
    7. are able to recover more quickly from emotional wounds such as failure or rejection.

    Guy Winch

    This is a challenging list for me. But luckily the Bible is full of stories of people who were flawed and weak, yet their faith in God gave them these characteristics of emotional strength. They were able to face obstacles and insurmountable odds without giving up, and they made a huge impact on the world:

    How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. [33] By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.

    Hebrews 11:32-34 NLT

    With this in mind, I found 9 powerful stories in the Bible in which ordinary people who may have been weak or felt weak found emotional strength by learning to believe in and walk closely with God. Included in each point are the books and chapters in which you can find that person’s story.

    We can learn something very important about God from each of these stories, something that will give us the strength of heart we need to “get back up again” no matter what comes our way.

    Sarah: God patiently teaches us to believe.

    Read: Genesis 11-21, Hebrews 11, 1 Peter 3

    It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. 

    Hebrews 11:11 NLT

    Sarah was unable to conceive, but miraculously became the mother of Isaac and the Israelite people. Several verses in the New Testament refer to Sarah and encourage us to have the faith and trust in God she had (see 1 Peter 3:4-6).

    But here’s the thing: if you read through Sarah’s story in Genesis 11-21, you’ll see that her life was full of spiritual setbacks and shortcomings. She was far from perfect. 

    emotional strength scripture graphic: hebrews 11:11

    Here are a few examples:

    • She took control and led her husband with her plans (Genesis 16:1-3).
    • She blamed her husband when those plans went wrong (Genesis 16:1-5).
    • She was angry and harsh at times (Genesis 16:6). 
    • She seemed to have a hard time with vulnerability. I don’t see any examples in the Bible of Sarah vulnerably expressing or praying about the emotions she must have felt—like sadness, weakness, disappointment, or jealousy. 
    • She scoffed when God promised her something good (Genesis 18:12).
    • She lied when she was afraid (Genesis 18:15). 

    Sarah’s story gives me hope. God did not give up on her. Her life was a journey with ups and downs and many teachable moments, and God patiently stuck with her every step of the way. 

    Through her shortcomings, Sarah learned some valuable lessons. She learned not to rely on herself to make God’s promises come true. She learned that God could do the impossible. She learned that God could hear and see her when no one else could (Genesis 18:12).

    The Eternal is compassionate and merciful. When we cross all the lines, He is patient with us. When we struggle against Him, He lovingly stays with us— changing, convicting, prodding; He will not constantly criticize, nor will He hold a grudge forever.

    Psalm 103:8-9 Voice

    God will stick with me even when I cross all the lines. He will work for my good, prodding me to change. Understanding this about God makes me feel stronger when I feel I have failed spiritually or turned to sin.

    I can get back up again because God knows I am not going to be perfect. He already covered through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I can just admit my shortcomings, be grateful for forgiveness, and keep learning to believe in God’s good plans for my life. 

    Pause and reflect:

    • How do you handle seeing your weaknesses, spiritual shortcomings, and failures?
    • Are there any mistakes, sins, or failures in your life that you have been having a hard time coming back from?
    • How do you think believing in God’s mercy and good plans for you could help you find the emotional strength to get back up again?

    Additional verses on this topic

    Nehemiah: God gives us strength in setbacks.

    Read: Nehemiah 1-13

    One way I see my need for emotional strength is in my inability to handle setbacks. Even small obstacles can make me feel discouraged.

    In my life now, this translates to not wanting to take risks because I hate facing obstacles and difficulties. I would much rather take the easier road, the road that requires no emotional strength. 

    The book of Nehemiah is a great one to read if you tend to get easily discouraged by setbacks and disappointments. 

    Nehemiah was a leader in the Bible who inspired the people of Israel to rebuild the burned-down walls around the beloved city of Jerusalem. He was an emotional guy; he wept, felt terrified, and went about his job “deeply troubled” as he tried to navigate the events of his life (see Nehemiah chapters 1 and 2). 

    And yet, he found the strength to lead God’s people through strong opposition and all kinds of obstacles without quitting. This inspires me to know that those of us who consider ourselves emotional can do great things. 

    Nehemiah found supernatural strength because his emotions pushed him to pray. 

    In this excerpt of the story, you can see how Nehemiah responded to the opposition of his enemies, the fear and exhaustion of his own people, and the enormity of the work ahead of them (all of which hit him at the same time):

    But Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the people from Ashdod were very angry when they heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls were continuing and that the holes in the wall were being closed. [8] So they all made plans to come to Jerusalem and fight and stir up trouble.
    [9] But we prayed to our God and appointed guards to watch for them day and night. [10] The people of Judah said, “The workers are getting tired. There is so much trash we cannot rebuild the wall.” [11] And our enemies said, “The Jews won’t know or see anything until we come among them and kill them and stop the work.”
    [12] Then the Jewish people who lived near our enemies came and told us ten times, “Everywhere you turn, the enemy will attack us.” [13] So I put people behind the lowest places along the wall—the open places—and I put families together with their swords, spears, and bows.
    [14] Then I looked around and stood up and said to the important men, the leaders, and the rest of the people: “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and powerful. Fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
    [15] Then our enemies heard that we knew about their plans and that God had ruined their plans. So we all went back to the wall, each to his own work.

    Nehemiah 4:7-15 NCV

    Nehemiah’s story helps me remember I don’t have to be scared of setbacks. They are bound to happen if I am trying to do anything of importance. As I stay close to God, he will give me the strength and wisdom I need to manage setbacks and obstacles that come up in my life without quitting.  

    Nehemiah also teaches us something else very important about emotional strength in this passage: when the people became tired and afraid, he told them to fight for their brothers, sons, daughters, wives, and homes.

    emotional strength scripture graphic: nehemiah 4:14

    He helped them think relationally, about fighting for each other, and not just about protecting themselves or fighting for themselves.

    When I get discouraged by difficulties, I need to recognize and fight the temptation to be self-piteous or self-protective. I need to shift my focus from what I am fighting for and think about who I am fighting for. Love is a powerful motivator and it will help me get back up again even when circumstances are hard:

    Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 

    1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT

    Pause and reflect:

    • How do you respond to setbacks and challenges? Why?
    • What do you learn from Nehemiah that you can apply to challenges in your life today?

    Gideon: God responds when we express our needs to him.

    Read: Judges 6-8

    Gideon is a guy in the Bible who was very fearful but found great emotional strength because he was willing to recognize and express his needs.

    Take a look at this excerpt from Gideon’s story:

    Then the angel of the LORD came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. [12] The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!”
    [14] Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” [15] “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
    [16] The LORD said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” [17] Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the LORD speaking to me.

    Judges 6:11-12,14-17 NLT

    God called Gideon to rescue the people of Israel from the Midianites, who were oppressing them. What I love about Gideon’s story is that not only did he feel weak and like “the least,” but he also expressed those feelings honestly to God.

    Then, many times in the story, he asked God for signs to help him with his fear. Every time, God was patient with him and gave him the sign he needed.

    emotional strength scripture graphic: judges 6:16

    Gideon’s story challenges me to be vulnerable about my feelings of weakness and inadequacy, instead of trying to muster up the strength to pretend like I’m not afraid. I am learning that I need to boldly and honestly ask God for the things I need help with. When I do, I see his answers and they build my faith.

    Gideon’s vulnerability and willingness to express his need for God’s reassurance helped him become strong. He went from the “weakest” and the “least” to powerful because he vulnerably asked God for what he needed:

    Then the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon with power. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him.

    Judges 6:34 NLT

    Pause and reflect:

    • How do you feel about vulnerability? How easy is it for you to recognize and express your needs? 
    • What are some weaknesses or needs you could practice expressing to God today?

    Additional verses on this topic:

    Mary: God makes us adaptable to change.

    One characteristic of emotional strength is being adaptable to change, and one young woman who blows my mind in this arena is Mary, the mother of Jesus. 

    Read: Luke 1-2

    In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, [27] to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. [28] Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! ”
    [29] Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. [30] “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! [31] You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. [32] He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.
    [33] And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” [34] Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” [35] The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.
    [36] What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. [37] For the word of God will never fail. ” [38] Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

    Luke 1:26-38 NLT

    I have a hard time with small changes to my daily routine. And here we have Mary, who became the mother of Jesus, having a conversation with an angel in which her life turned completely upside down. 

    And how did she respond?

    “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

    Mary was an everyday, average teenage girl. She came from weak circumstances; she was a woman, restricted from many areas of public life in that day. She was from a common family and an oppressed people, not a member of the ruling class in Roman society. And she was young. 

    Yet Mary, this teenage girl from humble circumstances, found incredible emotional strength. How?

    She just had a simple faith. She believed the angel when he said she had found favor with God. She believed God was with her. She believed he was powerful. She must have trusted God and believed in his plan, and that made her adaptable to change. 

    As her cousin Elizabeth said about her,

    “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

    Luke 1:45 NLT

    Pause and reflect:

    • How do you handle change, disruption, or things not going the way you expected?
    • How do you think making a simple decision to believe and trust God would help you handle life’s unexpected twists and turns?

    The woman who suffered bleeding: God is bigger than any hurdle.

    Read: Mark 5:24-34

    Jesus began traveling with Jairus toward his home. In the crowd pressing around Jesus, there was a woman who had suffered continuous bleeding for 12 years, bleeding that made her ritually unclean and an outcast according to the purity laws.
    She had suffered greatly; and although she spent all her money on her medical care, she had only gotten worse. She had heard of this Miracle-Man, Jesus, so she snuck up behind Him in the crowd and reached out her hand to touch His cloak. 
    Woman (to herself): Even if all I touch are His clothes, I know I will be healed. 
    As soon as her fingers brushed His cloak, the bleeding stopped. She could feel that she was whole again. 
    Lots of people were pressed against Jesus at that moment, but He immediately felt her touch; He felt healing power flow out of Him. He stopped. Everyone stopped. He looked around. 
    Jesus: Who just touched My robe?
    His disciples broke the uneasy silence. 
    Disciples: Jesus, the crowd is so thick that everyone is touching You. Why do You ask, “Who touched Me?” 
    But Jesus waited. His gaze swept across the crowd to see who had done it. At last, the woman—knowing He was talking about her— pushed forward and dropped to her knees. She was shaking with fear and amazement. 
    Woman: I touched You. 
    Then she told Him the reason why. Jesus listened to her story. 
    Jesus: Daughter, you are well because you dared to believe. Go in peace, and stay well.

    Mark 5:24-34 Voice

    I love this story. I can’t imagine what life must have been like for this woman, who had hurdles of every kind standing between her and the healing she longed for:

    • Physical hurdles – She must have known what it was like to lack energy and not feel well. She had suffered physically for 12 years. She knew about pain, doctor visits, and failed attempts at treatment. 
    • Spiritual hurdles – The religious laws of the day would have excluded her from participating in religious life. After so many disappointments and being excluded from practicing religion, imagine how difficult it would be to believe a teacher like Jesus would care about her situation.
    • Social and emotional hurdles – She would have been very familiar with feelings of rejection, loneliness, and unworthiness. She would have been excluded from public life and even marriage due to her health condition. 
    • Financial hurdles – She had spent everything she had. She knew the stress of not having enough money. 

    How did this woman, who had so many reasons to feel weak, find the emotional strength to push through all these hurdles, approach Jesus, and share her story with a crowd in which she would not be welcomed?

    emotional strength scripture graphic: Mark 5:34

    It seems that her faith in Jesus made these other obstacles seem small. She “dared to believe.” She chose to focus on how powerful and caring she believed Jesus to be (a “Miracle-Man”) instead of thinking about all the obstacles in her life.

    Pause and reflect: 

    • What are some things you hope for or desire in your life, like this woman desired healing?
    • Do you tend to focus your mind on hurdles and obstacles in the way of these dreams, or on how powerful God is?
    • How does your thought life affect your emotional strength?

    Joseph: God helps us see the big picture in challenging situations.

    Read: Genesis 37-50

    After being sold into slavery, being torn from his family and home, and suffering years of unfair imprisonment, somehow Joseph was able to see the “big picture.” 

    In this well-known story, God brings hope to a pretty terrible story of human sin, jealousy, bitterness, and hatred. While people intended to harm, God worked for the good.

    When Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery, finally begged for forgiveness (many, many years later), Joseph found the emotional and spiritual strength to reassure his brothers and treat them with kindness, because he could see the “big picture.”

    You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. 

    Genesis 50:20-21 NLT

    I am pretty stunned at reading how Joseph was able to not only forgive but kindly reassure his brothers. It is hard for me to forgive and be kind to people who hurt me unintentionally, let alone someone who intentionally tried to harm me.

    This kind of emotional strength could only come from Joseph’s relationship with God. Joseph saw God moving, and he knew God had allowed him to go to Egypt and direct a program that saved people’s lives through a difficult famine.

    He saw God’s purpose in everything that happened to him. This made his brothers’ actions much smaller. He could forgive them because he understood the big picture.

    Pause and reflect:

    • What are some areas in which you need God’s help seeing the “big picture”?
    • How easy is it for you to forgive those who wrong you? How do you think this might be connected to your emotional strength and ability to see God’s good purpose in everything that happens?

    Hannah: God pulls us out of the pit of negative emotions.

    Read: 1 Samuel 1-2

    Do you ever get stuck in a pit of negative emotions? I do.

    The story of Hannah in 1 Samuel is an incredible example of how God can help us handle and recover from the strong emotions that come with painful experiences in life. Our emotions may be too big for us to handle sometimes, but they are not too big for God.

    Hannah experienced disappointment, rejection, and the disapproval of others—a trifecta of some of my most dreaded emotional experiences.

    Yet her choice to come close to God gave her emotional strength even in moments of deep anguish and bitterness. She walked away from spending time with God happy, even though her circumstances hadn’t changed.

    Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the LORD at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas. On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children.
    And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the LORD had given her no children. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the LORD had kept her from having children.
    Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”

    1 Samuel 1:3-8 NLT

    Hannah had no children, and she had to share her husband with another woman who regularly taunted her about it. She must have been familiar with rejection and feelings of failure. Her emotions were so strong they affected her relationship with food, and even her husband’s attempts at loving reassurance weren’t enough to take away the pain she felt. 

    Have you have ever felt pain so deep no human reassurance could take it away? That’s what Hannah felt. 

    So how did she find emotional strength? Well, it seems that eventually, she decided her only way out was to take all her feelings to God:

    Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the LORD.
    And she made this vow: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut.” 
    As she was praying to the LORD, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” 
    “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”
    “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.” “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.

    1 Samuel 1:9-18 NLT

    Hannah was familiar with overpowering feelings of sorrow, anguish, and bitterness. But as we read in this chapter, after she prayed and heard Eli the priest’s reassuring words, Hannah went away no longer sad. Hannah did eventually have the child she longed for, but God made her happy even before these circumstances changed. 

    Hannah’s story teaches me that although my negative feelings can be strong, God is stronger. He cares deeply about my emotions. He listens when I pour out my heart. He doesn’t get tired of me or feel like my problems are too small.

    emotional strength scripture graphic: psalm 40:1-2

    I also learn from Hannah that deciding to be faithful and pray can bring a lot of good. Hannah’s faithful decision to pray and come close to God led to her getting pregnant with Samuel and dedicating him to God. He then became a prophet of God who led the people of Israel at a key time in their history.

    Knowing these things about God brings me joy—the kind of joy that is not dependent on circumstances. It’s the joy of knowing I don’t have to walk through anything in life alone. Even if I find myself in a deep pit, he will pull me out, like the Bible says in Psalm 40:

    I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.

    Psalm 40:1-3 NLT 

    Pause and reflect:

    • How do you handle emotional pain like disappointment, disapproval, or the rejection of others?
    • What can you learn from Hannah about how to find emotional strength in your relationship with God?

    Moses: God gives us the courage to handle criticism

    Read: Exodus 1-17

    Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. So Moses cried out to the LORD for help, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink. 

    Exodus 15:24-25 NLT

    Moses is someone in the Bible who faced a lot of criticism—and mostly from the very people he was trying to lead and serve. 

    Being criticized is one of my biggest fears. From a young age I have thought that if I could be perfect and make everyone happy, I would be secure. 

    But of course, that’s not true. People are people, and trying to make everyone happy all the time is a losing battle. 

    If I’m being honest, I really don’t get that much criticism. It’s mostly just something I am afraid of. But when it does come, it’s hard for me. I get angry, self-piteous, and hurt. Moses did too sometimes. But a lot of times, he went and prayed. And God heard him, defended him, and provided what he needed. 

    If you’re trying to stand up for something or trying to lead, you will likely face criticism. People won’t always agree with you, and your decisions will be on display. Moses could have avoided criticism by saying no to God’s plan, living his life alone, and not leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land. 

    Instead, he chose the courageous path, trusting that God was working through him and walking with him every step of the way. As a result, he played a tremendous role in God’s story and helped free the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. 

    We can learn from Moses that God will help us find courage even in the face of criticism, so we can keep moving forward along the path of God’s destiny for us. We will find the courage Theodore Roosevelt described in his famous speech about The Man in the Arena:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
    who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
    who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Theodore Roosevelt, from the speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” 

    Pause and reflect:

    • How do you respond to criticism (or possible criticism)?
    • Do you believe God has your back, no matter what people say about you? Why or why not?

    Peter: God teaches us to learn from our mistakes

    Peter was one of Jesus’ chosen apostles and one of his closest friends. But he abandoned Jesus in one of the most difficult moments of Jesus’ life:

    So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. [55] The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. [56] A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” [57] But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
    [58] After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted. [59] About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”
    [60] But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. [61] At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” [62] And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.

    Luke 22:54-62 NLT

    Peter had been in Jesus’ most intimate circle for years. He had sworn that he would give up his life for Jesus if need be. 

    But when Jesus was arrested, at perhaps his most vulnerable moment, Peter fell short. He distanced himself, choosing self-protection and fear instead of loyalty and faithfulness.

    We can learn a lot from this story, including how important it is to feel and express genuine sorrow for the way our sins hurt God. 

    But we can also learn something very important about God: failure is not fatal to him. After Jesus went to the cross and God raised him from the dead, he came back and talked to Peter: 

    And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter. ”

    Luke 24:33-34 NLT

    God is incredibly faithful even when we are not. He doesn’t give up on us. 

    Seeing this must have helped Peter get back up again from his spiritual failure. Perhaps God’s forgiveness motivated him to continue serving God in big ways, telling others freely about his failure and Jesus’ forgiveness in his worst moment.

    God will even work through our sins and failures for a good purpose. He will use these as examples of his great patience for other people who need to be freed up from their own “worst moments.”

    Pause and reflect:

    • Do you believe that God won’t give up on you, even if you have hurt him or sinned against him?
    • What do you think God wants you to learn from the way he treated Peter?

    These stories and many, many more in the Bible show us that when we walk with God, he gives us emotional strength. He helps us handle setbacks and disappointment without becoming easily discouraged. He strengthens us as we vulnerably express our needs. He helps us adapt to change. He teaches us through our mistakes and helps us handle criticism. 

    In closing, stop to think about some areas in your life in which you need the emotional strength to “bounce back” or get back up again. Talk to God about those areas today, and ask for the specific help you need. I believe that you will see God answer and give you the strength you are looking for. 

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    Amy is a writer and editor for Deep Spirituality. She studied psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has over a decade of experience in mentoring, counseling and community organizing.

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