Spirituality can’t be reduced to a formula; it is about being connected with and close to God.
Marriage gives us a good example of this. Out of insecurity, I have often wanted to reduce my marriage to a formula so I feel like I can pass the test of being a good husband.
My formula looks something like this:
Doing the dishes + giving compliments + taking out the trash = a loving husband.
Thankfully, my wife has helped me see that meaningful relationships don’t work that way. Instead, they involve depth, intimacy, and vulnerability (however, doing the dishes doesn’t hurt).
Similarly, there is no formula for developing inner strength. So what is inner strength? The Bible tells us that inner strength comes from being close to God and experiencing God’s love deep inside.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT
It is a crime to reduce these verses above into a formulaic process of reading the Bible and praying—what many of us as Christians call a “quiet time.” These verses tell us inner strength comes not from the methodology of a “quiet time” but from “experiencing” God’s love and having our emotions and character rooted in God’s love for us.
I have had some ups and many more downs in my journey to develop inner strength—a journey I am still on today. I have learned that inner strength is not just having more willpower or discipline but allowing God’s love to shape me from the inside out.
Here are six critical biblical lessons that are helping me develop inner strength.
Don’t be afraid to let God examine you
Put me on trial and examine me, O Eternal One! Search me through and through—from my deepest longings to every thought that crosses my mind. Your unfailing love is always before me; I have journeyed down Your path of truth.
Psalm 26:2-3 Voice
David was not afraid to invite God to examine his deepest longings and his every thought. Out of fear and emotional laziness, I often do not want God to uncover and show me what is going on deep inside. In these moments, I settle for superficial and religious quiet time with God.
These unsubstantial times with God accrue over time and lead to internal weakness—an inability to handle the truth (as Jack Nicholson would say, “You can’t handle the truth!”).
Honest conversations with other people like my wife, my kids, my friends, or coworkers become harder to handle emotionally—especially if they involve weaknesses of mine or areas I need to grow.
When we keep God’s unfailing love constantly in view, we are free to journey down the path of truth unafraid, knowing no matter what we discover, God can use it to make us stronger. Discovery then becomes something to welcome, not to avoid both in our relationship with God and each other.
Pause and reflect
What are some signs that your quiet time with God is becoming superficial?
How do you handle it when someone tells you the truth about an area you need to grow or change? What do you think this reveals about your strength?
Ask God to show you truths you have been avoiding.
Ask your spouse or a friend to help you in the process of uncovering the deep parts of your heart.
Tackle the areas you have been avoiding
Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.
Hosea 10:12 NIV
We all have areas of our character that we tend to avoid. It is “unplowed” because we don’t like to talk about it, bring it up, or explore it. We would rather leave it alone.
This “unplowed ground” quickly hardens our hearts. It prevents God’s Word and truth from taking root and growing in those parts of our lives. This is why our spiritual growth can stagnate, leaving us underdeveloped and immature.
For years, I was unwilling to dig into my heart to understand why I was unloving and prone to anger and irritation. Because of that unwillingness, I had stopped growing. Now I know that I can only experience spiritual growth and renewed strength when I deliberately and daily tackle areas like this that I tend to neglect.
Pause and reflect
What are some areas of your heart that you often leave “unplowed”?
List 1-3 areas of your life where your spiritual growth has stagnated. Find Deep Spirituality devotionals or podcasts that can help you learn how to tackle those areas of your life.
Break up the rocks that block your depth
The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it. But they don’t have deep roots, and they believe only for a little while. As soon as life gets hard, they give up.
Luke 8:13 CEV
Once we start digging up the areas of our character and heart that have been neglected, we will uncover rocks. Jesus teaches that rocks in our hearts create a problem because they prevent God’s Word from developing deep roots in our lives.
This superficiality leads to us quitting and giving up when things are difficult because we lack the depth and the ability to mature. So, inner power eludes us. It is possible to start out strong even when you have rocks in your heart, but this initial strength will give out as soon as the going gets tough.
Ignoring the rocks in our hearts seems easier initially, but the process of dealing with them is actually what makes us develop internally.
What are your rocks? Here are some of the rocks I have to excavate regularly:
Insecurity – A preoccupation with negative thoughts of myself and consumption with my image and how others view me.
Bitterness – Disappointment and hurt I have not worked through that lead me to blame, feel victimized, and unwilling to listen to others.
Anxiety – A gnawing fear of the future, failure, and rejection that makes my thoughts and emotions race uncontrollably.
Pride – A refusal to acknowledge my weaknesses and need for God and friends.
You might relate to me on some of these rocks, or you might have a list of your own. Either way, doing the work to identify our rocks is an important step in developing deep roots and internal strength.
Pause and reflect
Have you wanted to quit in any areas of your life when things have become difficult?
What rocks do you need to excavate from your heart?
Who can you ask for help in order to identify and remove your rocks so God’s Word can strengthen you?
Using a digital Bible, look up all the Bible verses you can find about one of your biggest rocks.
From your Bible study, find two or three actions you can do every day to remove that rock.
Lean into weaknesses. They unlock new strengths
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
I have spent a lot of time hating to see my weaknesses, limitations, and needs. Unfortunately, I have wrongly viewed my weaknesses as failings to be ashamed of and conceal, rather than opportunities to rely on God, develop faith, and grow.
As we read in this passage of the Bible, God has a very different view of our weaknesses. They are the necessary parts of our lives; he uses them to unlock our strengths that would otherwise remain underdeveloped.
Without suffering, difficulty, and failure, we will never develop compassion, resilience, or humility. These are the qualities that make powerful leaders and that give us the ability not only to be internally strong but also to help others grow.
Pause and reflect
What areas of weakness do you most want to conceal?
How do you think the challenges in your life could lead to the development of internal strength?
What strengths has God developed in you that you might overlook or disregard?
Make a list of strengths God has developed in you over the years and consider how you can use them to help others.
Keep it simple with obedience
Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
Luke 6:46-48 NIV
In these often-read verses, Jesus describes the simple key to developing depth: obedience. He says it is only when we put his words into practice that we dig down deep and lay our life foundation on the rock.
There is something about the process of trying to live out what Jesus says that makes us dig down and get stronger internally. Theories and theology don’t make us internally strong, but living out his teachings fortifies us as nothing else can.
Pause and reflect
When was the last time you tried to live out one of Jesus’ teachings every day?
What can you learn from the process of trying to obey what the Bible says?
Find a verse of the Bible to obey today.
Focus on giving. It leads to growing
I pray for you that the faith we share may effectively deepen your understanding of every good thing that belongs to you in Christ. Your love has impacted me and brings me great joy and encouragement, for the hearts of the believers have been greatly refreshed through you, dear brother.
Philemon 1:6-7 TPT
Finally, it is giving that makes us grow. Nancy Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business school, wrote about this in an article for Harvard Business Review called “Real Leaders Are Forged In Crisis” at the beginning of the pandemic.
This piece gives leaders valuable advice about how to find the internal strength to lead in a time of unprecedented crisis and includes a powerful description of the way giving to others makes us stronger:
When I was going through a particularly difficult period in my life, I heard a sermon by Peter Gomes, who was then minister at Harvard’s Memorial Church, that reminded me of the transformative power of giving. “When in the midst of [outer] turmoil and calamity you seek the inner strength that helps you not only to endure but to overcome, do not look for what you can get,” he told his audience. “Look rather for what you have been given, and for what you can give.” When we help others, even in the smallest ways, our fear ebbs and our focus sharpens.
While I often feel that circling the wagons and focusing on myself is what I need to do to get stronger, the opposite is true. We grow stronger when we give, and we give when we live for a purpose bigger than and beyond ourselves.
And it doesn’t take much. When we give, even in the smallest ways, the magic of growing inner strength takes place.
Pause and reflect
Have you been focusing on yourself or focusing on giving to others?
What are ways, big or small, that you can meet someone else’s needs today?
We can all grow and develop inner strength when we focus not on a formula but on the experience of God’s love changing us from the inside out.
Read the book of Ephesians to learn more about finding inner power in your relationship with God.
Study the stories of Jacob (Genesis 25-33), Joseph (Genesis 37-50), and Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1-2) to learn how these people in the Bible developed inner strength.
Listen to the podcast episode “In God Alone” about building an unshakeable relationship with God.