A few years before he died, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale told me about a meeting he had with the legendary strong man, Jack LaLanne. Though then in his seventies, LaLanne was still robust and strong, demonstrating great strength and endurance. Though only a few years older, Dr. Peale’s body demonstrated the fragility more commonly associated with advanced age.
“I asked him,” Dr. Peale said, “How do you do it. How does one develop and maintain such strength?”
“The answer is simple,” LaLanne said. “You get strong by challenging your body, by exercising your muscles against increasingly heavier weight and testing yourself against increasingly greater resistance.”
“That’s when it struck me that you get mentally and spiritually strong in just the same way,” Dr. Peale said. “We get mentally tough by taking on intellectually difficult questions. We get spiritually strong through suffering and adversity.”
Pain and suffering are part of life’s refining process. They push us to the limits of what we can do and be. Whatever unwelcome fate befalls us, whatever setback we face or injury we receive, we are challenged, after the first pain and disappointment subside, to see how we can turn it into good.
Adversity introduces us to our true selves. Just as the falling of the leaves reveals the contours of the land, the strength of our character emerges when we are tested.