Sara Evans has a big hit with her song “A Little Bit Stronger”. The tune popped up in the iPod rotation and is the inspiration for today’s iPod Devotional. The lyrics talk about the pain of a failed relationship.

Woke up late today and I still feel the sting of the pain
But I brushed my teeth anyway
I got dressed through the mess and put a smile on my face
I got a little bit stronger.

All of us have done that routine. We get up and we show up. That self-discipline may or may not make you stronger. One of the trite sayings that I have grown to seriously dislike is “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. The truth is more like “whatever doesn’t kill you doesn’t kill you”. That I can believe for sure.

Hurts in life might give you tougher skin. You may get stronger resolve to not get hurt again. But every broken relationship or dream leaves a scar. Even over time there is scar tissue that needs to be healed.

If only we could acknowledge that we are not as strong as we think we are. If we would admit that we need others and we need grace.  I believe we would see an amazing difference. Yet pride tells me that I am able to handle the situation. Fear tells me that telling the truth in love will only make it worse. So one little hurt dealt with in my own strength negates the strength of a God who cares and can really be my strength and hope.

A couple of years ago a major food company had to recall thousands of cans of chili that were tainted with deadly toxins. A later follow-up to that story told about cans of chili exploding as the pressure built up inside the containers.

That seemed like a messy and disgusting but apt metaphor for how we deal with the toxins of hurt. We seal them up and store them away hoping that the canning process will deal with the toxin. But the toxins of woundedness have not been killed, only compartmentalized. The pain continues to grow, slowly and inexorably. Finally the pressure builds to the point of explosion.

Sara Evan’s lyrics continue.

I know my heart will never be the same
But I'm telling myself I'll be okay
Even on my weakest days, I get a little bit stronger
I get a little bit stronger.

You can get a little bit stronger through determined self-effort. But there is a better way. What really makes you stronger is the source of your strength. Stubborn resolve or angry retribution will work for a while. But to really heal and really get stronger your source of strength needs to be more than yourself.  Paul understood that truth in his letter to the Church at Philippi.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4, NLT)

I am learning ever so slowly to trust that truth. My strength comes from Christ. My identity is in Him. So there is real hope to accomplish the healing that this song longs for. But that hope is not in self. Every day that I trust Jesus more and myself less I get a little bit stronger. And part of the chorus of today’s song rings true for me. I know my heart will never be the same.