The Strength That Leads to Destruction

But when he had become strong he grew proud, to his destruction.
2 Chronicles 26:16 (NIV)

This summer I began to attend a local Crossfit. The decision to join was predicated on a particularly poor report from my annual physical back in May. I’m in reasonably good health, but my blood work over the past couple of years reveals ominous trends. I need to pay closer attention to what I eat. I need to get moving.

The first few days were brutal. There’s nothing quite as humbling as realizing just how out of shape you really are. But, I kept showing up. It’s amazing how quickly the body begins to respond. After two months I can feel the difference in a number of ways. A friend of mine asked me if I was “enjoying” it. I told him that “enjoy” was not the right word. I’m not particularly joyful about going to class this morning (especially after a week of vacation at the lake when I ate too much and didn’t work out). “Appreciative” might be the word I’d use. I appreciate the results I feel in both heart and body, despite not feeling anything close to what I’d call joy in the effort.

There are different kinds of strength. There’s strength of body. There’s strength of heart and soul. There’s strength of position, and strength that comes from the power of wealth, arms, and/or might. There’s strength that is instilled in us by God or others. There’s strength that grows as we exercise heart, muscle and limb.

In today’s chapter we ready a brief account of Uzziah’s reign. The Chronicler admits to giving us the Cliff Notes version since more exhaustive accounts were present from other sources, including from the prophet Isaiah. Uzziah’s strong start and list of accomplishments are followed by an intriguing one sentence transition: “when he had become strong he grew proud, to his destruction.”

The Hebrew word originally used by the Chronicler transliterates into English as “ukehezqatow.” It’s not a common Hebrew word. In fact it’s used only two other times in all of scripture. Once by the Chronicler and once by the prophet Daniel. In all three instances, the word is used to describe strength that leads to negative outcomes. It’s strength that leads to pride which leads to destruction.

This morning in the quiet I’m thinking about the subtle differences of appreciating strength and enjoying it. The difference between magnanimity and pride. I can experience many different forms of strength, but the real spiritual question lies in how I handle strength in its various forms. Do I control my strength or do I let my strength control me? Do I appreciate the various ways I can channel my strength for the good of others, or do I give into the temptation of leveraging strength to prop myself up, get my own way, and put myself in self-centered positions?

Be strong and courageous and do the work,” David said to Solomon at the beginning of 2 Chronicles. That was a strength a father desired to instill in his son to accomplish what God had called them to do. That was strength that leads to construction. What a contrast that strength is to the strength of their descendant Uzziah who, “when he grew strong he grew proud.” There’s strength that leads to destruction.

God, grant me the former and protect me from the latter. Give me wisdom to know the difference.

And now, I’m off to Crossfit.

Ugh.

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