Strength and Tenderness

“…merciful and tender.”



“Our God is merciful and tender.” (Luke 1:78)

As you may recall, Patti and I were on the road last week giving teen depression seminars.  After driving 1700 miles and standing in a glass box on the side of the observation floor of the tallest building in the northern hemisphere it was great to be home and have my feet firmly planted on the ground.  While we were away a strong wind storm stripped most of the remaining leaves from these two giant oak trees that dwarf our home.

I enjoy the trees throughout the seasons as they display their many “looks” – spring green, summer shade, fall colors, snow laden, and this — just plain bare.  I know for many this “just plain bare” look often conjures up images of strength as we are treated to a look at the magnificent trunk and branches that can support the weight of so many leaves. (I know the leaves are heavy because I dragged most of them to the waste pile before the wind storm).  Just think of what the lumber from these trees could support.  Oak radiates strength, whether standing as the stately trunk or supporting the roof of a barn.

For some reason I noticed something different this time as I surveyed this newly denuded pair.  I focused on the delicate ends of the massive limbs.  This same tree with such massive limbs that could probably support the weight of an elephant, can also nurture the tiniest of buds with tender shoots.  Strength and tenderness are both part of the life cycle of the mighty oak.

Too many of the images of “strength” today focus on almost brutish force.  There’s “strength” and then there’s “tenderness.”  Often we are led to believe that we must choose whether we’re to be “strong” or whether we’re to be “tender.”  If we’re strong there’s little room for tenderness.  In fact, tenderness is equated with weakness.  If we’re tender then how can we possibly show any strength?

I’m convinced that true strength embraces tenderness.  That’s exactly the model we see from God.  The One whose strength calls life into being is the same One who shows mercy and tenderness in dealing with our hurt.  The One who could destroy us is the One who offers grace by sending the Christ.  Instead of being chased away and destroyed, we’re invited into closer relationship.

Strength and tenderness are not an either/or.  Strength embraces and embodies tenderness.  Likewise, tenderness embraces and embodies strength.  One without the other is even dangerous and destructive.  I pray that God will show me the way of strength and tenderness.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my new book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

Check out my new video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”


~ by revgenelson on November 24, 2010.

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