Football players, especially running backs and linemen, usually have physically broad shoulders. They’re very strong and able to withstand a lot of force without moving much. Some of this ability comes via genetics, but most of it is developed through hard work, strength training and consistent practice. Their example gives us a framework for developing broad shoulders of our own, not physically, but in a way that allows us to better reach victory in life’s struggles.
What does having broad shoulders mean? It means not being easily offended or at least letting go of an offense easily. It means keeping short accounts and simply not letting offenses linger (Mark 11:25). Having broad shoulders means becoming increasingly aware of the grace and forgiveness freely given us (1 John 1:9) and then willingly extending that grace and forgiveness to others (Matthew 18:21-22; Colossians 3:13).
How do we develop broad shoulders? Developing broad shoulders involves using our strengths to stand up under and even prevent offenses as well as allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our weaknesses to help us struggle through offenses. Broad shoulders also come through disciplines similar to what football players use to become physically strong and skilled.
- Build on natural ability. Know your personality and temperament and build on the strengths that come naturally. If talking out a frustration helps you let go of offenses, find a safe person to listen. If writing them out helps, do that. Maybe physical activity such as running or tennis helps you let offenses go. Find what works to release tension, and then employ it regularly to ward off lingering offenses.
- Discipline your thought life. Deliberately choose where your thoughts dwell. Instead of thinking about a person’s intentions, consider that you may not know the whole story. Consider that you may be operating under false assumptions. And realize that a bad day, a headache or a poor night’s sleep might be all that’s at the root of the offense. Discipline yourself to give the benefit of the doubt and chose to dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” and anything that is “excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).
- Strength train regularly. Becoming stronger only happens through challenge and initial breakdown, just like our muscles only become physically stronger when we break them down through exercise. Don’t avoid life for fear of confrontation and difficulty. Rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you through the struggle in a way that allows you to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18) as much as it is up to you to do so.
- Practice consistency. This step involves visualizing what may happen in an upcoming situation and then reviewing (debriefing) after a confrontation. Deliberately chose to learn from every situation and in this way “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
- Be a spotter. When lifting especially heavy weights, spotters need to be present to assure safety. In a non-physical sense, being a spotter means seeking to meet others needs rather than focusing on having your own needs met. Look for ways to serve rather than be served.
Within all of these steps, always rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We can develop broad shoulders only so far on our own to possibly achieve the world’s standards. Going beyond what the world considers acceptable and doing what pleases God rather than man requires supernatural intervention. This happens by moving forward even in fear and committing your way to the Lord. It happens by realizing weaknesses and allowing God to be glorified as He makes the impossible happen.
Jesus was all about relationships when He walked as a human being on this earth, and He is still all about relationships. Having broad shoulders strengthens relationships as we realize that we are all human, and we all make mistakes. No one truly deserves forgiveness, yet our Heavenly Father freely gives it to us anyway. This can motivate us to develop broad shoulders for the sake of fellowshipping with believers and witnessing to unbelievers.
DISCUSSION: What can you do to develop your “broad shoulders”?