Strength in Adversity

As some of you will know, last March I entered my first powerlifting competition and, though I say so myself, I did pretty well! I had set myself some targets and was really delighted to match or surpass these and I really, really enjoyed the whole experience.

This year I have entered the same competition, but things have not been going so well… for starters, I have been carrying a shoulder injury for most of the last year, which has hindered me so far as training for the bench press goes. Also, like many other people, I seem to have had a nagging cough over the winter, and this has exacerbated my asthma – not ideal when you’re wanting to do squats and deadlifts with heavy weights, especially when that training is largely done in an unheated and damp garage…

So, as the time to prepare has ebbed away, I have started to wonder whether I should abandon the idea of taking part in the competition. On the one hand, I’ve already paid for my place and it will all be good experience, but on the other hand, there is a lot of doubt in my mind as to how well my lifts will match up to last year – and if I’m going to do worse in everything, what’s the point?

My lovely wife Claire suggested I just go ahead but try not to get competitive with myself about it. I laughed and said something like “Er… have you not met me?” To be fair, she laughed too!

Last week, with all this in my mind, I remembered about an American powerlifter called K. C. Mitchell. (Do go ahead and look him up on t’internet – copyright laws mean I can’t post a picture here!).

Now this guy is much stronger than me – for comparison, I was ecstatic last year to get a ‘personal best’ in the deadlift of 185kg, which in old money is just north of 400lbs. Not bad for a guy in his 50’s, but K.C. Mitchell has done over 600 lbs!

It’s true that there are plenty of people who can lift even more (much more in some cases), so for what reason do I bring up K.C.? After all, he has some advantages compared to me. He’s younger than I am, heavier than I am, doesn’t have asthma and nor does he have the stresses and strains of juggling church leadership and college life (trust me, there are some!).

That being said, K.C. does some disadvantages… and the main disadvantage he has is that he only has one leg! That’s right… imagine trying to lift 600lbs off the floor (that’s well over 42 stone) when you are relying on a prosthetic leg. Incredible.

K.C. was serving in the U.S. Army when his vehicle was blown up by an IED in Afghanistan. After many surgeries, his mangled lower left leg was amputated and there followed a grim few years of rehab, which left him addicted to painkillers and alcohol. His life was mostly spent playing video games, day and night.

Supported by his wife, K.C. took his daughter on what was meant to be a game-changer – a dream family holiday to Disneyland.  Sadly, it turned into a nightmare, as they had not realised how much walking is involved in getting around the vast theme parks. In sweat and agony, K.C. had to give up, and felt utterly despondent – in his mind he had ruined everything for his wife and daughter. Strangely though, it did indeed turn out to be a game-changer, because when they got home, K.C. binned all his pain meds, all the alcohol, and even all the junk food he had been leaning on.

He went through a hellish three days of ‘cold turkey’ but then returned to the gym and gradually, painfully, started to rebuild his strength. He is now an elite level powerlifter (and I mean elite compared with able-bodied lifters) and, thanks to social media, an inspiration to millions.

I’m glad I remembered about him. The book of proverbs tells us –
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. (Proverbs 24:10 ESV)

Of course, the Bible is filled with encouragements to find our strength in God, who is the ultimate source of our strength, in all its forms. Be strong and courageous… I can do things through Christ who strengthens me…

For me though, the proverb above has hit home. Sore shoulder? Bit of a chesty cough? Come on Sime… it’s not like you’ve been blown up and lost a leg, is it?

With that in mind, I’ll be dashing off after the Sunday services on March 5th. No offence, but I’ve got a powerlifting meet to get to!

Simon Lace, 31/01/2023