“Mom! I need ___________ (Fill in the blank: money, food, a ride, help with homework, my taekwondo uniform, etc..)”. “Sara, your spreadsheet was due two days ago.” Oh, and the dog is almost out of food, and we need groceries, and the car has a flat tire, and you need to pay (again, fill in the blank…)
These are just a few of the seemingly unending list of tasks and responsibilities that pull for our time and energy. Before you know it, we are pulled in more directions than is humanly possible, and that can cause edginess to the most patient person. If that weren’t enough, we can add the painfully unexpected and disappointing. “I’m sorry, Your uncle has cancer,” or “You didn’t get the promotion,” or, “You have both a sinus infection AND bronchitis,” or even, “I don’t love you anymore.” There is an endless onslaught to our peace and joy, and no one is immune to the difficulties in life.
I wish that I could say that when you live a Christ-centered life that all of the challenges miraculously disappear, and life becomes sunshine and rainbows. The truth is that we were never guaranteed a trouble-free life, but rather, that we should not be surprised by trouble on this side of Heaven. In fact, the Bible says:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33 NIV
Peace knowing that I will have trouble? How can that be? How can a human have peace knowing that the next battle is around the corner, especially in the seasons where battle fatigue from the last round still lingers? I understand that You, Jesus, made the ultimate sacrifice with Your life on the cross, thus overcoming the world. Is it okay to admit that even though I know this fact, I still have to work to remain in the freedom, peace, and joy that is given to me?
Let’s be real for a hot minute. I prefer comfort and ease over pain, disappointment, and trouble. I get easily irritated when I get tired! I have massive control issues and really want things to go my way every now and then! Is it possible to be “thankful in ALL circumstances,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18; emphasis is mine) and not just in the easy or fun ones?
You would think that with all of our experiences, we would be experts in finding peace and shifting our mindsets. The reality is that EVERY SINGLE DAY is a battle, and that can become exhausting. Sometimes simply living can be a battle in itself, so we have a choice. We can give into the daily battles by listening to the lies that ruminate through our heads—the “You can’t, you won’t, you never will…. This is too big for you and for your God”. Or, we can fight back.
If you have ever seen the “Rocky” movies, then you know that Rocky Balboa is always the underdog fighting impossible opponents. For us, our enemy is like Drago taunting, “I must break you!” with lie after lie and circumstance after circumstance. Sometimes our enemy will even use those closest to us, so that we hurt in unimaginable ways and eventually give up fighting. Our job in life is to be like Rocky vs. Drago, getting up and fighting with all that we have, one round at a time! Thanks to God, WE CAN choose to pick up our swords and fight against all odds, again and again, until what God has given leads us to a VICTORIOUS end!
First, let’s get one thing straight. Life can, and will, HURT in some seasons. There is no possible way to avoid pain. It is not expected that you ignore the significance of what you are going through, and it is okay to express your pain with strong emotions. Also, it is NOT advisable to go through the fight alone! Every warrior needs a team of support, a coach guiding, and confidants listening along the way. Even with a support system, every person’s battles are unique and will require a personal decision to fight.
Luckily for us, we have three weapons that we can wield against permanent grief, self pity, apathy, anger, and depression that can seize difficult seasons. These weapons are so powerful that they are able to break the chains that would keep us locked in a life much less than what God has intended for us. God has given us His Word, Our Thoughts and Our Words, and The Ability to Act. These three things work together in the best possible one-two-three knockout combination to overcome ANY circumstance or season. The Truth is that WE CAN,
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Sword Fighting Technique 1: Know God’s Word.
God has made us overcomers! In fact, the Bible names us “more than conquerors through Him who loves us” (Romans 8:37). It goes on to say that, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39).
I don’t know about you, but I don’t often FEEL LIKE a conqueror, or a warrior, or even a fighter! Sometimes, I don’t even feel loved or lovable, if I’m totally honest. My “aha” moment happened when I realized that when I do not learn or accept the Truth that the Bible holds, then I lose out on life-giving weapons, instructions, and promises that God has for me!
I still haven’t read the whole Bible, not even half of it. I am slowly making my way through, one verse, chapter, or book at a time (depending on the season and the need). In fact, I used to resist reading the Bible as Truth; instead, I viewed the Bible as a nice set of stories that are optional guidelines to follow. I certainly did NOT believe that the Scriptures were instructions meant to guide me away from my self-centered desires! After all, who knows me better than me? Uh, God.
In retrospect, there has never been a time where He has not provided or understood. Instead, His loving hand has always been there to hold me, guide me, and bless me in the midst of ALL seasons. His Word has encouraged, challenged, comforted, and corrected me. The fun and simple seasons gave me the renewal needed for the next battle. In the hard seasons, I received so much more—more strength, more supports, more new skills, and more understanding! The freedom in, and the confidence to, fight comes with the simple truth that God is good, and He is faithful. His Word gives the various swords to swing with each circumstance, feeling, and fight.
Sword Fighting Technique 2: Capture Your Thoughts and Use Your Words.
Once you know the power held in the Word of God, the next step is to understand how brilliantly God created our brains to be. Neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to rewire paths of understanding, is how science proves the ability of our brains to change and grow with intentional practice, no matter the age or stage. In Scriptural terms, it says that:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
-2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (emphasis mine)
The intensity in the wording of both science and Scripture fascinated me! Rewire paths of understanding? Wage war? Weapons we fight with? Demolish strongholds? Take captive every thought? Make it obedient? The first image that popped into my head was that of She-ra and He-man running into battle (no judging my cartoon choices of younger years!). Then I thought of David vs. Goliath. Whether sword or stones, these characters and people waged war against that which was oppressive and dangerous. Our thoughts can be just that, oppressive and dangerous!
So, how? How do you take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ and wage war? How do we swing our Sword of the Spirit? It’s relatively simple but takes both faith AND discipline. You have to simultaneously practice and trust.
First, you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. What makes you feel anxious, angry, sad, or weak? Is the thought you are having helpful or hurtful? For instance, just this week, I looked at the load of “to-do’s” in front of me and felt exhausted just looking at the mountain of never-ending work. I wrote how I was feeling and why. “I feel tired, because the workload is impossible for me as a single parent.”
Next, you compare your feelings to the Word and to the world. What does the Word say in relation to your situation, or thought, and where does the world fit in? In my instance, the Word says that “I can do ALL things THROUGH Christ who strengthens me!” (Phillippians 4:13) and that “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The world says, “You are what you do, and the more you do, the better you are.” The war I waged in my mind this week was capturing that dichotomy and using my words to DECLARE GOD’S TRUTH! Every day this week, I would start swinging my sword by saying,
“Today is the day the Lord has made, I will REJOICE and be glad in it!”
Your thoughts and your words will either be your greatest ally or your most difficult enemy! Continuing to fight the everyday battles takes practice, discipline, and a decision to trust the process long before you see results. It takes faith and follow-through to be able to tap into God’s glorious power that demolish the strongholds. You have to repeatedly capture your thoughts, examine them with caring curiosity, and physically speak out God’s Word, which are promises for us! You have to do this over and over and over until, one day, what first felt awkward becomes hopeful and empowering. Repeated practice = mental freedom.
Sword Fighting Technique 3: Take Action
Finally, we are at the point of knockout! It is here where the rubber meets the road, and victory becomes real! I wish that we could just think our way to victory, but God cannot bless inactivity! Every now and then, we just have to take a step to FIGHT! Depending on what you are fighting, the action may be different. This is where the Word, in combination with your mind to mouth mental combat, leads you towards your action.
For me, God makes it clear by speaking through a feeling in my stomach, a revelation in my mind, a song, Scripture, a friend, a family member, or a colleague. Rarely, am I “pumped up” to walk out the promptings! Sometimes, I’m asked to wait and patiently and gratefully give my best in day-to-day monotony. Other times, I’m asked to rest and trust (again, an action I’m not good at, nor is it natural to me). Still other times, there will be active steps. Right now, for me, my active step is cleaning out my past, one drawer and memory at a time.
I have seen God’s faithfulness in seasons of desperation, seasons of depression, seasons of hope, and seasons of freedom. Now, I am willing to trust that if God prompts me, then there is a reason for it. I can stubbornly refuse to act until I know the whole plan, or I can join God’s protective army with obedience knowing that His Ways are higher and better. So, I am finally stepping into obedient action. My circumstances have yet to change, but in the midst of the challenges, I have been able to experience power, goodness, mercy, grace, and love as God continues to unfold promise after promise in the middle of the battles. I now know what King David meant when he said to God in Psalm 23:5:
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
We are ALL in daily battles! It is a reality of life this side of Heaven. We don’t have to wait until circumstances smooth out to enjoy the life we have been given! Instead, we can choose to become expert sword fighters, and we can live a life of fulfillment and purpose with what God has to offer TODAY!
This is an incredibly important reminder to me on this roller coaster of life where “what I feel” and “what I know” are at war! Day by day, battle by battle, little by little, I am conquering new ground with God’s help. With each “opponent” that goes down, I see God’s faithfulness and goodness in new ways, and I get EXCITED about what the future holds!
My challenge for all of us is to TAKE UP OUR SWORDS AND FIGHT remembering that no matter what we are going through, GOD has GOOD plans for us! WE ARE VICTORIOUS sword-fighting warriors who win!!
Battle on and battle strong, my friends, in the name of Jesus!