A Deliberate Choice
Just the other day, as I drove down the familiar road towards home, a song came on the radio. I hadn’t heard it before. The melody and strong piano line grabbed hold of my attention. It was beautiful right from the start.
It was the words, however, that made an immediate impact. Like a hot knife through butter, they cut straight to the issue I had been wrestling with.
And that’s often how the Lord speaks to me – through music.
That day, as many others, I really needed to hear His voice. I need that every day, yes, but on that day I just found myself soul weary and sore. I just didn’t feel particularly courageous. That day, I didn’t even want to be particularly brave.
Nope. The energy that it would take to be those things…I just didn’t seem to possess.
By nature, I am a fighter. You know – that fight or flight thing? When faced with an obstacle, battle, or something intimidating, some people are hard wired to flee, taking “flight” to safer ground. Others are “fighters.” When a challenge or struggle presents itself, these people will instinctively put up their fists (either spiritually or physically) and dig their feet in for the battle. They do NOT run in the other direction.
Well, I am a fighter. I am guessing that there are others out there who would testify right along with me that fighters are quick to “put up their dukes and stand their ground.”
But sometimes (just sometimes) even fighters can get weary of the battle. The battle to believe, to trust, to hope, to look up, to keep on pushing back the darkness and to keep on standing.
Even the strongest can get weary. Even the most determined can crave the opportunity to take a knee.
Well, I won’t try to convince you that I am the strongest or even the most determined (I am not). I will instead confess that there have been times in my life as I follow hard after Jesus, fighting hard for the things that matter – in my marriage, in raising children, in relationships, in the everyday stuff – where I have felt both weariness and the strong desire to just quit.
Here’s the thing, though: Sometimes “fighting” turns into “striving.” The difference between the two is subtle, but trust me, there IS a significant difference.
Fighting (in biblical terms) is partnering with the Holy Spirit to take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-12).
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Fighting, in a biblical context is a good, and even necessary thing.
“Striving,” though also defined by struggle, is best understood by examining its root word. “Strife” is defined as “a bitter, sometimes violent, contention.” Or “an exertion for superiority.” (Merriam-Webster online dictionary resource, www.merriam-webster.com)
Therefore, striving implies a bitterness of heart, a self-reliant pursuit of a perceived need or desire.
I want to tell you that I can’t relate to what it feels like to be bitter, or to pursue a desire in my own strength. I want to tell you that I don’t often find myself “striving” instead of “fighting” for things in my life that aren’t coming easy. I want to tell you that I have it all figured out and that I don’t stumble over the same blocks over and over again.
But that wouldn’t be the truth. And honesty is important here.
Truth is, I wrestle. I know how to put on the armor of God and fight well. But like I’ve said before, my flesh is loud. And in that roaring, yes…I strive, too.
Sometimes I win these mighty battles in the right way, with the right tools. But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the very act of striving knocks everything else out of perspective. Striving tempts us to believe that we are alone in the battle. Striving does that. It isolates. It competes. It meets one goal only to find that another one has been set.
In the end, striving can leave our hearts stranded in self-survival mode. And, just like you’ve heard how “feelings” aren’t a good gauge for Truth, I think striving fits into that category, too. It’s just not a very accurate story line.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
He will never leave us or forsake us. Never. The Lord God said that. It was a promise and He meant it.
So, what does that mean when we are desperate to hear from Him? What do we do when we are straining to feel His strength and purpose revive us again, but feel like He is nowhere to be found?
Perhaps our aching heart and wearied soul is not an indication that He has left us, but our own stubborn persistence to go our own way, relying only on our own strength and understanding of what we need. Perhaps our deafness is related to our blindness. Perhaps.
Friends, this is a lesson that I wish I could say I have learned and now stand victorious in. But that’s not my story. There are days when I have to learn it…again. I am learning it now.
I’m guessing I am not the only one, either, wrestling with my flesh and the pull towards self-preservation. But I will tell you that I am learning to see it through submitted eyes and heart now.
We need to do that – as followers of Jesus. Each day that we come face to face with our flesh and a myriad of needs, we must learn to seek His heart in the matter.
Before you put your hands to solving a problem, bend your knee and submit to the One who holds the solution.
We yield so that we can move forward – wisely and with His intent in mind. Deliberately asking God to help us wait, to hear Him, and to outfit us with His discernment and Truth so that we may navigate this rough terrain with the right equipment and perspective.
Today, I want to share with you the song that challenged me to take a knee and hard long look at the way I fight for ground in this often rocky terrain of life. The song is called, “God Help Me,” and is the newest release from Plumb. Powerful song indeed.
When you listen, think of the areas of your life that weigh heaviest upon your heart. And then ask yourself some hard questions: Am I seeking His perspective and wisdom in the matter, or am I seeking mine? Am I striving? Or am I putting on the full armor of God and fighting from a place of righteousness and victory with a humble submission to His will?
Yes, they are hard questions, but well worth searching out.
I pray that as you listen, you will take a moment to ask yourself those questions. Let us be wholly sure that when we go into battle, we are armed with the items of eternal value and impact.
With joy for the journey,