Ben and I are fighting. The last several months, it’s gone to a new level.
While God is healing me – soul and spirit – we feel a constant strain and struggle. But the enemy isn’t one another.
I wrote about lessons God has taught me over the past couple of years. But I also wanted to share what our specific spiritual journey has been lately. God has pulled us up from the pit and restored us, but it hasn’t been easy. We are learning to take on the real enemy, and God is winning!
Just how does that happen?
This season has been marked by a new awareness of what God is doing in us. We memorized the Armor of God passage from Ephesians 6, and it’s been such a theme for our lives. It’s taken us 5 months, but with repetition and recitation we know it. It’s deep in our hearts, changing the way we see everything:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the [shoes of] readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
I’m learning the importance of being alert and constantly fighting the spiritual battle. I must be alert and persistent every waking moment. Because as soon as we slip away from complete total dependence on God, sure enough the enemy comes.
I know we aren’t alone in this. Several of my friends have expressed the same struggles in their lives – depression, fear about the unknown, health issues, pointless fights in our marriage, struggles with our kids, tough situations with relatives, sins of selfishness and anger. And we’ve had enough.
We are fed up with Satan stealing from us.
We are sick of believing lies.
We are waking up to the real battle, and we are fighting.
Ben and I are learning how to extinguish the flaming arrows that constantly come at us. When things get tough, when I feel attacked with fear and anxiety, when I start to slip into sins of anger or selfishness, when we start bickering, we remember this passage and pick up the armor. Here’s how:
Fighting with Prayer: In our marriage, we have had some pretty special and significant times of prayer.
- One night in our first apartment (drafty, terrible wallpaper, and skunk smell…), we specifically gave God our future after college graduation and sought his will.
- Each night, we try to pray. So when Ben went on a trip to Africa, he recorded 10 sweet videos for me with bedtime prayers.
- Before we moved into our first house, we had a special prayer time in each room.
- When we brought Elliot home from the hospital, we anointed her and her room with oil.
- This summer, the Elders of our church prayed for healing and anointed us with oil, and then we spent the afternoon praying healing over our home.
While those were significant moments, they aren’t enough. Those routine or special times won’t keep us prayed up. We are learning to pray constantly. We want to be a family that hits our knees at all times and on every occasion. And there have been some pretty unconventional prayer times.
- Sometimes it’s a timeout in the car or kitchen every 15 minutes until our hearts are right with each other and God.
- Sometimes it’s Ben kneeling at the side of the bed for hours during a rough night.
- Sometimes it’s cuddling Elliot during a tantrum and asking for wisdom and patience.
- Sometimes it’s an angry prayer through gritted teeth.
- Sometimes it’s multitasking around the house and just praying out loud.
But we are getting and staying PRAYED UP.
Fighting with Scripture: We have to surround ourselves with the Word – I’m posting Bible verses in our home, we’re memorizing it, and I’ll often speak verses out loud when I feel fear or anger pressing in.
These are some of the ones I say a lot:
- If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor. 5:17
- Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil. 4:6
- When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. Ps. 56:3-4
- Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Ps. 25:4-5
Those short verses, or ones like them, are great to memorize so that they can come to your mind any time. It takes some time and effort initially, but the small amount of work to commit these short but powerful verses to memory is more than worth it. They are my only way to cope some days.
Fighting with Music: There are times I have belted out through ugly tears a chorus of praise. Poor Elliot might not know that “This is the day the Lord has made” is actually a happy song! But I sing it until I believe it. And it changes the tone of our home. We play music constantly – I think that’s a piece of the belt of truth and the shield of faith. Having the praise of God sung over us can bring incredible joy and peace in an instant. Music has a way of doing that.
Fighting with Thanksgiving: We are declaring the works of God and counting our blessings. One night when we were feeling particularly attacked and I was slipping back into anxiety and depression, I got out our gratitude journal we’ve tried to keep of some ways God has blown us away. I read it out loud for almost an hour. I had no idea we had so many blessings from God! We were strengthened by remembering his faithfulness. We were putting on the breastplate of God’s righteousness – remembering who He is, how good He is, and the saving work he has done.
Not only are we learning how to fight, but WHO to fight. We are learning who the real enemy is and what is just distracting us: health issues, allergies, tiffs in our marriage, disagreements with others, struggles at work.
The real battle is not against other people or physical things – it’s against unseen things. Everything else is just a scheme of Satan, trying to weaken us, overwhelm us, or divide us.
A friend sent me some pages from a Jennie Allen’s book Anything:
The devil is real, and nothing ticks him off more than people waking up from the numb stupor he has crafted to keep us harmless.
When you are truly about the things of God, there is always attack.
We’ve served God long enough to experience attack. In fact, we came to expect it in the early years of church planting. Zac and I eventually would stop whatever irrational fight we were having and laugh, blame it on the devil, and call a truce. But we were in new territory. The devil stepped up his game.
It should not surprise us if life is hard, especially if we love Jesus. We are at war – not in heaven.
This hit home with me, because as we are doing better, learning more, and being more available for God’s work – we feel more attacked. It seems anytime we try to do God’s work, things go majorly wrong! We argue more, life is more difficult, and we are distracted by so much. So we have to identity the REAL enemy and the RIGHT fight. That’s when God wins.
Fighting these battles isn’t easy, because I like to depend on myself and I get easily overwhelmed by physical problems. But while it may not be easy, it is simple.
We simply pick up the armor.
God is stronger than anything we can face. He’s stronger than fear, depression, loneliness, heath issues, strife with others, bickering in our marriage, struggles in finances, temptations to sin, anything. He is stronger! And He is equipping us with the spiritual armor so we can withstand all the schemes and attacks of Satan.
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