Hard situations are a fact of life. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, WHENEVER you face trials of many kinds..." James 1:1 (emphasis mine). Note that this passage doesn't say IF you face trials, but WHENEVER you face them. Hard times will come: job loss, sickness, deceit, cancer, violence, betrayal, infidelity, and even death. These and countless other difficulties occur because we live in a broken, fallen world. And the results, the fallout, can be devastating. These events can leave us feeling shattered, defiled, and utterly hopeless. It can feel like the very ground beneath our feet has fallen away, leaving us stranded in the pain. Like an old friend, worry can wrap itself around our hearts and cripple us. In these moments, we have to make a choice.
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Brenda has a choice to make.
She and her daughters have been studying martial arts for four years. In their classes, they train for different scenarios so that they know how to respond if they ever face that situation for real. They work on blocks, kicks, strikes, stances, and techniques all designed to protect themselves from a possible attacker. They practice these techniques in the classroom, using each other as the target. They talk through the emotions that are brought up in the moment of contact. They focus on remaining calm, trusting the training they've put in, and visualizing the effectiveness of the techniques they've rehearsed.
At the moment that Brenda's attacker grabs her, Brenda has a choice to make. She can choose to follow her fears and panic. Or she can choose to tap into the training she's put in for the last four years, remain calm, and fend off her attacker. One choice leads to more pain and fear. The other leads to freedom and victory. If Brenda chooses to panic, her attacker gains control of the situation and she is at his mercy. If Brenda chooses to trust her training, she gains control of her attacker and he is at her mercy. She has to make a choice.
From the outside looking in, it seems like the choice is obvious. If Brenda has the capability to defend herself, she should do that. If she can disarm and disable her attacker, that is what she should do. However, if she has not practiced her art, if she has not used it enough to make it second nature, if she hasn't participated in enough classroom rehearsals of real-life scenarios, she might not be able to trust her training. The panic might become overwhelming. Her body might shut down. Her reflexes might not be fast enough. If she doesn't have confidence in her martial training, it becomes difficult to make the choice to use it when she really needs it. If this isn't second nature to her, it will be almost impossible for her to make the choice to effectively defend herself.
In the face of hard times, we have to make a choice.
We've been Christians for years. We've participated in Bible studies, attended countless sermons and church services, served on mission trips, joined in prayer groups, and been to every church outreach. We know the Scriptures and can quote them with ease. We've counseled others on how to walk through difficult times. We know all of the things to say and do to be a "good" Christian.
Then trouble hits. A spouse loses their job. A child becomes gravely ill. Divorce looms large. A dear friend is a part of a deep betrayal. And we have to make a choice. We can choose to follow our fears and panic. Or we can choose to tap into the spiritual training we've put in for years, remain calm, and fend off the attacks of the enemy. One choice leads to more pain and fear. The other leads to freedom and victory. If we choose to panic, the enemy gains control of the situation, and we are at his mercy. If we choose faith, we give God the control and our enemy is at His mercy. We have to make a choice.
Just as in Brenda's situation, the choice here seems obvious. Our God is the Creator of all things. "I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King." Is 43:15 He is faithful. "O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you." Ps 89:8 He has already won victory over everything we face. "On this mountain he will destroy the shroud the enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth." Is 25:8
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When difficult times loom large, the choice of faith over worry should be an easy one. However, if we haven't put in the time to practice our faith in real life situations, if it isn't second nature to take our fears to the Lord, if we haven't trusted Him with the small things in our lives, if we haven't gotten to know our Lord on a day-to-day basis, trusting him in a moment of real difficulty will not be easy. It won't be a choice that comes naturally. It will be a struggle. It will feel stilted and maybe even false. And it won't be effective in overcoming the fear and worry of life.
We are engaged in battle every single day. Ephesians 6:10-13 reminds us of this.
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.Friends, we face hard times every single day. Some are small and seemingly insignificant. We can handle them on our own with ease. But just like the classroom in a martial arts setting, these are the things that prepare us for "real-life scenarios," those moments when life gets too hard to handle alone. If we aren't engaging with God daily, inviting Him into our lives, our struggles, our little daily difficulties, then we are missing out on training opportunities. We can't become warriors without practice. Would you join in in dedicating ourselves to inviting God into our training grounds? Let us become prayer warriors so that we no longer have to struggle over what to choose when life gets hard!
This post is part of #livefreeThursday with the wonderful women over at Suzie Eller's blog, tsuzanneeller.com. Check out the links there for more encouragement.