Sometimes I do better than other times dealing with my “lot” in life. Last week I was in a funk. Frustrated by the things in my life that I didn’t choose and the things I have no power to change, I was just plain tired of it all. But, I felt a “tap on my shoulder” from God to get busy in the Word. The first verse I read was not one I wanted to hear: “Every branch in me (Jesus) that does not bear fruit he (the Father) takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”1
My response? God, I’m tired of pruning! Actually, that day, to be fully honest, I hated it. So, as I was sitting in my comfy chair with coffee in my hand and my three year old daughter on the couch doing her thing, I had a decision to make. I mean, what was my alternative? I could allow some dead and overgrown stuff in my life to be cut away, or I could just stand and watch the master gardner chop me off and toss me aside because I am dead and refuse to grow anymore.
But, how to get my mind in the right place? I started jotting down notes as I thought and prayed. A list of sorts, that I could use to remind myself how to fight when I’m weary.
#1. Keep your heart tender. Open and alive. I have a tendency to shut down and make vows, like, “I’ll never allow that to happen again.” For me, that’s how I dig a little hole in my heart and drop a seed of bitterness in. It’s hard to keep my heart open and alive, but its a characteristic I desperately desire in my life.
#2 Say the blessing
, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who is the true judge.” Its saying, “I don’t understand this. I don’t like it. But, I will acknowledge You as Lord. Even though I can’t quite see the purpose in all of this, I do trust You.” Yes, there is pain in this offering.2
#3 Girl, put on your armor and use the spiritual weapon of prayer God gave you! I’ve just finished a Bible study3 that helped me to understand and finally use weapons that actually work. The spiritual armor passage in Ephesians4 has always seemed kind of boring to me, and I guess geared more towards guys, so much so that I’ve not really given it serious consideration before. But, wow, has it changed my perspective.
I’ve used weapons, like my mouth, that haven’t ever really been effective. In fact, my weapons tend to get me in more trouble. But, prayer, that is one that is successful every time. If I could just remember to begin by pouring my heart out to God. Prayer is what activates and allows the armor of God to function properly.
I’ve come to understand that what I’m really fighting is the enemy’s attempt to make me bitter towards God. The battle isn’t against circumstances or people.
The first three pieces of armor are meant to be worn at all times, every day.
1) The belt of truth. Which is God’s opinion, not my own. The truth helps me to stop being deceived about what I think my battles are, so that I can fight the real battles. I’ve come to understand that what I’m really fighting is the enemy’s attempt to make me bitter towards God. The battle isn’t against circumstances or people.
2) The breastplate of righteousness. Which helps guard my heart and align my daily behavior (ahem, bad attitudes) with God’s standard. Righteousness simply means being as you were created to be. In the Bible, for instance, not only are people to be righteous, scales and balances are required to be righteous as well.5 They are to function as they were created, not giving a false weight. The breastplate deflects all the nasty stuff that comes my way so that my heart won’t absorb it and will continue to function rightly regardless of what is aimed towards it. Biblically speaking, the heart is the seat of the will, my decision making center.6 With my heart in the right place, I can make better decisions. I can be who I was created to be.
3) The shoes of peace. Which protect my sense of well being and stability and allow me to keep walking no matter the turmoil I’m mired in. “Shalom,” the Hebrew word for peace, encompasses much more than our English word “peace” whose primary definition is “freedom from disturbance.” But, it isn’t always possible to be free from disturbance! Shalom, God’s kind of peace, is not merely an absence of war or chaos, but an overall, deeply entrenched sense of harmony, health and wholeness in the midst of it. Boy, do I need those shoes!
Three other pieces of armor are required on days when I start to spiral downwards and need to fight. The power in these pieces doesn’t depend on me at all, and so, when I feel like I just can’t “do it anymore,” God just requires me to say “Yes,” and He supplies the weapons and protection for the fight.
1) The shield of faith. Faith is the obedience to act like I believe God is telling the truth. Faith says less about my piddly attempts and more about what I really believe to be true about God.7 About a month ago, I had an amazing experience with hearing God’s Word from the pulpit and responding to the truth even though I didn’t understand or, quite frankly, like it. I chose to believe that what God was saying about my situation was true, and so by acting like God was right, I was able to raise my shield of faith up for protection. It has made all the difference in understanding something that I’ve struggled with my whole life.
2) The helmet of salvation. Which is my defensive, protective, comprehensive coverage from the unhealthy patterns of thought I indulge in.8 Salvation shields my head, my source of life. When someone’s head gets chopped off, they are defeated… dead (think Goliath). Salvation isn’t meant just to “save me from hell,” it is God’s daily work in my life that restores my body, soul and mind to a state of wholeness, victory and safety. Choosing not to wear the helmet leaves my mind open to negative, destructive self-talk and unprotected from the hurtful things others say.
3) The sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). The sword is the verses that come to mind when I’m weary or anxious or depressed. It is God’s personal communication with me through His Word. That experience I had with raising my shield of faith a month ago also included God handing me my sword to fight my enemy. The sword is His sword, not mine. I had no idea what to do or how to think about that situation, but God did. God literally handed me my weapon by giving me the verses that would combat my enemy. And…it worked.
All of this stuff takes energy and determination. And, there are days that I just don’t feel like I have it in me. Nothing about my circumstances is going to change, and sometimes, it feels so overwhelming. But, what, really, is my alternative? My deliverance isn’t going to come from somewhere else.
I get weary, and I forget my enemy is out to destroy me, that is exactly when prey becomes dinner.
My “spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”9 Peter well remembered that last Passover night when he just couldn’t stay awake to strengthen his spirit’s resolve. His flesh overcame his spirit, and he denied even knowing Jesus.10 And, so, he wrote to his own disciples, “Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”11 I get weary, and I forget my enemy is out to destroy me. It doesn’t seem fair that I struggle most when I don’t have the “where with all” to fight, but I guess, that is exactly when prey becomes dinner.
“Every true disciple knows the struggle of flesh and spirit.12” When I read about pruning that day, my flesh said, “No way am I doing that again,” but my spirit longed to respond to my Creator, and I chose to keep my heart open and alive.
As I finished out my study that day, I think, to encourage me, my Master led me to these words: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”13 I don’t claim to understand what that means fully, but because He has overcome the world, I am able to respond, “Blessed are you, Lord, the true judge.” And, when I say this blessing, this prayer, it will trigger me to remember to get my armor on, to pick up my weapons and fight…especially when I am weary and feel like I have nothing left to give.
Questions for Reflection:
• What areas in your life have you not chosen and/or can’t change?
• Are you able to speak the blessing over them: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who is the true judge”?
• How could you practically remember to use your spiritual weapon of prayer and to put on your armor? Is there somewhere you could leave yourself a note or something else that would remind and encourage you?
• Are there other things that you would add to your list of how to fight when you’re weary?
1 See John 15:2.
3 The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer.
4 See Ephesians 6:10-19.
5 See Leviticus 19:36.
6 In the English language the heart is where our emotions and feelings reside, and the mind is where we make decisions. In the language of the Bible, however, the heart is where we make decisions.
7 Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God (LifeWay Press, 2015) 122-123.
8 Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God (LifeWay Press, 2015) 150.
9 See Matthew 26:40-42.
10 See Matthew 26:69-75.
11 See 1 Peter 5:8.
12 D.T. Lancaster, Torah Club Book 5: Chronicles of the Messiah (Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion, 2014), 1566.
13 See John 16:33.