“Finally, brothers and sisters, draw your strength and might from God. Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.
And this is why you need to be head-to-toe in the full armor of God: so you can resist during these evil days and be fully prepared to hold your ground. Yes, stand—truth banded around your waist, righteousness as your chest plate, and feet protected in preparation to proclaim the good news of peace. Don’t forget to raise the shield of faith above all else, so you will be able to extinguish flaming spears hurled at you from the wicked one. Take also the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly, and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed.”
The day I studied these words last week turned out to be a day of full-on attack. But was I ready? By the time the end of the day hit, I felt utterly defeated. Laid low by lots of flaming arrows and lies from the enemy. And so I reread these words from my journal:
“In order to stand in His strength, you must set aside your own. In order to tie the truth around your waist, you must remove the lies that you have mistakenly marked as truth all these years. In order to guard your heart with righteousness, you must remove the self-righteousness you’ve so long stood in. In order to prepare your feet for the good news, you must remove the dead-weights of guilt from them, and receive fully His peace. In order to take up the shield of faith, you must lay down your own busy hands–bent on working for your own protection and stability and good. You must cover your mind with salvation and fill your hands only with the Word and the Spirit. And you must pray, always pray, for others and for yourself, communicating with God–not just to Him. Listen and lean into Him. Lean upon Him for all your strength and battle tactics.
He is on your side.
He fights for you.
Remove the chain mail of self-sufficiency. Take up the rusty and worn battle-ready armor of God. And stand. Stand firm. Stand against the darkness, because,
“although you were once the personification of darkness, you are now light in the Lord. So act like children of the light. For the fruit of the light is all that is good, right, and true. Make it your aim to learn what pleases our Lord. Don’t get involved with the fruitless works of darkness; instead, expose them to the light of God.You see, it’s a disgrace to speak of their secrets (so don’t even talk about what they do when no one is looking). When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light.” (eph. 5.8-13)”
The next day, I processed the defeats that came in the wake of this intimate moment of studying.
“Sometimes, God answers these kind of prayers by allowing you to fully feel your weakness and susceptibility. To be so overcome by your own weakness that you realize just how quickly you can read & commit to be conformed to the image of His Son before clenching your hands again, choking the circumstances, grasping for control of them…and you fall flat on your face at the end of the day. Hands still tightly wound around each other, tears spilling out with guilt and shame.
But then His presence seeps into the stuffy room like the gentle arms of a father holding his daughter who has scraped up her knees on the pavement after her first attempt to ride her bike without training wheels. I crawl into bed like I’m crawling into His arms and continue crying, fully intending to continue to wallow in my tears and complain of the difficulties of the day.
But as I toss and turn, restless, He whispers.
“I am sovereign. I know the vision.” Habakkuk’s words haunt me: “the vision awaits its appointed time. if it seems slow, wait for it. it hastens on; it will not delay.”
He continues to etch them into my heart, making each phrase personal: “then you will write it. you will write it clearly, so that all who see it may run and endure by it.”
“I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe even if I told you.”
In order to go into battle, I draw from the strength of a sovereign God who knows everything and holds it all together–from the smallest circumstances and worries to the very structure of gravity’s force. I lay down in the lies in favor of the truth that He still speaks over us, even when we are having trouble listening above our own cries. I lay down the self-sufficient control I so desperately desire. I lay down the guilt and shame that keep my tears hot and unabated. I open my hands to the wide open spaces of peace He has promised to walk me into–even if it takes a long valley’s journey to arrive in them. I empty them of the frantic deeds they seek to accomplish for my own good and glory. I take off my helmet of self-protection and cover it with the salvation won on my behalf by Another who laid aside self for the sake of others. I take up a sword, the only offensive weapon in the list. And it’s not even one that I can claim–it’s the Word of another.
And I pray. And I shut up. And I listen.
And His answers draw the battle lines. His answers grant me tactics.
Wait. Learn. Write. Lay it down. Take it up. Loose the tightened grips of control. Day after day after day.