“What is the blessing of a battle?”
“Why don’t I feel particularly blessed in this battle?”
Maybe these are some questions running through your head when you saw this title. We may not always know the purpose in our pain at the time- and we may never know- but we can know there is a purpose because our God is a God who does abundantly more through our weakness than we could ever do with our strengths. We may not know now, we may not see in 5 years when looking back, but we hold tightly to the knowledge that God is present even when it feels like he is silent. I am coming to learn the blessing of a battle is it strips away everything we thought we could do of our own power to enable us to more fully rely upon the Lord, and to walk more fully in trust of who he is and what he has done for us. Lately, life has been placing such heavy battles in my path, I don’t have a choice but to lean in more deeply to what it means to walk in the freedom of his trust.
The Story of Battles
Late in my college years, God used some events and some friends to begin to work like a catalyst in my walk with him. God got my attention, and began to call things into the light I would make idols of in order to step more fully into surrender. I loved the game of basketball and felt called to pursue playing intercollegiate basketball, and everything lined up. Then, I felt the Lord very strongly calling me to lay it down; revealing to me I was finding too much of my identity in my performance as a player, and my status as an athlete. Then the Lord began to show me the ways in which I would put others in the place that rightly belongs to him through a few (but mostly one) relationships in which I wrongly exalted the girl I was dating to a place she was never meant to be. Past hurts from years gone by and the way their manifestations impacted me beyond my understanding. In these moments of failed dreams and realities of my sin, I learned to lean in to the tension in order to see areas needing to be surrendered. Sinful idolatry hindered me, not only in my relationship with him, but also with everyone I came into contact with.
Battle Upon Battle
About a year and a half ago, my mom was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive blood cancer. Exactly two weeks prior to the diagnosis, when volunteering with a local youth group, the pastor challenged the kids to think “what is the one thing that would cause you to walk away from the Lord if he took it away?” Instantaneously I thought, while it wouldn’t cause me to walk away because I trust that he is faithful, losing my mom would be that thing… I found out two weeks later that time with my mom could be cut significantly shorter than I ever imagined. That night, after I called and texted many of my close friends (most of whom were very alarmed to hear me cry-I tend more towards the tough side than the emotional side for about 25 of my 25 years) to ask that they be in prayer for my mom, I spent most of the night praying and weeping in the bed of a truck in a cow field. As I prayed, all of the thoughts of doubt, despair, fear, anxiousness, and everything else just came flooding out before his throne. I remember repeating “I don’t know if I can do this God. I’m not strong enough to lose her. I don’t know if I can do this.” I remember stopping to listen. I quietly asked God “What do you have to say about all this? What’s going on here?” In the quiet, God was asking me “Can you trust me with this?”
My mind started spiraling back through the list of all of the reasons why it was hard for me to give up control and give in to trust. Again, “Can you trust me with this?” I started to think about the times where God brought me through places I never thought I would be able to walk. In every place I never thought I would be able to walk through something and surrender it. In these moments of difficulty, I was met by more of his strength and peace to take another step. As the thoughts of God’s faithfulness began to push out the doubts, I was able to say “God, I can trust you with this.” As I repeated this phrase over and over, I began to be reminded of the God who IS faithful. He cannot be anything else because it is a part of his very nature. I remembered the God who IS loving. His love for my mother or myself is beyond anything I could ever begin to imagine. I remembered the God who is gracious- so much so that he willingly gave his son as a sacrifice so that our sins may be paid in full. God is who he is, and he cannot be anything else. Ultimately, God is worthy of our trust. God is worthy of our praise. God is worthy of our love and affection; he is worthy of the title LORD, and he is worthy of our lives.
There is no one God cannot work through. Nothing is outside of his control. He worked through adulterous murderers. He worked through liars, back stabbers, and murderers. Nothing is greater than God and nothing is able to thwart his purposes. God even worked through the wrongful death of his own son in the single most powerful act of the history of the universe. He can work through our battles.
Do you find yourself in a battle right now? Me too! I’m glad to meet you! As we walk ahead, most likely without a clue as to where our feet may fall, I hope you join me in saying “I can trust God with this.” This isn’t something I do perfectly all the time. I recently openly wept in public (for maybe the first time ever) struggling with the goodness of God in light of some reports on my mom that didn’t feel very good- but I hope you will join me in continuing to take doubts and fears before the throne in order to be reminded God can be trusted with anything. To me, this has been the biggest source of peace and blessing through these battles: blessings I would not have leaned into had it not been for these battles that were greater than me. They pushed me to the one who is greater than any other thing. If you want to talk about whatever battle you’re facing, feel free to reach out.