“For You have girded me with strength for battle….” Psalm 18:39(a)
Let me me start by saying that I consider myself, by nature and His grace, the eternal optimist. If there’s a silver lining in a situation, I will hunt it down and make it my own. However when I woke up this morning the feeling was quite different. I was met with a ferocious, internal negativity both in my mind and attitude. The enemy was at work, preying on my stresses, concerns and other chinks he must have found in my armor. He had worked his way in and was twisting the knife.
Now I have been around this block enough times to understand and know to expect these moments. If the enemy of our souls sees a way to get into the life of a believer, he will try and exploit it to the highest degree. Recognizing my state of mind, I quickly got up, showered and left the house, as I knew I wouldn’t be of any good to anyone until I was able to clear my head.
So….I did my grocery shopping and exchanged pleasantries with people at the store. Even that helped take the edge off a bit. I knew I still wasn’t yet ready to “engage” anyone with any depth, so I headed across the street to Starbucks for an iced coffee and to dig into His Word. As I was driving, I passed a homeless Army vet who looked to be somewhere in his mid 30’s. He was walking on a prosthetic limb and carrying everything he owned on his back. My heart went out to him and I thought about how shameful it is that we as a nation somehow allow this to happen….more on him later.
I sat down at the corner table by the window and opened the Bible app on my phone. What to read…. If I’m being completely transparent with you, at these times it’s often hard for me to find the motivation to pick anything in particular. Maybe you’ve been there? So I treated it like I do my exercise program. I just dug in and did it. 1 Corinthians 13, came to mind. You know the one? The famous chapter about love. The fact that it was so out of left field with how I was feeling at that moment, I was being Coached and I knew it. Alright let’s go….
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
If you’ve ever done any physical resistance training (weight training, etc.) you will do multiple sets of the same exercise to fatigue your muscles and cause them to get stronger over time. I often apply the same principle to my “spiritual workouts” and I will re-read the passage multiple times. Each repetition works it’s way deeper into my heart to do it’s mighty work….and I felt my spirit began to lift. At that moment I was just grateful to be out of the pit I had awakened in.
I finished my coffee and started back out to my car. “I wonder if he’s still out here?” I thought to myself. I looked around the corner of the building and sure enough, the Army vet I had seen earlier was standing on the corner, asking for help.
One of the “weapons” that I find helps in these battles (and helps me get out of my own head), is to focus on somehow being a blessing to someone else. I highly recommend this for anyone to try. I’m sure it upsets our spiritual enemy to no end, which gives me further motivation and even greater satisfaction.
I ran back into Starbucks, grabbed a gift card and walked over to him. A hearty “No way!” was followed by a giant bear hug as I gave him the card. We shared a great conversation, talked about the crazy hot weather here in the valley….and I managed to complain about our air conditioner being out yesterday…to someone that had nothing…. He and I both had a laugh about that. We talked for awhile longer and as we parted ways, I prayed for him. That he would be strengthened and blessed and reminded of Jesus’ love. By the end, we both had tears in our eyes….
As I drove away, I recognized that God had completely changed my perspective. He had slain the dragon in my mind. He orchestrated a situation by which, I believe, He was working not only in my life but in the lives of two of his kids. By lining things up just the way He did, He encouraged us both (there’s that silver lining I was talking about)! I would encourage you to see Him in the beauty of these “smaller” moments and interactions as well. His ways are beyond our ways and He never fails to pleasantly surprise us, if we pay attention. Like the song says, “He’s a good, good Father….”
In case you haven’t heard this yet today, He LOVES YOU too! Stay the course. Keep looking up.