“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5
Earlier this week I had come across an article that described how hundreds of children were executed by Isis, by being fed into an industrial style bread kneader….
Reading about such cruelty and depravity repulsed me to such a degree me that I let out an audible groan while my heart sank. As I pulled back from my computer monitor, I turned to God and honestly expressed myself with the following, “You know Lord, I’m so tired of hearing about all of this wickedness in the world….I’m totally okay with you taking me home early….” A moment of weakness. A moment of longing. It’s in these moments that I truly recognize that ultimately, I really don’t belong here (in a “this is my home” sense) and am here to fulfill God’s purpose for me, in such a time as this. Peter reminds his reader of this as well:
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers….” (1 Peter 2:11)
Aliens and strangers….that is what the faithful are, in this place and in this age. We can feel it at every turn. The things our culture celebrates…how often do our hearts cry out, “No, you’ve got it wrong. If you could only see the end of your path….”
Yet Jesus calls us to a victorious mindset and life:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
This fullness of life doesn’t only happen once we pass into eternity. It is meant to begin here, in the midst of the battle. The question is, what can we do? What plan can we implement that can help pull us back up and continue to fight the good fight to which He has called us?
Now before we dive in, I think it is of utmost importance to recognize that the battle is the Lord’s, not ours. Any strategy we may come up with here or otherwise will never be effective if based in our own strength alone. It is only because of His grace, mercy, strength and love that we have the opportunity to play a role. With this in mind, let’s get started:
- Guard your heart. I believe we need to start here. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 Be aware of your heart and spiritual condition. You do need to, nor should you, take “ownership” of everything that is presented to you without first asking God for the wisdom to discern it (and then to act on that discernment). This takes regular sessions of introspection and while this may come more natural to some, it may be more of a practiced discipline for others. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to do this, at least every now and again.
- To piggyback on point #1: As you “guard your heart,” be purposeful in your love. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold….” I don’t know about you, but I can easily see my heart taking the path of least resistance when faced with the growing darkness, if I allow myself to do so. Take a spiritual inventory. Ask God to reveal and weed out any lingering malice, anger, indifference, bitterness, unforgiveness or cynicism that has taken root. I believe that if these particular elements are left unchecked, that is the path by which the love within us can slowly and subtly grow cold. Be determined not to be one of the “most” that scripture has pointed out! If any of these elements are brought to light in your life, combat that mindset with acts of love towards those around you. Look for those that might need a kind word, need help with a task or could just use some quality time over coffee. These seemingly small acts of friendship can help keep the hearts of both you and the other person, pliable and usable by God.
- Unplug. About a year or so ago I had read through a book about the purpose of fasting. One of the things the author brought up is that when we fast physically, it can heighten our awareness of and our focus on God. She went on to say that we are less distracted and can hear God more clearly as we seek Him, while in a state of fasting. While fasting is often focused on food/water, she brought up something new that I took to heart. Fasting from media. If we’re honest with ourselves, many can probably attest to how hooked we are to our media, especially our social media. How many times have you awakened at 3 a.m. and figured that you would just check your Facebook or IG account? Without getting into the whole dopamine/addictive/compulsive side of the equation, how often do we allow this to get in the way of potential quality time with God? Fasting from media can also take you away from the flow of negativity you may see in your newsfeed or on television. How often you “fast” in this regard is up to you. You might consider limiting the time you spend on your FB/IG accounts per day. You could potentially take one day a week, log out for the day and set aside a “refresher” time with God instead. The options are many. Take some time to think about this and set up a plan. Whatever it is, make the “fast” a regular part of your schedule….and then post about it on FB in order to encourage others to do the same….#kiddingnotkidding
- Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. This can come in many unique and possibly overlapping forms. Teammates, work colleagues, classmates, fitness groups, weekly Bible study or reading groups…whatever it is, the key is to seek out people that are either on the same or a similar mission as you are and spend time with them. Invest in those relationships!
- Approach the throne with humility. When was the last time you took up a humble position during prayer? Maybe it was on your knees when you prayed with your kiddos before bedtime? (this is a great example to your kids, by the way….if you do this then <high five>) In my own prayer life I have learned that my physical approach to prayer truly effects my focus and heart. I have found that one of the best times for me is after my son has gone to bed. I will go downstairs, turn the lights off and either kneel, sit or lay prostrate on the floor, in front of the window….Warning: this can unintentionally FREAK your child out if they happen to wander in….but I digress. Seriously though, try this and see if it doesn’t have a positive effect on the quality of your prayer time.
Continue to battle but do what you need to do to take care of yourself as well. A healthy warrior is much more effective on the battlefield than a wounded one. Stay in the fight….
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jesus speaking in John 6:33)