After experiencing one attack after another, and several circumstances that led to discouragement and depression, I put my dream of writing up on a shelf and gave up hope. It hurt too much to keep trying, so I eventually surrendered. Waved the white flag. Set down my pens, put away my notebooks, and gave my dream of being a writer over to Jesus.
I distinctly remember saying, two weeks into a world-wide pandemic and just as long into my time as a pretend homeschool mom, “Being a writer is very obviously not what God has for me at this time in my life.” I had joined an online writing course as a birthday present to myself that year. I’d gone to a writing retreat the previous spring, and I’d been writing notes in my phone and keeping a journal for the three years before that. I had documented so many conversations, feelings, and experiences during the hardest season of my life. I knew in my heart there was a story to be told, and redemption to be shared.
But not only could I not get out of my own head, slay the loud-mouth inner critic, and finally start piecing together the words on a page, I had become a homebound school-teacher to my three children (who I love and adore by the way). I found myself consumed with fourth grade math, navigating Prodigy and ABC Mouse memberships, and doing all I could to turn a difficult, unplanned experience into good memories for my kids. The days quickly became filled with walks to the park and jumping the creek; making home made playdough and paint; and sanitizing groceries – which to this day blows my mind.
While the days of Pretend Homeschool is a story for another time, it was the catalyst for an immense amount of learning and waiting. That time in my life allowed me a sneak-peek behind the curtain and a front row seat to seeing God overcome the schemes of a puppet-master who constantly tries to pull the strings and thwart the plans God has for our lives. I gave up writing during that time because my kids needed me, but mostly because I was weary of a spiritual battle I couldn’t win. The years prior to early 2020 were brutal for me personally, and for our family. So feeling the need to shelve my writing dreams somewhat felt like the straw that broke the camels back.
I was wounded, cynical, and defeated.
Can you relate? Experiencing that one last thing that sends you scrambling for your white flag. Living through a season of intense warfare. Watching the dreams and plans you’d hoped would become reality crumble into ash at your feet. If that is you today and you are currently living in that place of discouragement, anxiety, or hurt I just want to say I’m sorry. It is so hard…and nothing I or anyone else can say will entirely help or be able to take that away. I have stood where you stand right now. I have been at my lowest only to realize there was further to drop.
I couldn’t see a hopeful future at the time because everything felt so completely dark – like I had been abandoned and forgotten- but I remember reading other people’s words encouraging those around them to hang on, to not give up hope, and to keep fighting for what God had called them to. When I wasn’t busy being a world-weary and jaded believer, I clung to their words.
Standing on the other side of some really hard years and deeply personal attacks, I can say with all confidence you too will make it through to the other side. I know it doesn’t feel that way right now. I know things seem hopeless and your heart hurts and you might even be angry at God. It feels like dreaming and hoping are foolish, and you’re teetering on the edge of completely giving up.
But I promise you this: the One who started the work in you has not abandoned or forsaken you. You are not alone. You are seen and known and loved. And there is purpose in the hard ground you are walking. He will use and redeem your suffering. He will give beauty for what has been lost.
There is an unseen battle happening around you that you may or may not be aware of. A battle that rages over the souls of every human being. Satan wants nothing more than to stop you dead in your tracks, to discourage and distract you from completing the work God sets before you, and ultimately to rob you of your effectiveness for the kingdom of Jesus. The enemy wants you isolated and disillusioned. He wants nothing more than to watch you walk away in defeat.
To some, that type of other-worldly spiritual talk is nonsense. They are blind to the schemes and tactics a very real enemy engages in to steal and destroy. For some of you though, spiritual warfare is a “been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt” reality. Its dark tentacles have encircled your life as you have walked through valleys lower than you ever thought possible and trials you couldn’t have imagined.
So for those that know all too well what spiritual warfare truly looks and feels like I don’t have to spell it out. I’m sure you can share stories of loss, grief, addiction, and worse. You know what it feels like to be shaken to your core, unable to hear the still, small voice of God. You know what isolation, confusion, disbelief, and pain look like.
The part no one talks about very often is the in-between. That time-span between the intital attack and the “other side”. It’s the forty-some chapters of Job between “everyone but your wife is dead, and your house blew down, and your sheep are burned up” to “God restored Job’s fortunes and blessed his end more than his beginning”.
Don’t get me wrong- I am all about a great “Before & After” when it comes to hair makeovers and home design shows. These days all it takes is a quick swipe to the left for a beautiful makeover to be revealed. But in real life a lot happens in those days, months, and sometimes even years in between the “Before” and the “After”.
So often, it’s in the in-between where we’re the most vulnerable. Here’s why…for a believer, spiritual warfare is not only lived out through the trials we face but also through the ravaging of our hope. It’s like a one-two punch. First comes the physical and emotional impact of the specific set of circumstances taking over our lives. Maybe it’s a diagnosis, an accusation, or a betrayal. Maybe it’s the experience of a sudden loss, being exploited or abused, or even a sneak attack to our bank account through seemingly small, but costly repairs. Whatever the circumstances might be, that first wave of onslaught comes and rattles our physical bodies, heart, and minds.
The second sucker punch comes to our souls. It’s the questioning. It’s the personal attack – from an outside source (we’re looking at you Eliphaz and Bildad), or just as often from within in the form of racing thoughts, anxiety, and doubt. It’s the wondering, the fight to reason and make sense of it all. Without warning, we can find ourselves asking if the God we praised just a day or two earlier is real, with us, or even remotely good or kind.
When a trial we face is short-lived or an answer comes quickly it’s relatively easy to bounce back in the faith department. God shows up, rights the difficulty, and sets us firm on that solid rock again. We’re a little unsteady for a while, but for the most part, our hope and belief in the goodness of God and the beauty of life remain intact.
But when a trial is ongoing and comes with no quick answer, or worse yet no answers at all? That’s when you are most vulnerable. Are you going to keep hoping? Keep believing in a God you can’t see and can’t feel? Are you going to hang on to a faith that feels like it failed you? Could anyone even blame you if you gave it all up and walked away?
Even though seeing you walk away in defeat is exactly what Satan wants, and even though the suffocating darkness of spiritual warfare causes us to think that’s our best choice at times, we must remember we are never without hope.
Real hope anchored in Jesus never fails.
You can look out into the unknown future and wonder what horrible things are going to come next and still fight for hope. You can struggle with panic and dread, and still have hope. You can look around you and feel like you’re living your own personal hell or you’re sitting in the ashes of what was once beautiful, and still have hope.
Because just like He did for Job, God will answer us “out of the whirlwind”. Out of the brokenness. Out of the anger, the lost hope, the panic and fear. Maybe it will be your own personal come to Jesus moment. A “sit down and let me show you how you’ve messed up, and yet I’ve forgiven you and have plans for your hope and your future” moment. Maybe it will be a “You don’t know what I’m doing now, but one day you will understand (John 13:7)” moment.
The beautiful, hope-saturated truth is that when we find ourselves beaten down and broken, on our knees in defeat or anguish, and maybe even woefully jaded our cries of “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.” do not go unheard.
Our God is running toward us, holding us up, and continuing to prepare us for the future…to give us hope. So regardless of whether you just recently experienced the rug being yanked out from under you, or whether you’ve been in survival mode for a long period of time there is purpose in your suffering, friend.
Maybe you started out ok, bailing water out of your ship and willing it not to sink but now you’re going under. Maybe you’re already feeling like you’re too far gone in the hope-department…cynical and guarded is your new m.o. – what then?
Ephesians 6 gives us a battle cry. You are a warrior. You are a dearly loved child of the One true God, positionally already standing in a place of victory through the blood of Jesus. Even if that future reality has not yet been realized, the hope of that truth should wake you from your slumber and inject fire in your bones. You were not made to live defeated.
The spiritual warfare you are experiencing, the way it is bombarding your hope and fire-bombing your faith, is an opportunity to take a stand. I don’t care if you are completely new to following Jesus and don’t even know what the armor of God is…I don’t care if you’ve put the armor on so many times you’ve lost count or if you’re sitting there thinking “I didn’t sign up for this”.
The full arsenal of God’s power and provision are at your disposal. Right now, in this very minute. It”s yours for the taking, and when you avail yourself of it, “in all your circumstances” (Eph. 6:16) two things will occur.
- You will find strength. In the Lord and in the power of His might, you will find renewed strength to continue fighting the battle and walking in hope. You will be able to pull back the curtain and see the schemes of the enemy…you will find strength to stay the course and overcome the darkness and despair you feel surrounding you. Minute by minute. Day after day.
- You will be able to stand firm. When you’ve done all you can, you’ve searched for answers or diagnosis, you’ve been to counseling, or you’ve distanced yourself from the chaos, in that time when you can do nothing else you will be empowered to stand firm and wait for God to complete what He is allowing to transform you and rescue you from the battle. Stand firm in His power and hope.
During the darkest season of my adult life, when I lived years battling both outward and inward attack I could not have imagined the other side of the battle. I was surviving…I felt like I was hanging off the edge of a cliff for so many days. There were no quick fixes or easy answers in that season, and I spent a lot of time recovering and rebuilding. But what ultimately kept me from walking away from faith in Jesus-walking away from everything really, was the hope that God would not abandon or forsake me in those moments and He would use the story He was writing for something good.
I can’t say that I was “fully convinced” a lot of those days and months…somedays I was just happy to hit my pillow at night and close my eyes to the pain. But in His goodness, God covered the dwindling ember of my hope and faith with his hand and kept it alive. He watered the tiny mustard seed of belief I had in those years, allowing it to grow strong again, and bloom into a far deeper belief in His promises and His kindness. He restored my hope and fanned the small flame of belief into a roaring fire.
We’re called to be watchful, to stay soberly aware of the enemy who seeks to devour us. We’re told to resist him and stand firm in our faith, knowing that we will all experience suffering. (1 Peter 5: 8-9) But we are also promised that the best is always still to come – because “after you have suffered a little while, the God of grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (vs.10)
Can I encourage you today to resolve yourself to not give over your victory and reward? Your redemption story is being written even now, even in this suffering. The God of grace himself will right every wrong, pull you from the pit, and set your feet on solid ground. Your suffering is known and is familiar to our brother and friend, Jesus. And you are not alone – not without help or hope – because you are held by the Spirit within you, and surrounded by those sitting in the highest of heaven’s bleacher seats cheering you on. (Hebrews 12:1)
Whatever is stealing your hope today and whatever has happened in your life to wound you, worry you, or weary your heart – there is purpose in all of it. Hold fast. Do not hand over your hope – your confidence and trust that will bring you an unimaginable reward.
And if, like me in those dark days, you find yourself feeling too far gone and barely hanging on. Let this be your beacon of hope for today, for this minute. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown. When you walk through fires of oppression, you will not be burned up and the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43)
You are precious in His sight, and you are going to make it through this.