I have witnessed the constant, unwavering faithfulness of God through every circumstance of my life. Some circumstances were filled with joy and wonder, while others were not. Like every Christian, I have faced some moments of deep, dark tragedy and turmoil. Yet, in every situation, God has sustained and strengthened me to face and overcome those trials.
That is the absolute truth.
But as I sit and look at the trite, almost picture perfect image conveyed through the words of my previous paragraph, I can recall the fear, anguish, doubt, weariness, isolation, and despair that attacked me in the midst of those life storms. In essence, it’s easy to talk about the battle once the victory has been won, but actually living through life’s battles is a whole other story.
Not everyone sees the other, tougher side of the story; they only see the victory when the storm abates. That is why the world often seeks out Christians during times of need. They know we have something, some source of strength that they need. What they do not understand is that we have no power, strength, or hope on our own.
In fact, without Christ, we are basically playing defense in a very offensive world.
Even that phrase - playing defense in an offensive world – is not my own. I heard His sweet Spirit speak that statement to me during a private pity party.
“Why, Lord? Why do I have to face this again?” I whined. “Why me? Why now? I am already so tired, and I feel like it’s a losing battle. Why does it have to be so hard?”
That was the exact moment when He quietly gave me a picture of our younger son back during his high school basketball days.
Chris has always been an athlete. He excelled at soccer and football, but his favorite sport was always baseball. He loved trying new sports though and usually excelled in whatever he attempted, like the time he tried pole-vaulting as a lark and ended up being a division champ.
Mainly, Chris just liked competing for the sake of competition. So, he was more than willing to try his hand at basketball when the high school coach asked. He had always loved playing hoops at home, so he figured it would be fun.
Our school had an awesome team that year, filled with several offensive stars. The coach simply wanted our tall, coordinated son to play defense and be the rebounder. If Chris rebounded well and kept that ball going back to those other guys, the team could not fail.
Not only did Chris rebound well, he learned to fearlessly draw those fouls, resulting in key players on other teams getting into foul trouble quickly. Chris rarely fouled out, but even then, the rebounds he made before his exit still helped.
That was the picture God gave me – Chris standing under the goal, rebounding the ball over and over.
Now, like all moms, I enjoy a trip down memory lane when it involves my kids, but I knew God well enough to know He had a lesson in mind for me, so I waited and listened.
Then, all of a sudden, I remembered that Chris only played high school basketball one year because he said it was just no fun playing defense all the time. I totally concur; it is no fun. In fact, it’s absolutely exhausting. So again, I asked the Lord, “Why does it have to be so hard?”
He directed me to read Ephesians 6:10-18:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
After close examination, most of these pieces of armor are defensive articles. The only real offensive weaponry God instructs us to use is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Other than Scripture, we can only advance in battle through prayer in the Spirit.
The Word and prayer; prayer and the Word. That’s it? Seriously, was this the point of my trip down memory lane through the basketball analogy?
I have to admit, I was a bit peeved at this point. Then, I realized that I had been neglecting those two items in my hectic, hustle and bustle of daily life. I really had let them both slide, so no wonder I was spiritually drained. And no wonder I felt like I was fighting a losing battle – I was.
I had been exhausting myself by trying to constantly defend my ground rather than taking some new territory. I was stagnant because my prayer life and Bible study were stagnant. It was time to get back to reading and speaking His Word in consistent prayer.
No more playing defense in this horribly offensive world. It was time to put on the whole armor of God.