You are my king and my God. You command the victories for your people. Only by Your power can we push back our enemies; only in Your name can we trample our foes. I do not trust my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me.
– Psalm 44:4-6
2014 is here! Are we all excited? I’m not sure why, but I always feel a little bit of excitement when the new year hits. It could be that “clean slate” feeling of a year that is unmarred by mistakes. Possibilities are there that are just waiting for me to grab and enjoy. The date of January 1 just makes me feel like I did as a kid and I gave my Etch-a Sketch a really good shaking – Everything is reset! what can I do with this?
I think reality hits somewhere around the 5th of January. I am finally getting back into the groove after the holidays, vacations are too far away to start getting excited, and I am locked in my house for the winter. It gives me a chance to think a little more about the year behind as well as the year ahead.
I started a little early this year in my look back. 2013 was a very busy year. We had a ton of fun on some trips that we took over the summer. We saw some pretty radical changes in our jobs. We watched our kids take some big steps as young adults. God saw fit to bless us in some big ways too.
We also had to deal with some tough stuff. We had some friends that moved away. We had some pretty significant vehicle problems. We had friends that had to deal with the loss of a loved one. We experienced some rough spots with some friends. Things are not always “fun” in life, but nobody ever promised it would be.
“Things are not always “fun” in life, but nobody ever promised it would be.”
One of the tough things about life is relationships. Sometimes they are a lot of fun, but other times… You know what I mean. We all have people in our lives that can cause us some discomfort, irritation, or annoyance, but it is not very often that we would put someone squarely in the category of “enemy”. Over the last few years, I have been dealing with a person I would put in that category. Dealing with this person has shown me a real area of character development that I have needed, and while I would not begin to call it a strength, it is getting stronger.
My enemy seemed to do whatever they could to set me up in order to tear me down. It seemed like every time I would be around them, I would have to keep my eyes open for that bus that I would inevitably be thrown under. It made things very hard. Not only was it hard to deal with that person, but with anyone associated with that person. Every word that came out of my mouth needed to be tempered, filtered, sanitized, and clarified so that it would HOPEFULLY not come back to cut me at the ankles.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not overcome this bad relationship. No matter what I did, I could not win over this enemy. I would plan, act, assess, adapt, and act again. I would confront and then retreat to lick my wounds. I would avoid in hopes of not being forced into an argument. Everything I did blew up in my face. I finally gave up, accepted that I could do nothing, and did the only thing that was left for me to do.
I prayed. I prayed a lot. I’m not talking about lofty King James Version type prayers that are meant for inspiration and comfort. These were gritty King David prayers where I was almost asking for bones to be broken and the blood of my enemies to run cold at the sound of God’s voice coming to my defense. Were they selfish prayers? Maybe a little at first.
“I prayed. I prayed a lot.”
As time went on the prayers changed as I changed. The prayers started as a childish whine, begging God to step in and fix this because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I was being mistreated, and I hated it. I was angry that I was in the situation with this person, and I saw the entire thing as unfair. As time went on, I began to see things in a different light. I was not angry anymore. I was just tired. I had given my all, and I had come up short. It was a hard pill to swallow. I didn’t want justice anymore, I was just praying for God to show me the way out. I wanted peace, and I wanted Him to take me away. He had another plan.
As the months went by, I just kept praying that I would do the things that God has asked me to do. I would not look for trouble. I would not antagonize, I would turn the other cheek, I would not avoid or give reason to doubt me. I was honest, kind, and supportive to this person. It was not because I was trying an angle. I was just trying to be as Christ like as I could with my enemy. I figured Christ was perfect, and was crucified, and since I am not perfect, anything less than an actual crucifixion would be okay.
This past year, something finally changed. My enemy changed. While they still may not be a close friend, I can honestly say that I no longer see them as someone who is out to bring me harm. I have enjoyed some great conversations with them that have given me a reassurance that they now see me in a different light as well. I have a peace with them that did not come through me.
You might argue that I did the right things, and that is why things worked out, but I don’t believe that. I had used my bow. I had used my sword. I had used all the strength I had in me, and I came up short. The only thing I did right was that I stayed under the load and gave the fight to God. He gave me the victory.
“The only thing I did right was that I stayed under the load and gave the fight to God.”
I’m not saying there aren’t times to fight. There are. As I look ahead to this “blank slate” of a year, I already see some looming battles on the horizon. Most of them will be battles that will be waged privately with my own selfish desires, but there are more coming. I can’t say I see enemies, but I see opportunities to stand and do the right thing. I see chances to speak the truth in love where it may not be wanted. I see struggle, and I have a choice to make.
I have a weakness in me that demands my voice to be heard and my rights to be upheld. I seek justice for myself and the conviction of those who have brought things against me. That is not the man I want to be. That is not Christ.
I want to be relentless in my growth in Christ. I want to go after the things He has for my life with all the power I have. But I also need to remember that there are battles that I will be involved in where my role is to endure as God does the work around me even while I am hurting. It will take discipline, hard work, sweat, and probably some tears. I’m not going to give up though. I have had the taste of a victory.
In HIS Grip,