As I walked to my favorite coffee shop in downtown St. Augustine to write this post, I nestled into a fitting mental posture by reciting the word, “warrior,” over and over again. As I did, all sorts of quintessential, warrior-esque images popped into my mind's eye. I thought of Merida from Brave and Katniss from The Hunger Games and I imagined myself in my fiercest, “I'm a strong independent woman” karate pose. You know what I'm talking about? Like the kind of warrior self-image in which you're donning head-to-toe black leather with a Cat Woman-like mask and an unstoppable look on your face which declares to the world that you are ready to take on anything and everything? If you've never imagined yourself like this, give it a try. I promise, you will instantly feel like the courageous warrior that you are.
Let me begin by saying, I love this image of women as warriors. I grew up hearing, “You are a princess because you are a daughter of the King.” This is fine and sweet and fluffy and wonderful, but it just doesn't satisfy. I want to be more than a princess. I want to be a warrior.
Search “warrior” in the dictionary and you will discover this definition: “a person engaged or experienced in warfare; a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.” (1)
So a warrior doesn't just get to run around in leather pants with a bow and arrow in hand? No. A warrior is in battle. That's right, presently, in battle. This is what makes her a warrior. This is what sets her apart. She is a fighter.
And this is why, while we may be at the end of Fearless and Free in this final stage titled, “The Warrior,” we are nowhere near done. The true warrior is in a perpetual embrace with “The Wakening” and “The Wrestling.” She may be fierce, but as such, she must be prepared to be continuously engaged in some struggle or conflict.
I love this because the empowerment that comes with a warrior status is not diminished by struggle and conflict, it is defined by struggle and conflict. You cannot be a warrior without living in a present battle. This means, being a warrior does not mean you are perfect. Being a warrior means you are ready and willing to fight through brokenness.
This truth found in Fearless and Free is so important because it is real. We cannot reach the end of this study, pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate our newfound warrior status. Instead, as we end this study, we must throw on our armor (or leather pants), embrace our beloved identity and bravely step into the battle set before us. The mess won't disappear just because we now know it exists and how to deal with it. The enemy won't stop trying to take us down. We won't stop feeling broken. But now, we know how to rise strong. Now, we know how to fight back. Now, we are mature and equipped women of God.
Here's the difference: now that we are warriors, what the enemy intended to use for our destruction, the Lord will be able to use for our healing. (2) Now that we are aware of the enemy's tactics and know how to respond, “God will reshape the very thing the enemy intends to use to take [us] down into something that brings [us] growth and blessing.” (3) But, this transformation and healing won't come without some pain.
True warriors are injured in battle all of the time. True warriors recognize their weaknesses. They are humble and recognize that brokenness is okay. Warriors face triggers daily and the wrestling is ferocious.
But ladies, be encouraged in this truth that you are more than a princess. You are a warrior. Jesus died on the cross to save you and He is fighting with you and for you and before you.
Rest in the promise that despite the inevitability of future trials, the Lord will use every ounce of pain for your greater good. He has the ability to transform brokenness into blessing. He can make you whole.
So, believe that you are a warrior. Believe that you are strong. And, prepare yourself for battle. Never lose sight of the wakening and the wrestling because they comprise your identity as a beloved warrior. I pray that as you go forth, you would cling to truths and toss aside lies. Remember that, “after Good Friday, we have Easter,” and more than anything, wait in confident expectation for God's promises. He will fulfill them when you least expect Him to. I implore you - just keep fighting. (4)
In love and peace,
PS: Join me on Instagram Live this Thursday, June 21st at 10 AM EST! A willingness to dive into what it means to be a warrior is required. Leather pants and coffee are optional but highly encouraged. See you there! Oh and don't forget to send in any thoughts, questions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(2) Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Fearless and Free (Walking with Purpose, 2018), 110.
(3) Fearless and Free, 137.
(4) Fearless and Free, 137.
There is such grace in getting older. Such wisdom in perspective. When I was younger, I viewed problems as obstacles; unfair circumstances that got in the way of my living the life I believed I desired and deserved. And maybe it is not so much my age, but the fact that I feel like I have been so beaten down by trial and tragedy; beaten down to nothing, that "being small,” as St. Therese instructs us to be, is not something I choose to be on my own, but something that just happened, hit after hit, blow after blow.
But I know it is more than just that.
'Something amazing happens when I accept my hardships as a gift from Him, and ask Him HOW I can best navigate myself and my family through these troubled waters, versus WHY did you send me this trial? The moment I stop complaining, I can hear Him.'
We all have a choice as to how we respond to life's blows and disappointments, and we all know how much easier it is to make the unhealthy, unproductive, poor choice, right? We can choose bitterness or forgiveness, love or indifference, judgement or compassion, argument or discussion, blame or understanding, life or death. And more often than not, I would have to say, I think we tend to choose the not-so-great response.
Not sure about that? Go check out your Facebook account, then get back to me and tell me what you think.
Reacting out of emotion, and trust me, I speak from personal experience here, is useless. Rarely does it ever make you feel better or result in a happy resolution. It is okay to get angry, it is okay to voice our opinions, it is okay to cry and to protest and to fight for what we believe in, but there needs to be a pause button. Somewhere in between the anger and boiling blood, sometime before we sharpen our tongues and throw verbal darts at each other, we really all need to take a step back, and hit pause.
You know, when I do this...which is not as often as I should...but those times when I do this; when I take this pause and do a quick heart and soul check, you know what I find? Buried beneath the anger, hiding at the bottom of my bitter-soaked heart, I find fear. Somewhere underneath the big, loud reaction, is a small, scared voice. And I realize...I am afraid.
And yet, what do we hear Jesus say, over and over and over again?
Be not afraid. Be not afraid.
But I am. No matter how many times I read it, I still am.
Because as soon as I take my eyes off of Him, and fix them on the ocean of troubles below me, like Peter taking steps out onto the ocean, I start to sink. You see, when we refuse to respond with trust in Him, and instead, choose to cling to our reactions based on how we feel, trust flies fast out the window, and we are left to be drowned. Drowned, not by our circumstance, but by our own fear.
Turning to scripture, I find unusual encouragement in words I have failed to notice before.
We are not only instructed, "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (John 14:16)
but we are also told that these hardships we try to pray away? They are necessary.
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God." (Acts of the Apostles 14:19-28, read it all)
Do you know what necessary means?
Necessary means needed.
That thing you hate with your entire heart and soul?
That tragedy? That illness? That disaster? That heartache? That break up? That loss?
It is needed.
You NEED it.
And I can imagine, that some will read that, and shut their computer off and walk away angry. And I get it. Boy, do I get it. These are the kind of verses that tempt us to toss scripture aside, call it all crazy, and give up on God. Hard biblical sayings, often misinterpreted, have sent many running off to another place of worship, a church with “fewer rules,” or perhaps to follow some other false idol that is not so uncomfortable; one that feels good and offers immediate gratification.
Because who in their right mind wants to be told that the very thing that is weighing on their shoulders, and pressing on their chest, and keeping them up at night, and feels like it will absolutely kill them, is NECESSARY?
What kind of God does that?
And so maybe this is something for us to think about today.
Maybe you are going through a hardship right now that you see as a problem, an obstacle, an impossibility, or simply unfair. Maybe you are a victim of a misunderstanding, a injustice, a personal devastation. And if so, meditate with me, on the word necessary.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand.
Let us pray to recall that His ways are not our ways, and He works all things for good.
It has taken me years to see and believe that every single hardship that I encounter actually was, and is, necessary. This does not mean I like it. This does not mean I do not crumble beneath it all, often. This does not mean I do not get on bended knees and try to pray it all away. This does not mean I do not ever doubt or get suspicious of God's plan. Because I have done, and still do, all of this. There are more days than I care to admit, that I wish I could simply pray it all away.
But then...something happens.
Something miraculous happens when I stop yelling at God, and begging Him to change my circumstances. Something amazing happens when I accept my hardships as a gift from Him, and ask Him HOW I can best navigate myself and my family through these troubled waters, versus WHY did you send me this trial? The moment I stop complaining, I can hear Him. The moment I stop fighting His plan for me, I soften. And it is here in this place that He assures me of His faithfulness. It is here, in this hardship, that I am reminded of how much He loves me. And it is here, in this unpleasant place, that I remember that this world is not my home, and I have my eyes set on something so much better. And it is right here, where I am washed over by His merciful grace, and I am no longer afraid.
Regional Area Coordinator
Walking with Purpose
Read Laura's blog here: http://www.lauramaryphelps.com/
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
God's been doing some building in my life that has definitely caused me to wonder why He's “knocking my house about” in this way. We're in the midst of our transition from Maryland to Florida, and the number of things that have gone wrong left me sitting in the Hobby Lobby parking lot yesterday, crying my eyes out. Too much change, too much chaos, too many needs, and too little routine have not been a happy combo. For a little while, I told myself that God was teaching me to not let the little things consume me. Then I reminded myself that this is an opportunity to grow in patience. The thought that earthly frustrations help me long for heaven encouraged me for about five minutes, but at least that was something! But when we found out that our attic is full of rodents and there are poisonous snakes in the backyard, I echoed C.S. Lewis' words, “What on earth is God up to?”
Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you are experiencing a season of life when you feel tested and it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you. Just when you feel you've reached your limit, something else happens that's really overwhelming. There are hardships that we can make sense of, and then there are circumstances that leave us utterly perplexed as to God's plan, and that is a weary, achy place to be.
As much as I don't want to hear it, the truth is, God's plan is bigger and better than my own. His vision for you and me is far greater than the best game plan we can come up with. God is building us into a palace that is fit for a King. The beautiful thing is, He doesn't wait until it's perfect to move inside. He takes up residence when it's still messy and under construction, and starts to do a transforming rebuild from the inside out.
So what should we do in the midst of the pain and discomfort? These are the three tips that are keeping my head above water at the moment.
I know how impossible this sounds in the midst of chaos. But without this time of filling up and connecting with the One who loves us, we are TOAST. We might make it through the day, but we won't do it graciously or with inner peace. Write out what you're feeling in a prayer journal. God cares about your emotions. Then ask Him for whatever is the antidote to those needs. Read a little Scripture. The following verses might be consoling: Psalm 18:2; Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 63:9; Lamentations 3:22-26; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-10. I have found the devotional Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman to be a great comfort.
When our circumstances are overwhelming, our need for everyone around us to just behave goes through the roof. The smallest things start to irritate us much more than they normally would and the desire to let frustration out makes blaming others pretty tempting. It's important to remember that everyone's just doing the best they can and that everyone's got their own pain. Within a family, we need to remember that we're all on the same team. Cutting each other slack and giving each other the benefit of the doubt is really important during stressful times.
It's amazing how much better you can feel after a good cry. Sometimes you just need to get alone, have an ugly sobfest, then wash your face and put your make up on again (because walking around splotchy faced will only depress you more). Then look for some little happy thing you can do. It doesn't have to be big, but try to build something into each day that just brings delight.
As my mother told me today, this too shall pass. And each thing we endure does have a purpose, and is being used by God for something good. I'm preaching this to myself, friends. It's a hard pill to swallow when we just want things to get easier, but the truth is, when the palace has been built and we're able to see what God was up to in the midst of our trials, it'll all be worth it.
“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
2 Corinthians 4:17
Blessings in Christ,