“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Eph 6:13 (KJV)
There are certain moments in life (and at death) that we stand alone with (or without) our God, our Lord, our Savior. Setting aside the obvious moment of death and judgment in which we stand before The Great Judge either alone in our sin, or with our advocate Savior, covered by his righteousness, there are also those times in our life that cannot truly be shared even by our closest friends or family.
I say this with apology to all those who are good friends, and especially to those who are good friends to me – and to those loving family members who gather, in spirit or in body, to ease the burdens of their loved ones. Those acts do not go unnoticed, or unappreciated, but through some of life’s trials we must ultimately stand alone…or with the help of our loving Lord and Savior - who CAN share our struggle, who CAN soothe our pain, who CAN ease our burden and who CAN cure our affliction.
Do not let this discourage your impulse to actions or words of kindness and encouragement. Last Sunday, in church service, my heart was heavy and discouraged as I saw some difficult times ahead of me. As we sang songs of joy and thanksgiving for God’s help and strength and comfort, my heart was lifted but my emotions surfaced. I tried to be discrete, but the lady next to me, who I had never met, noticed – and in a small act of powerful kindness, she put her hand on my shoulder. It served as silent encouragement, not only to go to God, but the assurance that He is in control. She could not enter into my struggle, she could not ease the burden, but she silently pointed me to Christ, the one who can (I like that name for Him, The One Who Can) – and I appreciate her kindness and wisdom.
We have all felt our inadequacy when trying to help someone through dark times. What can we say? What can we do? How can we help? Sometimes there is nothing to say, nothing to do, no help to give – because in those times, it is God’s alone to provide. But coming through such trials, on the other side, the sufferer remembers the effort and the bonds of love are strengthened. But in the moment, no mortal words or actions can do more than address the periphery of daily care…each of us are left to face our struggle, our pain ourselves.
I believe God has made it so to drive us to Him. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Phil 2:12 (KJV). Doesn’t this clearly make my point? Obviously, this verse applies to our eternal salvation from sin and death. But I believe it applies, also, to salvation from the trials of the moment…and we must work out OUR OWN salvation (with fear and trembling). I infer from the phrase “fear and trembling” two things: 1) the fear of what lies ahead, knowing our inadequacy in the coming struggle. 2) that fear driving us in desperation into the awesome presence of God, and there, trembling before Him, to plead for His intercession on our behalf in the overwhelming now.
The sooner, the better. God has a plan for our lives, and a plan, a cure, for the moment. No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what it was that brought us to this place, God has a plan to bring us up and out and into greatness, grace and glory for His Name’s sake, far beyond the loss, the pain, the mental and emotional – or even bodily – suffering we face. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” James 1:2 (NASB) and again “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” Phil 1:20 (KJV) Doesn’t such earnest expectation, hope and boldness come from the certain knowledge that Christ, who faced all things – and even more, conquered all things, is fighting for us as our Champion, our Justifier, our Elder Brother – who will not suffer the neighborhood bullies (Satan and his demons) to torment His little brother or sister. Remember (and I remind myself) that doubt, fear, despair – are from the devil. And from him comes forth lies. He is the author of deceit, the creator of lies.
We can find ourselves in difficulty because of Satan’s deception “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” 2 Cor 14, 15 (NASB) We are prone to be led astray by good ideas, good people, pleasant situations, happy moments – whatever can take our eyes off Christ, His mission on this earth and His purpose for our lives.
C.S. Lewis writes about this deception of the good in “The Screwtape Letters” the apprentice demon to whom the letters are addressed is encouraged not to push his righteous target into gross sin and open rebellion, but simply to sideline his life’s purpose by “good” distractions, by pleasant company, by well meaning intentions, appealing good works – and these, Screwtape writes, are their most powerful weapons. In their deception of good, they subtly derail the inattentive Christian from loving God and serving Him, to doing merely “good” human works – good, maybe, but NOT the divine purpose for our lives.
A bit of a sideline that – something that has been on my mind of late – but I think it is always good to remind ourselves of the deceptive powers of our tormentor, the great liar, the deceiver of the whole world, Rev 12:9, and the accuser of the brethren, Rev 12:10. Think of that! The greatest of all deceptions is to accuse the blood-bought saved in Christ, making them believe that His suffering, His death, and His resurrection are of no effect, that they are NOT sanctified and blameless, but burdened with sin and guilt! The one who can put forth THAT lie is capable of any deception. To think we are able to perceive the devil in his disguises, let alone resist him in our own power is another lie that Satan whispers incessantly in our ears.
I will conclude with a snippet from one of my favorite secular songs, with parenthetical comment/correction for purposes of my illustration. This, finally, is the plea of every brother or sister in conflict and/or sorrow, to his or her brothers and sisters in Christ:
“Out on the road that lies before me now
There are some turns where I will spin (sin).
I only hope that you can hold me now (in your thoughts, your prayers, your kindness)
‘til I (not I, but my God, my Creator, my Lord and my Savior) can gain control again.”
Excerpt from ‘Til I Gain Control Again – Rodney Crowell