Is it just coincidence?
Is it mere chance?
Or could it be a just plain luck?
When two events coincide – different, but connected – do we chalk it up to coincidence or as an act of a loving, purposeful, involved-and-watching-over-our-life God? Coincidence is defined by Merriam-Webster as “…the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.” Faith, on the other hand, is trust and confidence in something. For me, I place my hope and faith in God. I find solace and comfort when – at just the moment I may need – I read a word in Scripture that speaks directly and remarkably into my life.
Someone recently asked what factors may cause a person to stop seeking God. What makes someone give up their faith and hope? Of course, many reasons exist: distractions, disillusionment, pride, self-reliance, short-sightedness, distrust, and more. I offer ‘discouragement’ to the discussion mix. Because honestly, when we keep seeking, keep trusting, keep persevering, and keep hoping that God will come through for us in a situation, and He doesn’t – at least not yet – it can be difficult to hold fast and true to our faith. Our faith maybe shaken when God’s answers don’t come, and we’ve prayed and prayed and prayed like crazy that God would come through for us. And He just hasn’t. Yet.
But wait a minute.
How can a person of faith have a faith that shakes????
Is this a thing?
I would love to tell you that believers like me enjoy an unshakeable faith and hope in God. But honestly, if I said that, I would be lying.
A missionary girl like me admitting that even my faith rattles and rolls sometimes???
You see, I’m at my most vulnerable when I’ve been hammered, and hammered, and hammered and then hammered down again with discouragement. I bet you know such times. You are doing your best. Keeping the course of faith. Honoring others. Behaving in a way that is caring and loving. Making sure your words match your actions in a God-blessing kind of way. Demonstrating obedience. And no matter what you do, the attacks, the disses, the lack of acknowledgment, and the failed attempts to make a difference in life pound you down.
Every time you start to emerge from a hole of discouragement, smack! You’re hit with another assault.
Bang! “You’ll never get this right!”
Bop! “You’ll never make a difference!”
Boom! “They’ll never listen to you!”
Thud! “You’re not good enough!”
Crack! “You’ll never make it!”
Bash! “What are you thinking?! There’s no hope for you!”
Stomp! “You’re not worth it!”
Wham! “What are you doing here, anyway???”
Notice the focus of these thoughts?
None of them show any degree of faith, hope, or trust.
And that’s the problem.
When I allow my mind to be infiltrated by self-damaging, self-depreciating, self-loathing types of thoughts, I am laid low by discouragement.
And that’s where I’ve been in recent months. It’s been one, hit-bop-bang-boom-stomp, kind of season where there’s been little victory and many, many rounds of defeat. And instead of focusing on my hope and confidence in God to see our family through this time, the discouragement has laid me low.
But, today, one of those remarkable, different-but-connected events occurred. I read the first four verses of Deuteronomy 20. The title of the section is “Going to War.” Immediately, my thoughts turned to world events. The devastating, destructive, and life-impacting invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army began this week. My discouraging, present circumstances pale when placed in comparison with the life-and-death struggle of the people of Ukraine.
Yet here I am.
Here we are.
What could the Lord be saying to us, today?
When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
New International Version, Deuteronomy 20: 1-4
This was not a situation of whether an enemy would come, but when.
The danger was clear. This enemy was formidable.
Yet, despite these daunting, dominating, and overwhelming threats, the command from the Lord was clear.
Do not fear.
Do not panic.
Do not fall prey to the menacing threat of this enemy.
Then, the priests of the Lord shared strengthening words with an army in need of encouragement and hope. They extoled these promises of God:
I am with you.
I am for you.
I will fight for you.
I will give you victory.
In all honesty, can we apply these words to our present realities – or to the wars happening not only in the Ukraine, but the civil wars in Colombia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria, and Yemen? Or to the terrorist insurgency in Afghanistan, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Tunisia?
Enemy forces are at work in many nations of the world, right now.
Or what about the enemy at work in our own minds – with battles raging within us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually?
Is the Lord with us?
Is He for us?
Will He fight for us?
Will He give us victory?
Will He save us?
Do the words meant to encourage the Israelites in battle, encourage us in our own fight?
Do we believe that God can help us – especially when the opposition is daunting and overwhelming and could defeat us, and even destroy us?
The crux of the matter is our faith. Do we have a resolute faith in the Lord to believe that even if the worst possible outcome occurs, we will still trust Him? Will we still love him?
We don’t know what will happen with the Ukraine/Russian conflict and what the conclusion will be. Nor do we know what will happen in the other wars in South America, Asia, and Africa. What do we know? There is brokenness. There is suffering. Nothing truly good comes from war – only the displacement of people, harm to the environment, destruction of property, trauma to the soul, and loss of life.
And the battles within the mind?
Again, we don’t know what will ultimately happen with us – but we can determine to trust the Lord regardless of circumstance. We can choose to deny the enemy any victory within us. And that goes for discouragement, too.
Here’s the deal. We do not know what will happen tomorrow.
But, we can choose to believe that the strengthening words given to the Israelites in their battle of faith, can be offered to us, too. Because we’re all in some kind of war – physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually – at one time or another.
He is with us.
He is for us.
He will fight for us.
He will save us – that’s what Jesus came to this earth to do!
Let’s believe it – even when our faith shakes a bit.