It’s the morning of July 11th as my alarm goes off just before 5am. Normally, I wouldn’t even set an alarm on Mondays, it’s my day off, but there’s a phone call I have to make. As I sleepily reach for my phone to call my parents, they are in route to the hospital. My dad would soon be undergoing a surgery that would require doctors to stop his heart, replace a valve as machines keep him alive, and kick everything back into gear a few hours later. It was an open heart surgery, and it was planned.
Following the surgery, however, doctors couldn’t bring down the sedation without my dads vitals and limbs going wild. This––this was not planned. Over the next nine days, he laid in unconscious in ICU, baffled doctors with a fever of 103, and contracted three strands of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections from the hospital. My mom sat by his side, my brother held down the household, and I was three thousand miles away from home. Needless to say, this was definitely not in the plan.
Now from the moment that things got complicated, I had complete freedom from my leaders and my team to go if I felt the need. Even the way to get there was provided for me once my relative offered me their frequent flier miles. But as I was praying through every stage and every plot twist, I didn’t feel led to go.
This felt so counterintuitive. Everything was lined up to go, but I felt in my heart stay. I had a few emotional moments, but even in my humanity, I experienced the supernatural peace that the New Testament write Paul describes in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I literally couldn’t wrap my mind around the peace that I had about the whole situation.
Sometimes I even felt guilty for not being more grieved by the situation, or not hopping on the next flight home from the start. I remember talking with leaders and close friends about how I was processing everything, and realizing that maybe this is how we are supposed to feel if we are trusting God when things are out of our control. I think culture has given us a twisted view of dealing with challenges and change, charging us to handle the battle ourselves. Mainstream thinking teaches us to rush into battle––hands gripping our swords, adrenaline pumping, ready to swing––cue the 300 soundtrack. We have this glamorous idea of being a one woman war hero, the bravest warrior to stand in the face of change. But what if the battle isn’t ours to fight?
God, though His Word, teaches us another way. His pattern for marching orders can be seen threaded throughout scripture. Let’s take a look at three of the principles God reveals to us about what to do when they battle is beyond us:
Know He Goes Before Us, With Us, And Behind Us
The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.
The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.
You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the Lord will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind.
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
These are just a few verses with promises we can stand on. If you want to read some specific stories he demonstrated this for his people, read Isaiah 45:1-13, Exodus 13-14, and 2 Samuel 5:23-25.
His promise to us in scripture is that He won’t lead us into a war that He isn’t present for. He doesn’t push us into the frontline, He goes first. He doesn’t leave us vulnerable, He has our back. Our confidence comes from knowing He has us covered on all sides. These are verses that I held to while I carried on my normal flow of work and life on one coast, while it felt like my family was across battle lines on the other. I prayed, fasted, and trusted that God was working where I couldn’t see, all the way through the process. I didn’t go to be with my family until 21 days after my dad’s surgery. I didn’t want to make a move until I heard His sweet, urgent whisper in my heart saying, now go, knowing that He prepared my way.
Praise Goes First
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Which tribe should go first to attack the Canaanites?” The Lord answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.”
Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?” The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”
Whether I face crisis, stress, or just feeling down, one of my greatest means of achieving release and trust has always been praise and worship. I never fully understood just how biblical that was until my pastor taught on this concept the week before I flew home. From before his surgery to after his release (yes, spoiler alert, he is much better now), praise was how I settled my anxious heart, silenced the doubt, and spoke truth right into my fears. In these passages, we see the people of Israel ask God in two instances which tribe should go first into battle. Both times, God’s answer was the tribe of Judah. Judah is translated to mean praise in English. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of how praise should go first? We can see incredible victory when we choose to enter the battles of life with praise.
Don’t Strike When You Should Speak
…the Lord said to Moses, “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.” So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?”Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”
Alright, I know this one seems harsh. But bear with me as we unpack the significance of this moment. Moses came to God seeking His direction and miracle-working power to provide for the people of Israel. All he had to do was speak to a rock, and God would be glorified before the people. When it came time to follow through, did you catch what happened? “Must we bring you water from this rock?”Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock…” Moses trusted that God would provide, but he still took matters into his own hands. I can think back on my life to so many times where I believed in God’s promised outcome, but I tried taking action to expedite the process. Moses’ action, striking instead of speaking, caused the attention to turn from divinity to humanity––from God to Moses and Aaron. How many times do we strike when we should speak? Yes, I could have flew home immediately and rushed into my own battle, and the outcome may have been the same. But because I followed God’s instruction in this situation and held back from “striking”, I witnessed God move in some personal and powerful ways that bring Him glory, both now and for years to come.
God gives us His Word, our most powerful weapon in any battle. Ephesians 6:17 describes it as a sword, completing our spiritual armor. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that it is the best of the best, “sharper than any double-edged sword”. It is meant to be spoken over our lives, our fears, our dreams, and every circumstance. When we speak His Word, it is a change agent for our challenges. More effective than any strike in our own might, His Word renders our enemies defenseless.
With God as our mighty warrior and His Word as our sword, there is no battle that we have to face feeling defeated. Although culture pushes us to rush into battle, God teaches us a different approach. It’s one that is fully reliant on Him, because no matter how out of control our situation feels, He has ultimate control. It is counterintuitive, but it’s still brave and still valiant. It takes courage to sit back and trust and to claim God’s promises in the midst of change. But I believe you can do it, friends. So march forward with unshakable confidence, being sure of this: His way always leads to victory.