By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
When I sit down to flesh out an article, it is customary that I consider my audience and often share a personal story that may resonate with the readers and offer them a common ground to build upon. I’ll admit this article’s journey wasn’t as simple. When I sat down to ponder the contents of this piece, I wondered what battle I would expound upon. What would resonate with you most deeply? Would it be the myriad of challenges I encountered while navigating single parenthood? Would I discuss my years of childhood sexual assault? Perhaps the severe beatings or the alcoholic father would find words on this page that would move you. Maybe I’d talk about the year I lost everything I owned in a catastrophic Louisiana flood, so that you would know you are not alone in your own loss. Maybe I’d get even more personal and share the complexities of parenting teenagers, adult children, ministry, marriage, or becoming a mother-in-law. Here is where I have landed. It is sufficient to simply say life’s hard. It’s messy. It wasn’t easy surviving the many challenges mentioned above or the many that weren’t. However, do you know what I have finally accepted? My tomorrow will likely not be easy either. Every day will present its own battles, but I know a God who is an expert in war!
I am certain your battles have not been easy, and your tomorrow will likely be hit with additional battles, just like mine. The challenges in your life, job, children, finances, and relationships are complex and multi-faceted. Life is a series of battles. Some days the battleground is quiet, while other days roar with the screams of angry teens or overbearing bosses or immense grief or hurtful words from church friends or otherwise. My greatest desire is that we learn to battle well, that we would learn to move from strength to strength and glory to glory. We must learn to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living as we sojourn the battlefield.
How does one have the strength to move on from the depths of pain produced in the battlefield? How does one endure a traumatic loss and find hope again? How does one battle cancer and learn to laugh again?
You need to know that strength is not about your battle. It is more about what you do while you are in the midst of it. We must get good at the battle. It’s coming. Strength requires different weapons at various intervals. Strength will require you to let the past go. It will require you to forgive. It will require a quiet response when they gossip or lie. It will require prayer in the midst of the biggest problems of your life. It will require a shout of praise when there’s seemingly nothing worth shouting about. Strength is about being faith-filled, despite the raging winds of fear.
Here are some things the Lord has taught in the midst of my most intense battles:
1. Persevere despite how you feel.
There have been many seasons and many battles in my life that seemed too great to endure. The raging waves came, time and again, crashing over me with barely a moment to catch my breath before another came to take me down. I have drawn the white flag from my pocket more than once, certain I would throw it at any moment. But God has sustained me. When I thought my rebellious teenagers were going to take me out, he gave me just one more fight in me. When the critics of the ministry were loud, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. When the pain of grief and loss put me on my knees, and I thought I couldn’t cry another tear, my Father lifted my head.
Perseverance is about the power of God rising up on the inside of us to hold us when we feel weak. That power won’t allow us to quit. That’s true strength. Strength in the battle is about pushing through when everything in you screams quit! Strength is fighting when it seems fruitless. Hell hath no fury like a man or woman of God who chooses to rise up, pray, praise, and persevere. To tap into that power that allows you to refuse to quit, get good at praise and prayer. Get good at learning what the Word says about you.
2. Strength is developed through hardship.
We really do not like to hear that, do we? But the strength muscle is developed when we have something to be strong in! When I see women who can do fifty push-ups, I admire that (especially since this girl has never successfully pushed past about ten!) I recognize that it took some practice to achieve that strength. Your strength will come through battles. It will come through experience. Strength is not developed on the mountaintop when everything that your feet touch is blessed, and the victory flag is swiftly flowing through the wind. No, it is developed when you are surrounded on all sides, and the power of your God shows up and shocks you. God is developing strength – deep in the depths of your soul, and the hardship will be worth it. As you are in the midst of yet another battle, remind yourself that you will arrive on the other side stronger than when you went in. There may be some war wounds, but they will make for powerful stories of God’s faithfulness.
3. Our weakness glorifies God.
The world has taught us weakness is a flaw. Vulnerability is to be mocked and trampled. However, our weakness boasts of God’s glory. Our strength is not our own. Any victory is by the power of a faithful God. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gotten into a whole heap of trouble when I try to battle in my own strength. My own strength will leave me exhausted and defeated. But the strength of God? Well, that strength is promised victory. It’s not by our strength, but by His spirit. Strength is not about doing church well or pretending we have it all together or perfection. The strength of God is not about legalism, traditionalism, or a set of rules. Strength is about having an encounter with our King. Strength understands the God we belong to, who set the sun in the sky, the stars in the night, and commands the sea with the sounds of His voice and speaks peace to the storm. Strength is not about how good we are or how fast we run; it’s about how holy and good and powerful He is.
4. Strength doesn’t always look like we think it should.
Strength will come in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. Maybe you have been praying for days, weeks, or years about a situation and often become weary. But all of a sudden, in a day, in a moment, God shows up on the scene and does the miraculous. I am reminded of the story of the dying servant in Luke 7:1-10. The Roman Officer sent for Jesus to come to heal his servant. Ultimately, the servant is healed, but he is not healed when Jesus prays for him, fasts, lays hands on him, or even sees him. He is healed by the faith of the Roman Officer. That seemed strange to me, to be honest. He didn’t do anything to be healed except ask, and it didn’t come in the traditional form that maybe I thought it should. But the healing and strength came, nonetheless. Someone reading today just needs to know that God sees you and that He will work things out for your good, in His timing, His way. The end of the battle will likely be at a different time than you expect, and the results will likely be different than you expected, as well. But do you know what I know for certain? Our God is in the beauty-from-ashes business. The mess of our battles gives him a prime position to birth the most beautiful of testimonies.
5. You are promised victory.
As a son or daughter of the King, you are an heir of His authority. When we walk in authority, the authority Jesus paid for us to have, our perspective shifts, and we see ourselves differently. We see ourselves as stronger. We see that the enemy must flee. We see that though the wall is tall, it falls. We see that though 10,000 encamp around us, they all fall. We see our purposes become bigger. There may be many dark days where victory doesn’t seem evident from any side. I’m sure Moses knew something about that. Daniel and Joseph and David could probably all relate. But we know the end of their stories. The end of your story will be no different.
Here are a few encouraging Scriptures that I go back to in the height of my own battles.
Isaiah 41:9-10: “I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying you are my servant. For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."
Isaiah 45:5-7: “I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord; there is no other. I create the light and make darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does the things.”
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Tim Bogdanov
Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others.