The Christian life is often described as a war or battle. It’s a common comparison that most of us intrinsically understand and relate to. Onslaught is expected, thus the need for protection is a given. Ephesians 6:14-17 responds to that need by providing us with the armor we are instructed to wear in this conflict. Even further, there is an innate desire for constant momentum forward during this long combat. The pressures of such can at times seem unbearable.
I found myself recently struggling in the tension of this expectation. I was weighed down by the nagging question of how can I move forward in the midst of relentless bombardment of stresses (both new and old) with depression and its cohorts – insomnia, irritability, moodiness- joining the attack. In my pursuit to find something to bolster strength and help me gain ground, I was met with disappointing platitudes. Be joyful. I was joyful. However difficult the tension I was facing I rejoiced over the transformative work that God was doing in my life. I worshipped God for His mighty power, for His goodness, and faithfulness. I was joyful but also depressed. Be thankful. I was grateful. Gratitude was abundant for the things mentioned above and the everyday blessings I experienced both large and small. I was thankful, but also worn down. Many who have experienced depression, anxiety, stress, or other issues may relate. These things can exist in the midst of joy, gratefulness, a diligent Christian habits. Just as questions can exist in the presence of faith, but I digress. I was getting exceedingly frustrated with myself. In looking at the Word of God, the Lord redirected my attention, not to the solution I was looking for but rather my misplaced expectations.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17
In Ephesians 6:10-17, we are directed 4 times to stand in the NKJV, AMP, and GW Bible translations. The ESV translation, shown above, uses the directive to stand 3 times and further states an additional time the purpose is so that we’re able to “withstand in the evil day”. As I read through the Word the call to stand was reaffirmed over and over again. I Peter 5:9-10 states, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Here again, the concept of providing resistance and standing is asserted.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Let me be clear, these verses are not advocating inaction and neither am I. There is putting on, taking up, girding, fastening, and securing, resisting, and being firm in the faith. Seasons of waiting, withstanding, and holding the line are hard. They aren’t vacations, they are treacherous. These times are marked by prayer, reaffirming God’s promises, worship, speaking truth, bolstering faith with podcasts, books, and so much more. Yet, they can be met with well-meaning advice from onlookers that diminishes the struggle. At times it has brought me to tears to be unable to take another step and equal unable to articulate the difficulty of just standing. I want to encourage you, just as these verses encouraged me. When God calls you to stand, standing is enough. Maybe your legs are shaking and your arms tired. Maybe you are secure in the knowledge of ultimate victory, but see the chaos around you and just need a little encouragement. You are doing a good job. Do not quit. Do not faint; continue to stand. Your efforts are not wasted. Keep going! I pray that you would hear those words from those around you, but even if you don’t, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might,” and know that God speaks those words over you.