The idea that God more often than not equips the called rather than call the equipped has resonated with me for years. I don’t know the theology of it or how many opinions are out there on this idea, but for me it’s been an encouragement. I have very rarely felt ready or able to do what God calls me to do — marriage, parenting, ministry, life. The older I get the more I realize how much I need help, namely God’s help.
So instead of resenting or being embarrassed by the fact that I need His help, I am learning to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Turns out there’s a reason God so often calls people who are ill-equipped…
He hopes we’ll lean on Him.
He knows it is better for us to rely on Him than on ourselves. What’s too heavy for us is light for Him. What’s impossible for us is possible with Him. What’s so stinking hard to get through on our own finds a way — in Him.
I’m pretty sure that’s the big idea of this book. And it’s certainly the heart behind this chapter. After the last several weeks and all our digging-in to our disappointments and hard things of life between the two gardens, we’re discovering Lysa is God’s vessel of equipping. Through her experiences and story, we have more tools and truths at our disposal than before to navigate this life and all the sufferings that come with it.
Lysa emphasizes in the first few pages of Chapter 10 that “there are thousands of scenarios that evoke these feelings of uncertainty, fear, and exhaustion from life not being like you thought it would be” (page 179). In other words, life will rarely go as we plan or hope.
And when life derails in big and small ways, we resist. We pout. We drown in fear and doubt and disappointment.
We. Get. Tired. (amen?)
We feel a desperation to make things better or easier. We want our happily ever after. But in our moments of clarity and rational thinking, we know — we. know. — how unrealistic “easy” and “happily ever after” are.
So what are we to do?
I one hundred percent agree with Lysa — stay close to the Lord.
When life leaves us feeling lost and unsure, hurt and afraid, rather than withdraw within ourselves or allow bitterness take root, we can stay close to the Lord.
Lysa points out that the comfort we long for isn’t the solution to our seasons of suffering. Comfort will actually be the by-product of staying close to the Lord (page 181).
Then she takes it a step further:
“What if the comfort and certainties we crave today are a deadly recipe for complacency that will draw our hearts further and further away from God?” (p. 181)
Scripture offers multiple examples of how this truth plays out. Lysa looks to Israel’s Old Testament rival country, Moab, to illustrate her point.
“Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another — she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged.” Jeremiah 48:11
To the exiles of Israel, life was hard and full of great suffering. So to look across the way and see Moab sitting there in apparent comfort — a country that never loved God or followed His ways — it was tempting cry “unfair” to God and pull away from Him.
But what is seen from the outside is not always the truth on the inside.
Moab looks like it has all the good things the Israelites crave — comfort, a predictable life, rest, a home to call their own. No hardships or suffering.
Man, if life feels good, it must be good.
Or so it would seem.
If you reread the verse from Jeremiah, you realize God is trying to encourage His people by showing them that what looks good or feels good isn’t always what IS good for us.
“Wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another, means it’s been left sitting in comfort for so long that it has absorbed the aroma of complacency. Winemakers at the time of Jeremiah would pour wine form jar to jar for two reasons. First, so the wine wouldn’t absorb the flavor of the vessel. And second, to rid the wine of the dregs or the sediment that would settle into the bottom and prevent the wine from being pure” (page. 182).
The Moabites had been set in their ways, unmoved by hardship, for song long that complacency set in. Their personal satisfaction left them self-reliant and far from God. In fact, they were full of impurities because they had been “lulled into a false sense of security” (page 182).
The lesson for us here? Without change, without challenges, without disappointments, we tend to grow complacent, and that leaves us distant from God and resistant to His ways (page 182).
We have the blessing of hindsight in this story of the Israelites. We can see from our vantage point that their time in exile was not only a direct consequence of their own unfaithfulness but was an instrument of God’s grace. God extended His hand of redemption in the hope that the Israelites would allow their time of suffering in exile to strengthen them. We can look back and see their suffering was for their good.
Moab? They rotted in their complacency. They went too long without God. (see Isaiah 16)
And that’s why Lysa believes that “being lulled into a false sense of security is worse than going through the process of suffering” (page 183).
Let that statement sink in a bit.
In case we still aren’t tracking with her line of thinking, she uses the analogy of vaccines. Almost every fall I go get my flu shot. It hurts. It takes time. But I weigh the consequences — I’d rather suffer a little today so that I won’t be awful-sick for a week or more later. And to take the analogy further, Lysa points out that in getting our vaccines, we are actually putting in our bodies a little of the disease we’re trying to avoid getting. It’s ironic, isn’t it? A little of the “hard” now, helps strengthen us for later.
And, if you’re still not convinced — think about the popularity of gyms these days. The workout craze is as big as ever. Why do throngs of people choose to push their bodies to their limits, sweating, hurting, barely able to breathe? Because they believe a little pain today helps strengthen their bodies for tomorrow. And that’s a good thing.
Our challenge is to transfer this truth — a little suffering today for strength tomorrow — to our spiritual lives.
“…we have to be poured into circumstances that will result in our being transformed if we want to gain spiritual strength. In the middle of our disappointments and hard times, we must seek to be transformed into thinking biblically, processing with truth instinctively, and trusting God implicitly. We must get rid of the dregs — weakness, fear, complacency, and the hopeless resignation that all of life is unfair and God is unjust” (page 183).
If you’re tracking with this — or maybe still wrestling with it — we can’t leave it here. What’s our spiritual vaccine? Our spiritual workout? How in the world do we pause in the middle of our suffering to realize that God is at work? That God will use this situation to strengthen and transform us…for our good?
Romans 12:2 tells us that we need to stop being conformed by the world’s ways of thinking, its way of processing life, and, instead, be transformed by God’s Word and ways. We need to analyze our ways of processing life and all the things that happen to us. If it’s our first response to call “foul” and scream that life is unfair then sit in our bitterness and pain isolated from God, then we know we’re processing like the world.
We can’t forget that life between the two gardens will be hard. There will be disappointments and suffering. But we have a God who will walk with us through them.
“When we ask for God’s strength, peace, courage, and the ability to overcome and to right the wrongs, God will pour us into circumstances He knows will infuse us with the very things we’ve asked Him to give us. It’s good for us to desire these maturing qualities. And it’s good for God to give them to us. The process of acquiring these good qualities doesn’t usually feel good at the time, but it will be good in time” (page 184).
Like the Israelites, when we are desperate for God, we remain with God (page 185).
If you’ve never read Isaiah 43, now would be a great time to do so. Isaiah 43 was another word of hope for those Israelites in exile. And it’s a word of hope for us today, so Lysa encourages us — anytime we face hard things that propel us to call out to God, let’s claim that “hard time” as a “holy time” because when we call out to God, it becomes a “close-to-God time” (page 186).
Let’s choose to see our disappointments as “divine appointments” that allow us to be poured out of our “old wine jars that have kept us in stale thinking and into the new jars” where our minds can be renewed, transformed by Jesus (page 186).
Let’s choose to surrender to the work God wants to do in us. He wants to do a new thing, so let’s let Him and trust it’ll be for our good.
“…when we see that God’s purpose is good, we can trust His process is good. When we are poured out and purified, other situations that arise won’t bother us the way they used to….
We won’t get nearly as caught off guard when we trust that God is on guard looking to strengthen us for what He sees coming (page 187).
I don’t know about you, but that last line wrecks me…in a good way. There is no possible way I can see what’s coming in my life. And that means there’s no way for me to prepare myself for it. But God does. God can.
And I’m learning to trust these truths.
So can you!
Have you wondered why this chapter is called “Fighting Words?” It’s because Lysa ends this chapter with a list of six “fighting words” — six passages of truths that we can declare over any situation that we face.
Lysa got the phrase “fighting words” from a song Ellie Holcomb wrote by that title. Here’s the chorus:
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words.
The idea of using God’s truth to combat all the lies that accompany our seasons of suffering, even life’s little disappointments, is basic. It’s not a hard concept. But it’s essential. And it requires effort and intentionality on our parts. It’s really the only way to move from being stuck to transformed, from entrapment to freedom, from sorrow to joy.
“Using God’s truth as your fighting words will not change what you see, but it will absolutely will change how you see” (page 188).
Lysa’s six “fighting words” address the areas our enemy tries to gain a foothold in our lives:
- Affection — my heart, what I love
- Adoration — my mouth, what I worship
- Attention — my mind, what I focus on
- Attraction — my yes, what I desire
- Ambition — my calling, what I spend my time seeking
- Action — my choices, how I stand firm
Pages 191-202 go into great detail over each of these “fighting words,” and they include a declaration we can speak over ourselves and situations, as well as, Scriptures that impart truth over it all. This is powerful and so worth the extra effort to look it up. If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can go to Lysa’s website and download “Bonus Fighting Words.”
In her Study Guide, Lysa asks which declaration and Scripture from her list speaks to us most. Then she asks how that declaration/Scripture intersects with our current situation (page 144, Study Guide).
I challenge you to do this. When we move beyond reading about things we can do to grow and change into the realm of doing them, we actually begin the process of transformation!
For me, I loved each of the declarations, but I was able to hone in on what I needed in this season by way of the Scripture that evoked a response in me.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
In my current season of a lot of “not knowing” what I should do or what is to come, it greatly equips and encourages me to read (or shout) Lysa’s declaration for “Attention:”
“Life may be swirling all around me, threatening to steal my hope, my peace, my joy. But I am declaring right now that I will not be swept up into a storm of fear and wild emotions. The Lord has promised me that He will keep me in perfect peace when I fix my mind on Him. I very much recognize I will steer where I stare. So I must watch what I fixate on. If I keep staring at the wrong things, I’ll go in the wrong direction. I am choosing to place my attention on the Lord in this very moment. I am choosing to focus on trusting Him and believing His promises. And as I steer my attention more and more toward Him, His peace will come and flood my heart and settle my anxious mind” (page 195).
Ladies, God seeks to equip us. And Lysa has been a faithful and obedient vessel of God’s truths and ways to us. Let’s reach out and take them. Let’s engage in this process and be strengthened.
Declaring my hope in God, Shelley Johnson