"We are human but we don't wage war as humans do. We use God's mighty weapons, not worldly weapons to knock down strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Having been a pastor's kid and growing up in the church I have heard may sermons preached on this scripture and have gotten many interpretations of what became known as spiritual warfare. As a child I pretty much accepted what was taught at face value. As an adult, I still believe and respect my early teaching; however, more recently, in the midst of some very difficult circumstances, I am finding a new dimension of this concept that goes beyond anything I have ever been taught. While, prayer, reading, meditating, and speaking God's word, and resisting evil head on will always be the building blocks for spiritual warfare, what I have learned through more recent battles is that such wars are won not necessarily from a change in bad circumstances (although God is more than able to change those circumstances) as much as in how we respond to those circumstances. In other words the weapons are the same but the goal is not so much to change the circumstances as much as it is to change me.
Have you ever felt that bad circumstances tend repeat themselves? I have. Many years ago I started a Chiropractic practice with big dreams but very little money, no plan, and no business experience. Things went extremely well at first. People came, I took care of them, they got good results and I got paid. I was single and childless at the time, and so I often arrived early, stayed late, and put all of my energy into building the practice. I loved what I did and I loved my patients so there was almost nothing I would not do for them. Then the road became bumpy, and I began to face some obstacles that I did not anticipate, some due to circumstances beyond my control and others due to my lack of knowledge of running a business as well as not having a solid plan. My practice began to suffer as a result and my patient base took a nosedive. Nearly 5 years after I opened, I closed the practice with $7500 in IRS debt. I was a month behind on my office rent, and 3 months behind on my house rent. I was heartbroken, felt like an absolute failure, and was sure my career chances were ruined. I am not proud to admit that I did not even have the heart to inform most of my patients before I closed my doors. I did not know what the future held for me or whether I was going to be homeless the next day.
Well, I did survive and some 9 years later, thanks to a not so pleasant change of circumstances at the job I have held for the last 9 years, discovering the 48 Days resources, and some wonderful coaching, I renewed my passion for Chiropractic. January of this year I went back into practice but this time things were different. This time I was armed with the knowledge of my passions, core strengths, and weaknesses as well as a mission statement and a plan. This time, though I still had very little capital, I was armed some valuable business principles and a new attitude. I was determined to do things the right way. I followed my plan, made sure I withheld for taxes, and kept accurate and detailed records. I set goals and even took a course to get an additional certification. I set boundaries, took time away from practice, and did not try to be all things to all people. Things were going to be different this time; I was sure of it. And then the road began to get bumpy again as I began to face some of the same challenges I had before in addition to some new ones. I was also hit with some other more personal issues and a couple family health scares. All of a sudden history seemed to be repeating itself and I began to feel that same sick panicky feeling I had felt so many times before. Why were these things happening again?
And so I did what I have become accustomed to doing in these last few months. During my lunch breaks I went to the botanical garden a couple miles from my office and just walked and poured out my heart to God. At first it was just me whining and complaining about my circumstances, asking why, and begging God to do something. I could not hear him speaking for all of my complaining. I could not sense his presence beyond my fears. And in my ignorance I demanded as the disciples in the boat that night did in the midst of a severe storm while Jesus was sleeping, "Lord, don't you care that we are going to drown!!?" (Mark 4:38).
Then one day I was exhausted and did not have even have the strength to pray. So I just walked and took in the sights, sounds, and smells of the garden. Things had not changed and some things even seemed to have gotten worse. I was not sure how things were going to turn out. Still I walked, but I did not pray/complain. On the outside I was quiet but things on the inside were far from peaceful. As I walked by one of the many waterfalls in the garden it was then that God spoke. He took me back in the history to several other incidents in my life when my world was turned upside down and I thought my life would end.... the time back when my mother died of cancer when I was 9, Not being accepted into my number one choice of a college, being homeless for a period of time during my college years, being fired from the my very first Chiropractic job, a broken engagement 4 just months before the wedding, Not being able to conceive after trying for 18 months and then finally getting pregnant only to miscarry at 9 weeks.. etc.
On and on he went, reminding me of how He had been with me each time and my life did not in fact end. In some cases, losing one thing brought about something much better. Three years after my broken engagement, I met the man who would become my husband and I was so glad that I had not married the first guy. Two months after my miscarriage I became pregnant again and gave birth to a healthy baby boy at age 45. Sometimes the circumstance turned around for the better, sometimes not. Sometimes, the bad circumstance did not change but opened the doors to a whole new direction in life. My mother never recovered from cancer and I was devastated but it also fueled in me a strong desire to pursue a career in healthcare. Having an injury on the job in my senior year of college led me to a chiropractor for the very first time and ultimately into a career in that same field. Sometimes there was never an explanation for the circumstance and I just had to move on.
It was also during that eventful walk that God showed me that one rather destructive habit that I had developed over the years was to become so overcome by fear that I became paralyzed and shut down. Rather than dealing with things head on, I would just give up and withdraw. I can remember after my mom died, I withdrew within myself for a long time and did not speak to anyone. Three years after she died my dad remarried a woman of a totally different nationality, culture, and religion. Things were very stormy in the marriage during the early years to say the least and when things really got tense I can remember just crawling into the closet in my bedroom and sitting in the dark. I would sit there for hours and withdraw into my own little world of imaginary friends until someone noticed that I was missing and came to look for me. While hiding away sometimes can be a good and productive thing when it is used to refresh, renew, and hear from God, it was never meant to be a total escape from reality and dealing with difficult circumstances. And although I had survived the circumstances, in many cases I did not thrive or fully realize God's best for me. Many times I failed to enter the promised land because I either froze in fear and failed to act or shrank back and played it too safe. While it is not wrong to be afraid, I sensed that this time God was teaching me to push through the fear and keep moving forward.
Even if history were repeating itself in this present situation, things could be indeed be different this time, but it would not be due so much due to an immediate change in circumstances as much as in how I responded to those circumstances. One of the favorite tactics of our enemy, the devil, (especially in the midst of circumstances that seem familiar) is to remind us of how miserably we failed the last time a similar thing happened, make us feel as if we are all alone in what we are facing, and convince us to freeze and do nothing because there is no way out. But what would happen if instead of cowering in fear we chose to rise up in faith each time? What would happen if we chose to employ a bit of selective memory when he reminds us of our failure? We don't have to forget the circumstance itself but we can selectively choose to forget the failure and choose instead to focus on what we learned from that failure and how we were were changed for the better. In fact, the victories gained from the battle and even the lessons learned from the failures and the scars can be powerful weapons against future failures. There is a reason God chooses not to remember our sins, and perhaps we should follow suit more often.
While I still do not know what the outcome of my circumstances will be, ever since that day, I have determined that things will be different because my response will be different and God is with me. Yes, I confess that the last few weeks I have been paralyzed by fear and have pulled back from the things I knew to do in practice building and at home. But tomorrow is a new day with new mercies and though I still feel the fear, I do not have to be overcome by it and can move forward regardless. I can respond differently this time. And that is a powerful weapon for me.