February 21, 2020

A Fight Of Faith

Last year I wrote about struggles I was facing, and compared them with a boxing match. Today, I feel like I am in the twelfth round of a fifteen-rounder.  I thought I would revisit this again. Does anyone else feel as if they are in the ring right now?

It stood to reason that a struggle with the Devil meant a spiritual struggle … the notion of a physical combat was fit only for a savage. If only it were as simple as that. (Perelandra by C.S. Lewis)

I have been watching a lot of boxing on TV lately. I’ve always liked boxing-–”the sweet science”–-but had not really watched much in the past few years. Not much has changed though. You still have two men (I have yet to watch two women square off in the ring) who are nearly equal in weight spend three minutes at a time trying their best to hit the other in just the right way to knock him to the ground, hopefully to stay. While it can look brutish and needlessly violent, there really is a lot more science and math involved in boxing than there is raw strength. A skilled fighter can take down a stronger but unskilled fighter every time.

I have been watching a lot of boxing, but I feel like I have been in the ring myself much of this week. The past several weeks, in fact. Maybe the last couple of months. And I feel neither skilled nor strong. I have been battered and beaten, and right now am struggling to make it to my feet before the referee counts to ten. Who knew that when Paul wrote to Timothy about fighting the good fight of faith he meant it would be a real fight.

I am not talking about “spiritual warfare” here, or at least not in the way those words have been misused over the last couple of decades. This is not about hunting demons in your laundry basket or anything like that. As Lewis says, if only it were as simple as that. Smith Wigglesworth supposedly was awakened one night to sense a demon at the foot of his bed. His response? “Oh, it’s just you.” Then he rolled over and went back to sleep.

This is a spiritual battle I am in, no doubt about it. But because we are triune beings–spirit, soul, body–and all three are interconnected, the battle spills over into the soul and body as well. Or maybe it began in the soul. I’m not really sure at this point. And I don’t know that it really matters. All I know is the bell is ringing for the start of the next round, and I am trying to find a way not to get my head bashed in. When I am fighting with my emotions, it affects my body. My back aches so badly I cannot sleep. And without sleep, my emotions are a wreck the next day. And both the physical and emotional pain keeps me from being sensitive of spirit in listening for the still, small voice of the Lord. So this is a “whole man” fight, if you will. I cannot just say it is affecting me mentally or emotionally and the rest of me is fine. No, it is a battle that affects all of me.

I am not going to go into details as to what my battle is about. Does it matter? Not to you, I’m sure. You have your own battles. What I find amazing is the number of Christians I encounter who seem to waltz through life always “living in victory,” celebrating the fact they are “overcomers” and never, ever suffering defeat. I see their faces on books telling me that they have the secret for the victorious life, that my miracle is just around the corner, that the breakthrough God wants to give me is just about here. If I watched religious TV-–which, other than EWTN, I never do–-I would hear them sharing their stories of how they walk in abundance and prosperity 24/7.

It makes me want to take them into the ring for a three-minute dance.

We all face battles. If you are not in a fight for your life right now, you soon will be. Anyone who says differently than that is a liar, a fool, or dead. Biologists will tell you that struggle is the only sign of life in living organisms. And just because one trusts Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and enters into a life of following Jesus as a disciple does not excuse that one from life’s struggles. Life is hell much of the time, for the Christian or the non-Christian. It is an endless boxing match, wearing us down to where we think we cannot go on.

When you said this was a fight
You weren’t kidding
When you said this was a fight
You weren’t kidding, kidding
‘Cuz my ribs are bruised
And it’s just round two

Sara Groves wrote these words for her song, The Boxer. It is from the heart of a believer crying out to God. Walking in this life is hard, God. It feels like I am in an awful fight. Just round two and already I am having trouble breathing from these bruised ribs.

When you said this was a fight
You weren’t kidding
When you said this was a fight
You were not kidding
‘Cuz there’s a cut on my eye
And it’s just round five

Now I have a cut over my eye. This is the worst possible place for a boxer to take a cut. The nose, the ear, the cheek–yes, there is a lot of blood, but that is just cosmetic. When there is a cut over the eye, blood streams into the eye so the boxer can’t see. And if he can’t see, how will he defend himself from the next punch about to be thrown?

And I used to be quick
I used to see it coming
I used to know how to move my feet
Now I can’t duck
And I can’t land nothin’
And I forgot how to bob and weave
Bob and weave

The boxer who lives to fight another day is one who keeps his feet and shoulders and head moving. He ducks punches, he weaves with his feet and bobs with his torso. But when his stamina and strength give out, he stands still like a statue and takes punch after punch. It is brutal to watch. A fight I saw this weekend had a fighter wearing black trunks and a fighter wearing black with a white stripe. They were fairly evenly matched through the first five rounds. In round six, you could see that white stripe was flagging-–he was not as fast as he had been, spent more time trying to clinch with black trunks just to keep the round going. Soon black trunks had white stripe against the ropes and landed a left jab to the head. The only thing that kept white stripe from falling over were the ropes. Black trunks reared back and hit him again with another hard left. And again. The fight should have been stopped right there. Three, four, five more punches. Why is the ref not stopping this thing? Six, seven. Even black trunks was wondering why he was still punching. Eight. Where is the ref? Nine. White stripes slipped down the ropes and fell out toward the floor. If the referee had not caught his feet, he would have fallen all the way out of the ring. A brutal beat-down.

I feel like white stripe right about now.

When you said this was a fight
You weren’t kidding
When you said this was a fight
You weren’t kidding, kidding, kidding
‘Cuz this room’s in a spin
And it’s just round ten

Just round ten? There are more to go? How much longer, Lord-–how much longer?

If you care at all
Take that towel from your neck
‘Cuz I’ve reached down deep
And there is nothing left
I’ve got nothing
I’ve got nothing
I’ve got nothing

I am ready for God to toss in the towel. I have had about all I can take. Why won’t he throw the towel?

And I was talkin’ big
I was talkin’
But now, now what?

Greater is He who is in me
Greater is He who is in me
Okay, okay, okay
Greater is He who is in me
Greater is He who is in me
Greater, greater, okay

Oh, I can talk the talk all right. I have been around long enough to be able to wear the Christian mask and say all the right things about how God is my victory and all that. And I can make you believe it as I say it. Greater is he, etc. etc. But it ain’t the truth. And if I let you get close enough to me, you would see the bruises and cuts and know I am lying. So I don’t let you get close. I isolate myself and say I am “praying about it.” But I want, long for, something real. Something that will help me to keep my hands up, to get my feet to move again.

And I can’t just know it
I’ve got to feel it
And I can’t just feel it
I’ve got to believe it
And I can’t just believe it
I’ve got to live it
And I can’t just live it
(You’ve got, you’ve got to believe it)

Obedience comes easily for me. I can obey God without too much trouble. I obey out of my will. And I can be pretty strong-willed at times. It’s trust that is so much harder for me. Trusting God is a lot more difficult for me than obeying God. Trusting means standing on something I can’t see and that I have no control over. It means staggering in the ring with a blindfold on, trusting the Spirit to guide my hands and feet. (Imagine Luke donning the blaster shield helmet while practicing with his light saber. Or don’t, if you don’t like Star Wars illustrations.) It is trusting God for something that is not only improbable, but is seemingly impossible.

I’m not going to end this on a happy note, I’m sorry to say. I don’t have any nice answers. If I did, I would apply them to myself and get out of the ring. I am tired of being hit, tired of being knocked down and told to get back on my feet, tired of the blood and the cuts. I’m tired. The enemy I am fighting is not so much the enemy of our souls as it is garbage and junk and anger and frustrations I have let build up in my soul over the years. These are principalities and powers just as much as demons are. Or maybe these emotions are demons. I don’t really know, and to tell the truth, I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter to me. A punch thrown is a punch thrown. But to give up now means to climb out of the ring, bloodied and bruised and broken, but with nothing to show for it. So I stay and fight another round.

I don’t have the victory. I don’t really feel much like an overcomer. I have landed a few good jabs, and once a solid uppercut, but my opponent is still standing. I have a great Corner Man-–the Holy Spirit-–and I have heard encouragement once or twice from the crowd. I have ignored those who are hawking their wares in the aisle (Get your red hot Seven Secrets To A Victorious Life book! Get your His Pain, Your Gain t-shirt! Get your I’m Walking In Abundance CD!) and concentrated on standing until the bell sounds. I think I have given up trying to win this fight. Right now, I just want to survive.

Does anyone else ever feel like this?

(The Boxer lyrics used by permission from Sara and Troy Groves. You can hear it on her album The Other Side Of Something. Sara is one of the very few Christian musicians and songwriters I listen to. Why? She is real, that’s why.)

 

Comments

  1. I feel like that quite often.

    It’s so odd. I love life and then I hate life… almost simultaneously.

    Things haven’t worked out in life quite the way I had hoped. But the next one(life) will hopefully be a BIG improvement.

    Hang in there, Jeff.

  2. “Does anyone else ever feel like this?” Yes. You betcha. For more years than I would like to admit. Damn. I wish life wasn’t so hard, but experience has taught me that it is, regardless what the cheerful & victorious crowd is claiming… And Jeff you are real! Every time I read something (here at IM) that is of a revealing nature I feel safe, like I am in good company, because your core struggles reflect a bit of mine, and gosh, I wonder if you know what a breath of fresh air that is for me. ( And I am sure I’m not just speaking for myself) But it also prompts me to pray for you, because it stinks that you are suffering or should I say struggling… I am having a good day today, so I can pray with some hope in my heart…

  3. Aaaawwweee Jeff…. I totally feel you. Sometimes I really struggle with feeling like God is punishing me for things. I know the drill, I know with my mind He is not but that does not mean that physically it doesnt feel that way. That He allows bad and hard things in my life. That sometimes I am so wounded and down for the count that I cannot read my Bible, pray, or even think about God. I have to remind myself that my God is good and that He loves me and that He died to save me…… to save me for some reason. I feel like I am just physicallly wasting away and I wonder why when there is so much I want to do. When my head is filled with pressure and blackness and I am unable to do anything….. I ask Him how this is glorifying to Him. I dont know the answers either but I do know that I love Him and for now that is enough. Sorry for your struggles. I will be lifting you up in prayer. h

  4. John From Down Under says

    Jeff, the difference between someone like you and those who flaunt their ‘victorious lifestyle’ is that you confess reality but they deny it. In fact, they have become so masterful at denial that they have turned it into a science.

    No one has it THAT good ALL the time. I just don’t buy it! Like someone once said:

    “If everything is going YOUR way, you’re in the wrong lane”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      …the difference between someone like you and those who flaunt their ‘victorious lifestyle’ is that you confess reality but they deny it. In fact, they have become so masterful at denial that they have turned it into a science.

      JMJ/Christian Monist often revisits this theme on his blog. He recently had to switch churches because of it.

      And always having “Victorious Lifestyle” rubbed in your face in Christian One-Upmanship just breeds resentment of first God’s Little Pets and then God Himself.

      • John From Down Under says

        Just catching up now because the site was down for a few hours. Any links you can point me to from those blogpost themes you’re talking about?

        Thanks

  5. I’ve not been around people talking about victory like you have. From where I stand it sounds kind of odd. Obviously that sort of environment hasn’t been the best for you and I’m sorry to hear about it.

    Somehow, I suspect, you will survive.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You’ve been lucky, Paul. That kind of Christian One-Upmanship seems to be endemic to Evangelicals — especially those Independent Fellowships with no authority or structure around them to give them a reality check.

      • One more Mike says

        Roger that. In a facebook thread I’m following about a very bad situation I’m very familiar with, the happy clappys are saying wonderful crap like this: “God is always going ahead of us smoothing our way.” This makes me think either they’re not paying attention, they’re being deluded by prosperity or they’re just nuts. What happens with these people when something really bad happens to them, not someone else who they’re watching like it’s a movie? Do they join us here in the wilderness, or do they opt out totally having been lied to? I think the latter…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          What happens with these people when something really bad happens to them, not someone else who they’re watching like it’s a movie?

          Either way, I’ve always had this urge to parrot/duckspeak their own “wonderful crap” right back at them. Word For Word.

  6. Jeff, I’m not really sure what prompted you to write this, but this is how I feel pretty much 95% of the time. I’ve pretty much given up looking for answers. Jesus is the answer, blah, blah, blah… honestly, I just don’t want to go to hell when I die and sometimes that’s the only reason I’m sticking with it. I need more than a “corner man,” I need a sub. Somebody to win this fight for me, ’cause I can feel a blackout coming… But at least I know this: these are all good signs that we’re following the right person. Your path is either the career of Joel Osteen or the Via Dolorosa. Only one leads to life. In the meantime, failure… guilt… unbelief… Lord have mercy.

  7. Scott Fisher says

    Jeff,

    Your words resonated with me. I have felt that way, many times. A couple of years ago I went through the darkest valley of my life since I became a Christian at 18. Your description of the battle fit perfectly with the intensity of that experience. I am hesitant to recommend something to read, but I feel compelled to since it was one of the spiritual writings that was a key companion to me in the darkness. A very honest book…perhaps you already have read it…more of a devotional…It is called, “The Gospel According to Job” by Mike Mason……

  8. Thank you, once again, for having the guts to say how you feel, so others know it’s also ok to not be 100%

  9. I believe being in the wilderness is not about theology, contemporary music, or roles of pastor. It is about those of us who have been knocked out in a boxing match and can’t seem to get up again. Thank you Jeff.

  10. brilliantvapor says

    I hear you, Jeff – although at this point I would say that I resemble an armadillo more than a boxer. All curled up inside with no plan to be throwing punches. Shoot, I’m not even sure which punches I should be throwing if I were capable of it. Courage, then. We’ll be getting in touch with your Corner Man to see if maybe an arrangement can be worked out where you can at least get some sleep.

  11. I usually feel like my manager has booked me for a series of imbalanced matches.

    T

  12. They’re gonna come when you’re not ready, when you’re not too well-prepared. They’re gonna prey upon your weakness, no man’s soul is ever spared.

    You’ve got to stand up, yeah, and fight them – show them what it’s all about.

    This man is not for sale , there will be no backing down.

    Stand up and fight – and I’ll stand up with you.

    Dropkick Murphy – The Gauntlet

  13. Jeff, sometimes I wonder why He even put me in the “ring”. I’m more of a quitter than a fighter. But He has to know something that I don’t, so I’m straining to see through the blood also, fighting the good (?) fight…and trusting, trusting, and hoping, and trusting some more. Hang in there compadre, and thanks for your tranparency. It is truly a restoring breath of true air.

  14. Thank you Jeff. I somehow thought that when I finished seminary and became a pastor, the ‘fight’ of faith would be less so. I was wrong. I can walk and talk the faith pretty well, as you explained. But in my own head and heart – I still fight. I try to be honest with my parishioners about this; that I struggle as much as anyone else.

    • I try to be honest with my parishioners about this; that I struggle as much as anyone else.

      BLESS YOU for your honesty with others; this doesn’t “make it all better” but at least you’re helping other fellow fighters.

      GregR

      • I bet they don’t believe you, either. And if they do, it is the Lord’s blessing upon your church! I think that because of the fakes out there, who have looked like they have it together for so long that it’s how we now determine a ‘healthy’ pastor, we haven’t enough grace to love a struggling fellow servant who knows the path but who occasionally needs help walking it, or living in joy. I fear that if every pastor revealed that they struggle, many of them would find themselves unemployed…

        • I’m pretty sure they FEAR exactly what you’ve said; but I’m grateful for when they can fight thru that fear and get real anyway (job loss, real or imagined. and all). If someone cant’ tell me about their life, with honesty, can they tell me about the WORD with honesty ???

          Some pastors are figuring out that this “have it all together” thing does NOT help their cause in the long run.

          GregR

  15. Another beauty Jeff! Thank you!

    I’m damn tired these days too. It makes me wonder about a lot of things. I’m a fighter, I’m not one to stand down, I’ll stand my ground if it kills me…….problem is, I’m doing it with the wrong Person. I can’t fight His way, His timing, or His will in my life. And yet I can’t seem to get any answers either. What gives?

    Over the past 2 months, I’ve been praying for, expecting and anticipating God to do something in regards to this one very specific thing. I was puttin’ my faith out there. You know, that faith as small as a mustard seed that can move mountains. We received the rejection letter this past Friday in the mail. To say I was ticked would be an understatement. I’m sitting in this valley, surrounded by Everest size mountains and my faith, my trust, my prayers don’t do a thing. NOT A THING.

    I told my mother the other day, “What kind of a testimony does my life have anyway? Follow Jesus and you can drive piece of crap cars and struggle financially too!” In this materialistic culture, that”s not appealing at all! Even after all I’ve learned, after all He’s shown me…..it doesn’t appeal to me either!

    So yeah…….I feel like I’m getting the total shite beat out of me and as of a few days ago, I just sat down in the ring and gave up. Go ahead God…..do whatever You want to with me, You seem to do that anyway.

  16. “Obedience comes easily for me. I can obey God without too much trouble. I obey out of my will. And I can be pretty strong-willed at times. It’s trust that is so much harder for me. Trusting God is a lot more difficult for me than obeying God.”

    Jeff, I could have written that myself. I know exactly how you feel. My Achilles heel is finance. I’m careful and sensible with money but I’m self-employed and work has become a real problem over the past two years. I live in the Third World and there is no social security or unemployment money. I have no savings to speak of, don’t even own a house.

    There are days I don’t even want to get up. I’d like to bury myself in a hole. But each day is a “round,” even if I don’t have the strength to protect myself from the blows coming my way. And I’m surrounded by “health and wealthers”! Hang in there, it’s all we can do.

  17. Jeff

    I have struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life. I struggled for so long that I believed I was inferior. I am trying desperately to believe in God and His promises to me and how valuable I am. I try and try to do as Paul said and “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” Saying that is much easier than living it though. I will pray for you.

  18. Oh my Jeff, I empathize… been feeling so overwhelmed with all the “stuff” in my life, I can hardly move some days. Your analogy of the boxer is perfect! Life is hard. As Christians we want to show our “overcomer in Jesus” faces, but sometimes all we can do is stand & get beaten up. I love the song “The Silence of God” by Andrew Peterson…

  19. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    But because we are triune beings–spirit, soul, body…

    I’ve heard this Body/Soul/Spirit trichotomy before — always from Evangelicals, Fundagelicals, and Born-Agains, nobody else. How did this idea begin, and what is its history?

    • Richard McNeeley says

      There are generally 3 views concerning man. The first being monism, that is man is one part. This view is rarely held by evangelicals. The second is dichotomy, man is made up of body and soul/spirit. The third is trichotomy, brought over from greek culture and popularized by Scofield.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I’m familar with Monism (the original Jewish concept) and Dichotomy/Dualism (Platonic Greek concept), but didn’t know Trichotomy was “from greek culture”. It sounds to me like a redress of Dualism to reflect the idea of the Trinity.

        And somehow I’m not surprised Scofield popularized it. Scofield also popularized Darby’s Secret Rapture choreography for the Second Coming (did he ever), and I heard the Trichotomy through the same Christian sources who were also very much into The Rapture.

        How did this Scofield guy end up being the 67th Book of the Bible well before his distant follower Hal Lindsay? And was elevating Scofield to ex cathedra infallible authority (greater than any Pope) really such a hot idea?

        • David Cornwell says

          At least since my seminary days I’ve come to believe that we are a single entity as human beings. Greek ways of thinking and philosophy really haven’t helped the cause of Christ. The resurrection is a resurrection of the body, not just soul or spirit. The Kingdom will reach fulfillment and with it everything good that God has created. Some people believe that our spirits go to Heaven. I don’t know what this means, nor do I understand Heaven apart from God’s restored creation. What happens after death, I really do not know. My hope is in the resurrection when we will awake at the sound of the trumpet.

          This probably does not help Jeff any because it is a little off the subject.

          My only comment is this: Once I suffered what seemed to be a knockout blow. I gave up. But God was still there, waiting, patiently. But I didn’t know this until much later. Any advice I could give would be hollow and superficial.

          • Love this reply; I see us as “one bowl of spaghetti”, with the noodles intertwined: impossible to tell where on stops and another begins. I don’t think the jews were too concerned with parsing all this. The Greeks and all westerners after them, however…….. thank you Tim LaHaye….. I think the segmented appoach has done more harm than good, and is very difficult to support, clearly, from the WORD.

  20. Oh yes, Jeff, you are not alone. In my 20s, 30s and even 40s, I felt that I could go the distance and actually win the fight. I often felt like an overcomer. Then came the 50s with general aging, illness, a series of losses and the unhappy results of choices made – some poor, some out of necessity, as well as the crushing reality that this is all there is. Regrets are profound and I feel like I am just treading water until the end, waiting for God.

  21. I am sad to read such sad posts, having been there and done that myself, and I pray that God gives a little lift to all of you all today. Each and every one of you is loved, and love is all that matters. Bless you.

  22. Sara is one of the very few Christian musicians and songwriters I listen to. Why? She is real, that’s why.)

    I’m guessing that the Top Ten hit which features the lyric “things can only get better…….” is not on the Ipod. Funny that so much of what most of the evangelical world considers “positive and encouraging” is only positive, but not so encouraging (lacking that truth thingie, and all….)

    GregR

    Nothing snappy-happy here, JeffD; I can promise you Oklahoma Joes and a cold one if you are ever in the KC area, and my prayers; that’s it

  23. Thank you for this post, Jeff. I am sorry to hear that things are such a struggle right now. Just know that we out here appreciate your honesty and you allow us to be honest. People need to know that being a Christian, believing in Jesus as the Son of God does not take away all our problems and struggles.

    Matthew in a comment six or so above this one wrote, “There are days I don’t even want to get up.” I have been thinking lately that it is an of faith to even get out of bed. Why do we continue on unless we think there is a reason to continue on? Sometimes the only act of faith we are capable of IS getting out of bed. (Although sometimes I feel like the only reason I get out of bed is because my back is hurting so much!)

    I guess all I can really say is, “Jesus, by the time you return for us and we join you in the big banquet that will be set for us as children of God, we are going to be VERY, VERY hungry. Please, come soon. And if your return continues to be delayed, please give us all tiny touches of your presence to keep us going, to keep us hopeful, to strengthen us in our difficult days. Amen.”

  24. Patricia says

    Hi Jeff.
    Me too. If there’s one thing I’ve found that God doesn’t supply, it’s answers.

  25. Life is hard. Life is difficult. I don’t know what to say except that I wish that were not the case.

    I have a confession to make…. last night when I was getting ready to drive home I was playing with my Smartphone and Android features. I looked at the radio player and found KLOVE and listened to it for about 5- 10 minutes while I was driving home.

    I was thinking about how things were when I was a part of all that. I liked the connections, freinds, and the attention that came along with it. When my faith went south it brought with it lots of lonliness, disilullision and hardship. This may strange but I feel like I moved from Planet Earth to Planet Mars.

    So much has happened in my family. So much has happened to me that I fear about tomorrow. Cancer, death, schizophrenia, mental health, torn shoulder, lust, work place difficulties, and a difficult job market has kept me in a job I would have left several years ago. I’m afraid of what is coming tomorrow. And I feel like there are few people who can relate, as most of the people I knew in life lived in that superfical bubble called evangelicalism.

  26. i’ve felt like i’ve had a ‘divine enema’ that literally dislodged everything of my being & only now i can sense the pieces being put back together…

    but i also know that i am suffering a type of post-traumatic stress. at times i feel i just don’t belong in this experience we call life. i just don’t fit. i am not the happy testimony guy that is quick to point out God’s magnificent victories as others have been able to claim…

    [sigh]

    i went thru the whirlwind where everything was shaken loose from my life. yes, God did preserve me in the midst of that process. and the resulting freedom is not to be denied. however, the toll it took on me is not to be ignored or minimized…

    i still feel listless most of the time. still gun-shy about really, really thinking that good things will happen soon if at all. and i know it is a battle waged in the mind, but i have had enough of negative experiences to understand that this must be the norm, not the exception…

    life is hard. challenges are inevitable. and it seems often i am not going to be able to keep my head above water for much longer…

    i think many of the long-term pilgrims that have experienced life’s more visceral events can honestly identify with your journey. thanx for your openness regarding this part of our faith…

  27. Jeff,

    I suggest trying Bob Bennett’s music, as I have been doing for the past few days.

    Don’t forget about Mark Heard.

    Both of these men are Christians and they write songs that have been there and know how it is. Highly recommended.

  28. Rick Ro. says

    Last night, I watched the 20-minute short film The Butterfly Circus, and there is a quote in it that I think is very pertinent. Mendez, the leader of the Circus, tells Will, the Limbless Man:

    “The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.”

    If there’s spiritual truth in that line, and I think there is, then it’s as if God is telling us to suffer just a little longer, lean on Him a little more, so that the outcome can be even more glorious than had the struggle been easy, or not there at all. The key is focusing on Him and His strength, looking for the triumph that He desires.

    The Butterfly Circus is a fabulous film, by the way, and I encourage anyone who has not seen it to give 20 minutes of your time to watch it. It can be viewed in HD at its own official website.

  29. Tim Becker says

    Best thread ever. So many replies that I identify with to a “T”. “Christian one-up-manship”- my new favorite phrase!

  30. Jeff, I’m just reading this, and now I understand why you later posted Difficult Scripture, 1Peter 5:8.

    I don’t think this will help, except in the misery-loves-company category, but your post reminded me of it. Here is the surrender speech of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce:

    “Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

  31. Pam Burns says

    I think this life is a fight. I think the Christian life is a fight. Sometimes we fight because of Powers and Principalities who oppose us in the spiritual realm. Sometimes we fight because we have to learn something we need to learn and maybe we fight sometimes and will never know why we fought until we get to the other side with the Lord. My husband who died about a year ago fought for fifteen years with illness. He prayed and I prayed and our Christian friends prayed and he didn’t win the fight; at least not the physical one. It was a long fight for him to believe there was a reason to keep believing when he kept suffering and I fought for my prayers to be answered that he would be well. He didn’t get well this side of heaven but God took him home before he could lose his spiritual fight and my prayers were answered when he didn’t have to suffer any more. Right now I think the Lord is giving me a little respite from fighting. Grieving is it’s own fight but maybe more of a process than a fight. I expect to have to fight again sometime, and I try to remember that the Devil wants us to give up our faith or not believe he exists or not trust the Lord for our needs and wants and other victories. I think that is what it means when the Word says he is looking to devour someone. I truly do believe you will come out on the other side of where you are. Easy for me to say, right? I pray that it won’t be too long. I pray for you to have a victory and a respite. In over fifty years of serving Jesus He does let me have victories and rests from time to time and He has proven His love for me over and over. I pray rest for you. Isn’t Sara Groves terrific?!

  32. Jeff,
    your words ring so true! The other day while working in a little coffee shop in my town, a man gave me a pamplet about his life and how he became a Christian. I assume that was his witnessing tool. Anyway, the cover had a picture of him back in his “long haired, hippy, wild days” and it read from Vice to Victory. When I read that it struck a nerve because it implied that all of his problems and doubts had vanished and he was victorious now! It reminded me of a Gerhard Forde quote that said “Christianity isn’t going from Vice to Virtue rather it is going from Virtue to Grace.” Thank you for this post and know that you aren’t the only one in this fight.

    Robin

  33. Clarence says

    This whole world is geared to be against God and those who believe in God. The enemy of God and of God’s creation, especially man, does all he can to steal, kill, and destroy, to keep God from being honored and glorified. The Bible records the history of all the efforts that were done to thwart God’s plan of redemption.

    For a person to hear about God sending His only begotten Son, about His death, burial, and resurrection, and then to believe this about God and His only begotten Son, is to overcome all of the effort and work of God’s enemy, to keep people from believing God’s love, power, and majesty. One who believes Jesus Christ was sent from God to die, to be buried, and to rise from the grave on the third day, is an overcomer and has overcome all effort and work of the enemy of God and your soul to keep you from faith in Jesus Christ.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Can you repeat that, this time in English instead of Christianese duckspeak?

  34. Thanks for your profound thoughts, Jeff. In my own life I have often thought that the journey/pilgrimage metaphor for the Christian life (rather than a “military” metaphor with fortresses, soldiers–or boxers) gives me a necessary reorientation for working through my own struggles–which is to say, taking a page out of the contemplative traditions of the church.

    Thanks again.

  35. Adrienne says

    Yes Jeff ~ I sure have felt like that. It is why I have left the evangelical camp. As to the 10 steps, victorious living books, having worked in the Christian Bookstore Industry (yuch! I hate the phrase) for 16 years I would now suggest to you that Scripture does say that we will run into the occasional angel of light. There are quite a few in the “Christian” publishing world and on the “Christian television world”. Deception is the name of the game. It is a big part of our Fight. I hurt too. Misery loves company.

  36. Amory Ewerdt says

    Much of the text in this post is illegible, possibly a glitch that still needs to be worked out? I look forward to reading it.