A twelve day course. This will be a piece of cake. He won’t even be away for two weeks, I thought to myself. We knew when my husband transitioned to his current career as a military chaplain that he would spend at least six months of his first two years away from home… and then have the possibility of deployment looming over him ever after. That foreknowledge hasn’t really made the time apart any easier to bear.
A few weeks ago, as he was preparing to leave again, I comforted myself with the fact that it would be the shortest separation yet. But I also made the mistake of not really preparing myself mentally and spiritually for it, choosing almost a state of denial instead. Perhaps that explains how unexpectedly difficult those twelve days ended up being. For whatever reason, I really struggled. It wasn’t just the loneliness. I also felt extremely vulnerable spiritually. The enemy knows the weak spots in our armour, doesn’t he? And isolation is his favourite condition under which to strike at those chinks. His fiery darts came fast and furious. My husband might be the one with the military career, but, let me tell you, for those twelve days I was waging war on the battlefield of my mind.
Finally, day twelve came. Late that night I would pick John up from the airport. Earlier in the day, however, I was driving home from town by myself when another bombardment of distressing thoughts assailed me. I had had enough. At that point, I was fed up and determined to hack my way to the root of those thoughts and tear them out once and for all. “I don’t want to think about that!” I exclaimed in my spirit.
It was at that point that God, in His wisdom, opened my eyes. I understood that winning this war had nothing to do with my wants! They were the very thing that made this a battle in the first place. Of course I ‘wanted’ to think about those distressing things. That’s the reason I found them tempting. In some ironic way, these unwanted thoughts were playing on my inclinations.
I realized if I had any hope of victory, any chance of diverting this torrent, I would have to paddle all the way upstream to the headwaters of my wants and desires. I would have to dig deeper, to the level of my will. As I continued down the highway toward home, I declared aloud, “I will what my Father in Heaven wills.”
Even just saying that much seemed to infuse a measure of victory into my crippled spirit that I hadn’t felt for the previous two weeks. So I kept praying aloud, continuing with the words of Jesus Himself, “Not my will but Yours be done. Lord, I know the thoughts that keep creeping into my mind are not Your will for my life. And I will what You will. Your will for me is good and pleasing and perfect.” By this point, whatever sinister force had been plaguing me was disarmed, and it was as if I could sense its displeasure in my new found strength and its seeming impotence. With God’s power also came His peace. The chaos and confusion inside of me was driven out by a calm assurance when I aligned my will with the Father’s.
‘Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:36 (NIV)
This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:9-10
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
I learned an important lesson that day, a lesson I had learned before but had forgotten how to live out. So often we think it’s up to us to resist and reason our way out of tight corners the enemy backs us into. But we actually find freedom when we surrender the battle into the hands of the One who has already gained the victory for us — Jesus. When we try to fight on our own, even if we think we’re doing it in God’s strength, we are engaged in a doomed dance with darkness. We may convince ourselves that we will lead the steps on the dance floor, but it never works that way. Our only hope is to refuse the dance altogether.
Try it! The next time temptation comes knocking, in whatever form it habitually takes with you — whether it’s worry, anxiety, addiction, shame, despair — don’t engage. We don’t overcome temptation by combatting it but by dying to it. We don’t find victory by engaging with our adversary but by engaging with our God!
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
Don’t fall for the lie that you must get busy in the battle. Fighting only keeps us focussed on our “wants.” Instead, try being still. Being still reminds us “The LORD Almighty is with us…” – Psalm 46:11 NIV. The battle belongs to Him, and we are certain of victory when we still ourselves long enough to align our will with His.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. – Psalm 46:11 (NIV)