This morning, my writing time was interrupted by a friend of mine who wanted to share a verse of encouragement with me. As I read her text message… Isaiah 41:10 — “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” I smiled. I had been navigating the anxious thoughts that sometime besiege my mind as I consider all the things that are on my to-do list.
Mental warfare is a constant. No matter how much you prepare, there is always something that turns up to try to derail all your best laid plans. “The fiery darts of the devil” is what the old lady would tell me. It is something I often overlook when I am under stress. This morning I realized something else as I contemplated the text, and the line my mother would often say during times of high anxiety.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
When Paul issued his advice to pick up the shield of faith in Ephesians 6:16 he was saying, you’re in the thick of it now. Despite the Hollywood imagery of flaming arrows wreaking havoc and doing insurmountable damage, the reality was quite the opposite. Fiery arrows were only effective from close range, because if they were fired from a longer distance, the wind would usually extinguish the flame. This implies that the battle is now closer to home than one first thought. This realization had a profound impact on my thought processes regarding the topic. If I am now in close combat warfare, it may mean I had been slacking with my overall security. The enemy was already within the gates… my initial defenses had been breached. The battle was no longer something in the distance, it was now on my doorstep. I am now in a fight for my very survival.
Conversely, it could also mean, that I had pressed home the advantage, and I was now taking the war to my enemy. This may have been the years spent in pursuit of a dream, the stumbling and struggling through failures and staggered false starts, wondering if success would ever happen. The final hurdle is always the hardest. This is where the years of experience, and the strength of will, and a determined mindset takes over. The shield of faith is only effective if it is made of the right stuff, if you are skilled enough to use it, strong enough to hold it, agile enough to maneuver with it… do you get where I am going with this?
What use is a shield of faith if it isn’t made of the right stuff?
What use is the shield of faith if you haven’t been exercising your faith?
Yesterday I was in a long back and forth with another blogger. This person is a talented writer who I admire and respect. They were having their own battles with anxieties. Their insane talent is generating attention, their years of growth as a writer is being recognized and appreciated, with victory in sight, it was time for the last conflict. Doubt, despair, imposter syndrome… it may sound like existential crises from the outside, but fiery darts do not look the same for everyone.
All it took was a reminder that the years of writing had prepared them for this moment. That their faith in God had taken them through enough highs and lows, preparing them to deal with these moments. Their faith needed a gentle reminder.
I am with you… I will strengthen you… I will uphold you…
This has always been the case.
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