Nor the Battle to the Strong

I used to think I was terribly strong. An unstoppable warrior in God’s ever marching army. I thought my knowledge and wisdom were deep and powerful. I used to never struggle with how I viewed myself positively with God. I knew my identity and it was immovable.

Being in arguably the most difficult season I have ever faced in my life, I find myself struggling with things that in the past were deeply in my safe zones. Spiritual warfare seems to go hand in hand many times with pruning by the Spirit. Especially during difficult times and even more so when those difficult times happen while we fight for others in bondage, to rescue them from the darkness. I used to rarely be afraid, but I get afraid sometimes now. I fear being left alone and isolated from those I love, but also I fear being isolated from the family of God and community and friendship and knowing others and simultaneously being known by others and loved through it all. I feel sometimes like I have failed and am a castaway because of it.

I think the fear can come from many places. Sin definitely separates us. But also how we view our identity separates us. Oh gosh, I have been struggling with part of my heart and mouth lately and it really got the best of me tonight. The feeling of being removed, not good enough, not worthy…it’s horrible. I’m actually writing this from the couch in the living room this quiet evening and ummm…I’m sad. I’m lonely. My heart and my attitude and mouth just got the very best of me. And I keep replaying these words in my head, “I am not good enough. I am not worthy.” I struggle with self identity sometimes. I know if I could see into the invisibleness of my surroundings I would see a great battle and probably demons whispering lies into my ears. But I don’t see that sometimes. I just see air and the living room and myself, tattered and torn and throwing myself at Jesus’ feet for his grace and mercy.

Satan has his pieces on the board and in some ways I feel like the entire game is rigged for him to do incredible damage. He can’t win, Jesus has him beat. But it feels like the path to our final victory is so marred with bad things, terrors in the night, loneliness, weaping, depression and completely losing sight of anything good that God created in us in the first place that the cost of victory is just too bitter to the taste. These are feelings and they’ll pass nonetheless, but still I think they are legitimate.

The cost of becoming like Christ is real. You actually pay it. And it’s not romantic all the time in that you gave up secular music and only watch PG-13 movies and put bumper stickers on your car for social justice. You actually die to yourself. Literally. You actually sacrifice who you are. You burn in God’s fire and in the embers of the Son’s furnace in order for hi to make you like himself so you can enjoy the delights of life eternal with him in our Father’s house. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. That’s why we are called to this, to the Way, to Jesus. It’s our calling. It’s our cross. It must be our passion and burning desire and nothing can stop us.

I don’t write this to be a sad sack of wet doorknobs. I write this because…well…I think we are all here at some point or another.

I was going to write a post on FOMO and longing for heaven this evening. FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out…something else I think we all struggle with. Either momentarily or perpetually. Something I’m feeling now in bits and pieces. My soul is tattered this eve and I wanted to pour out the hot seething embers before you as a testimony to the war and the cost and that it is worth it, YOU are worth it. And I say this as someone who feels like he’s been brought to the depths and still believes this.

You know how God reminded me of this? One of my sons put his arms around me tonight and whispered, “Dad, you’re the best.”

I’m crying right now writing that.

You’re wonderfully and fearfully made and loved and treasured beyond anything. Don’t forget it my friends.



28 thoughts on “Nor the Battle to the Strong

  1. this is all so powerful, Joel. you articulate well what this is. i know this … i know this place … this seemingly never-ending place. i know that it ends when we cross over to the other side; i often wish it would give me pause on this side, too 🙂

    I know if I could see into the invisibleness of my surroundings I would see a great battle and probably demons whispering lies into my ears. But I don’t see that sometimes. I just see air and the living room and myself, tattered and torn and throwing myself at Jesus’ feet for his grace and mercy.

    yes. i totally get this. it always, always reminds me of this from 2 Kings 6:

    15 And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

    16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

    so i often pray that God would open my eyes to the Truth … and that He would blind my enemies.

    we live and fight in the trenches of life; God rules from everywhere – He is everywhere all the time … even in the past, present, and future.

    – – –

    btw – this story might encourage you as a father to some really desperate kids … it was the first time i ever even thought to pray for myself as a little girl during a time that, to my knowledge, no one who knew God had ever prayed for me before. isn’t that heartbreaking? that there are people for whom not one prayer has ever been raised? it was an intensely powerful moment in my life: .

    – – –

    here’s another thought that is deep and … powerful … and overwhelming. in the midst of a lengthy conversation, the commentor known as Minesweeper wrote:

    I’ve seen God do both great and terrible things – even in my own life. It’s a side of him we don’t want to see, if he wants someone destroyed for a time or dead they will be, if he wants nations taken down they will be. A prominent christian (now leader of his own church) who I had never met before and didn’t know me came up to me and said “God says you are in jail like Joseph but will get out soon”, and I’ve had quite a few like that. I keep trying to fight my way out, but its hard going. When he wants to bless you its so easy is almost ridiculous, when he wants to destroy you its impossible to get out of.

    – – –

    those years, those intense, exhausting, emotionally depleting, give-everything-you’ve-got-and-then-more-because-they-need-you years … where my girls were dying inside b/c of all that was happening to them … where their hearts were so wounded and raw that their pain was visible … where a hug was powerful but never enough, years. where i had nothing, absolutely nothing left inside me and God took over because all i was was a shell of a body still somehow pumping blood thru my veins, years.

    they passed with time.

    and we survived.

    and my daughters? their souls are peaceful. healed.

    scars? yes, absolutely. always scars.

    but healed? forgiven and full of forgiveness? peaceful? able to laugh and remember and cry and even joke about things? yes. very much, yes.

    and they rise up and call me, the one who had nothing left to give, the one through whom God had to do everything because i was just a shell of who i once was … they call me blessed.

    and truly blessed.

    and you will be, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is all just so powerful Ame. You know this, the searing heat through the furnace, as Lene commented and put it so painfully eloquent yet hauntingly accurate. I will read both of these posts. The section from minesweeper was very accurate. When God wants to bless its so easy but when he wants to destroy nothing in all creation can stop it.

      I thought about the passage you quoted from 2 Kings 6. I love that passage and I’m so glad you quoted it here. I’ve thought about that one for years. Sometimes I see it, but sometimes in those intense momenys of warfare I just don’t. I need to. Satan wants us blindfolded to torture us. He doesn’t want us to see with our eyes because if we do, we will wake up and his charade will be over.

      I love your ending here. I understand feeling like a shell and God taking over to finish the job. Like the worship song goes, He never let’s go. I have a vision of my children that I know from the Spirit is true. They are safe with God, they are strong and beautiful men and women of Christ. They are wise and joyful and loving. Its going to happen. There’s just a lot of work to get there. But it will happen. I know it 🙂

      Thank you Ame. Thank you for lifting me up in this time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. that’s beautiful, Joel. keep that vision. you will need it. try to remember there’s a bigger picture. you’re doing great. this is hard, but you’re doing it. and you’re doing well.

        i think, too, we have to discard all our expectations and desires and hopes in situations like these … we want so much, and it’s GOOD want, but it’s not likely how it’s going to turn out. i have so much sorrow for what could have been, even now, and my girls remind me that they are fine. and happy. and content. and that these crazy things i wish could have been in their lives are foreign to them b/c they aren’t a part of their lives. so it’s very much my problem; not theirs. they are fine. my expectations of what could have been had they not missed it gets my mind all in knots sometimes, and not in good ways 🙂

        idk if that’s just the female inside of me, or if it’s all parents 🙂 … but it especially applies to those of us whose kids are taking a different path from their peers and cultural traditions. there’s some grieving we have to do as parents to let go of those expectations sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thats good wisdom. I love them so much. I saw a picture that their (good) family sent us last might of when our adopted kiddos were little, 2 and 4. Oh I wish I could have been there for them. I wish I could hace protected them.

        I think you’re right though. I cant change that, can’t change the past. I have to focus on the now and the future with them. They are ours, they are safe and they are loved and cherished. Healing will come. In time but it will come.

        This world is horrible sometimes. It doesnt push me further away from God, it just pushes me deeper into him. Why?! I just want to scream sometimes.

        I think my kids will say the same thing and will say we are happy and you did great. I just wish they had never known the evil that happened to them.


      3. You’re so right though about the vision and using it. I do need to let it guide me more – that’s probably why God gave it to me in the first place. Thank you for encouraging me!!!


  2. You do not often leave me speechless Joel, but mark your calendar: It happened now.
    Thank you for pouring out the thoughts in your heart. Of course, we all go where you are now. Some more than others, but nobody gets a free pass in the furnace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your words were life giving here. Thank you friend 🙂 oh that is so true. We all must go through the furnace. Red hot and searing to the deepest parts of who we are.

      Thankfully after a night of sleep things are better over in my world. I am missing everything good that happened this weekend now. My kids are “obsessed” with this online game called Roblox. We played it for a long time. Then did imaginary play and oretended like we were fighting off an alien invasion. They are wonderful. And seeing them brought up in Jesys is worth every minute i spend in that furnace

      Liked by 2 people

  3. So potent Joel and raw. It’s the reality of living and walk-in with the Lord. We won’t escape the hot embers of the refinement process. He loves us too much to keep us as mere rocks. He is transforming us into diamonds. This light affliction cannot be compared to the weight of glory that will be revealed in us. This is a verse that must be stamped on our forehead. I struggle like you with the identity thing. I love the fearfully and wonderfully made verse. Yes we are! He is transforming us! Praise God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am just like you, I need to tattoo that verse on my forehead. We hace to see and our hearts have to know that what is coming is so far greater than our trials here that enduring anything here is way more than worth it. It can be hard to see it sometimes. We’re forgetful creatures.

      This is why I just cling to Eldredge’s earlier books. They distill the hope and expectations of the joy and beauty and intimacy and wonder of the world to come with Jesus at the center of it all, permeating everything. That is something I want to fight for! Not just for me but for others too!! It’s going to be everything we were created to want and be and live for with Jesus. Thank you for posting that verse. Honestly I needed that reminder today!!


  4. as adults, we have to be VERY careful not to project OUR emotions about our kids’ ‘trials’ (for lack of a better word at the moment) onto them.

    it needs to look more like, “Well, that sucks. Yeah, it really sucks. But we can’t change it, so what are we going to do about it? It’s a part of who you are. God will take it and use it for His glory and Your good. So, let’s deal and move on.”

    kinda like the spilled milk all over the floor … “Yeah, the milk spilled, So we just clean it up, and it’s okay.”

    the thing is … THIS IS THEIR NORMAL. you cannot change their normal, but you CAN make it NORMAL.

    that doesn’t mean you don’t give weight to what deserves it, but it does mean you do so judiciously and sparingly … and then go into a sound proof closet and cry your eyes out before God and let Him shoulder the weight that you know this is.

    and then … leave it in the closet with God.


    because they cannot handle your weight.

    and they need to know what what they’e experienced, though bad, and wrong, and should have never happened, is OKAY. because they are okay. so it is all okay. it is their normal.

    for example … my Youngest is bipolar, asperger’s, adhd, sensory, severely dyslexic, has full gut issues, vision tracking issues (hence at 18 i’ve yet to even think about her driving! eeek!), … not to mention all the crap her dad did to her and put her thru … and then he died … and more – i can never remember it all at once.

    so i can wallow in all of that … and in doing so i bring her into the wallow of her life with me …

    or i can teach her to process it, deal with it, and move on.

    so it looks exactly like this: “Yes, God did give you or allow you to have all this stuff, but He also made you really smart so you can figure it out. So … do it. Pray about it. Ask God to help you. He will. And use your smart mind to figure it out.”

    of course I help her … and her age and mental capacity has determined how much i help her.

    now … at 18 … it often looks exactly like, “So … suck it up buttercup and move on. You’ve got a life to live.” 🙂


    you can do this. you can give them the freedom to allow their experiences to be their normal … to be something that, while we will NEVER understand in our human minds on this earth why … they CAN and WILL be used by God for HIS glory AND their good. every.single.time.

    because … it is what it is. they are who they are. these things cannot be changed.

    but how they perceive themselves … how they perceive what happened … how they perceive God … how they perceive their future and abilities despite what happened? you CAN control these things. so … Dad, and Mom … suck it up and do it. cry it out alone … out here … but with them … walk them thru the healing while giving them a reason to live this life they have. yes, they’re special, but so are your other 3 kids … and so is every other kid out there … and so are you and your wife.

    you can do this b/c God’s got this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this. I need some time to respond but i love this. I’m just leaving the office after a CRAZY day. let me respond to this tonight and our other thread a little later tonight. I just didnt want you to think I wasnt responding.

      Btw you are awesome and a blessing from God for ministering to me. Thank you. Seriously


      1. Joel, I’m not like that, so no worries. You either respond or not … every conversation ends sometime.

        Glad I can help. You can always ignore me if I rattle on too much! My girls have learned the art of politely ignoring me when I keep talking 😄

        Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s so true that this is their normal. They taught us that when ee went through an intensive outpatient therapy with our oldest adopted daughter. Not just that but their brains are fundamentally wired differently than mine because of the abuse. I have to think differently to understand them. That can be SO hard at times. But I think I’m getting better at it. It took some deep adjusting on my side though. But I’ll do whatever it takes to be a really great Godly loving dad for them. They’re my kids (adooted or bio) and I love them so much.

      You’re so right too. They cant handle my weight. I learned that too. Thats a hard one!!

      Oh my goodness! I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. My 3 adopted littles have a long list of abuse they endured. But, by God’s grace, they are getting a lot better. I love your advice. I needed that. I’m down…let’s do this. I’m all in. Ill take the hits for them. I want to see them restored. God’s got this!!!

      Thank you thank you Ame!! We can control how they perceive themselves and others and God. We’ll suck it up and do it! This is what God called us to.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So sorry for your sorrow and pain. Life is super hard sometimes, and I have walked through my own dark valleys more than once. However, the even the struggle is really, truly good. Not easy, not fun, but so, so good. I’m in a very wonderful place right now – a place of peace in Christ even when one of my kids is going off the rails, my identity as a homeschool mom is being redefined, and I never know what each new day will bring. And I have bad days still, but I wouldn’t be here in this place of trust even in the midst of the busiest season of my life yet if I hadn’t been through the furnace.

    I’ve written about some of my experiences. I know one is on my current blog and it talks about one of my furnace times. Another – no idea where it is – is about years ago when I was homeschooling all three still and the same kid was proving to be a huge challenge. (Come to think of it, this kid has been a challenge since birth!) Anyway, God called me aside on a day when I was overwhelmed with stuff to do (which is basically Sunday – Saturday). I sat with Him, impatiently at first and then finally relaxing into His presence. His creation sang all around me, and I felt the distinct certainty that things were not going to get better or easier. In fact, I was sure they would get worse (and they did – physical pain has been a real challenge at times). But even so, He gave me equal assurance that He would be with me. Even when I did not see Him at times.

    He is with you, your wife, and all of your kids through this, Joel. He will never leave you or forsake you. You’re under heavy fire right now, but He is there. One of my prayers at times like this is taken from 2 Chronicles 20:12b, 15b:

    “…we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

    Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this friend. Thank you. I feel similarly. Thank you for holding me up. You’ve lifted me up plenty of times on here. I feel like you said with God taking you aside telling you it would not get easier. I think we’re about to hit a place in the therapy that ia going to be a very hard spot to be in. We’re all in. But its going to be hard. And on a side note I have a child who has been hars from birth too. Love them like crazy but still many hard times.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. I absutely love that verse from Chronicles 20. I might make that verse my battle cry. Its exactly how I feel sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been my battle cry! I will continue to pray for you guys. There will be seasons of peace and seasons of pain, but in the end – on that great Day we all look forward to – it will all be more than worth it.

        And I appreciate how many times you’ve spoken truth into my painful places on here, too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Amen!

        Its surreal to think that one day the summation of all of these trials will be looked at with how much we value it as we walk in heaven with Jesus face to face. I know I need to have that perspective…its just hars when youre in the weeds. This is a good time to start taking up that 30,000 foot view of where we are and where we are going. I think it allows for more hope to fill in the cracks when things going wrong or Satan attacks.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Agreed. I really also love this reminder in Philippians. It’s one I sometimes need to post around where I can see it: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
        (Philippians 3:12-14)

        Liked by 1 person

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