Category Archives: courage

Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer (warning, may be my longest blog ever.) 

2 Chronicles 20:15 — “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 

I had a conversation with a young mother on Easter Sunday morning. She was distraught. Her baby was very sick, but her dismay was not so much the sick baby but her apparent lack of faith at not being able to peacefully put her little girl in the hands of Jesus. It is a question I get a lot because it seems to straddle the fence between theology and psychology, between faith and feelings, between what we know to be true and what our heart is telling us.  

There’s an interesting story that I won’t take the time to tell, about a battle that King Jehoshaphat, and the Israelites, were facing against three armies. Read the story. It is amazing. Basically, God said, “There are four players in this battle, three enemy armies, and Me. Let the bad guys take care of themselves and you focus on Me.” Pretty good! I only have to worry about a fourth of the battle in front of me, keeping my eyes on Jesus. To the rest of the things facing me, He says, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” 

So, here’s how my conversation went with my young mother friend. We fight our battles, our fear, and anxiety, and depression, and despair in two realms, the supernatural and the natural. There is a spiritual realm with a God, a devil, angels, and demons, and every battle we face is, on some level being waged in that realm. Now, I don’t believe every time I get a cold it is because some demon has crawled up my nose, (though it can feel like that). But I do think with even the most minor setback, a spiritual skirmish takes place over whether or not I will believe God. Remember, this whole mess started with the serpent saying, “Did God really say that?” (Genesis 3:1) I get a bad doctor’s report and there goes my peace. The transmission on my car makes a funny noise and there goes my joy. These are battles in the spiritual places where the enemy is trying to make me doubt God. 

On the other hand, the battle is also being fought in a real, physical, “hair, blood, bones, and teeth” world. When that demon does crawl up my nose and my eyes itch and my nose runs and I’m sneezing my head off, that’s not a supernatural battle. It is a natural one and I need some vitamin C and some Alka Seltzer Plus. Half of the battle is in some heavenly place but half of it is everyday human existence, right here in front of me. When my SUV has a flat in the middle of the road, I don’t tell the police office, “Oh, it’s an angels and demons thing. Just wait and Gabriel will blow the tire back up.” No, I call a wrecker, or get out the jack and physically fight the war. AND THAT IS NOT A LACK OF FAITH. It is a recognition that there are two sides to every battle. 

I assured my young mother friend that when babies get sick, mothers worry. That’s the way God made us. That is what we are supposed to do. That’s not a spiritual failure. That is just saying, “In the supernatural I give this to God. In the natural, this is a scary thing.” On a side note, one of the great weapons of the enemy is right here. He makes us doubt, then he makes us doubt because we doubt. He says, “You can’t trust God with this.” Then, because that taught enters our head, he says, “See, you can’t trust yourself with this.” He’s a nasty old codger. And we shouldn’t help him out by telling people, “If you truly trust God, you won’t be fearful.” The Bible doesn’t tell us what was going on in David’s mind while he was picking out five stones, or what Joshua was thinking while they were walking around Jericho. I think you can say, “God, I’m putting this in Your hands but I’m shaking in my boots.” 

Half the battle is spiritual, and half the battle is just plain life on earth. So, what about the natural battle? Well, we can divide that in half. This may be as much psychological as it is theological but bear with me. The battle is fought in both fields. In the natural battle against fear and anxiety and discouragement there is the rational and the irrational. Same battle, two fronts. The rational makes sense. It is appropriate. It is dealing with reality. Cars do break down. Babies do get sick. Kids do flunk algebra (okay, maybe some of my own story is creeping in.) In the words of C.S. Lewis and others, “Bad stuff does happen to good people.” We can overcome it. We can learn from it. We can grow stronger because of it. But the fact remains, scary, painful, failing moments do come. And it is the most natural, rational thing in the world to struggle with those moments. Frankly, if your kids are really sick and you are NOT worried then I have some concerns. Denial is not a spiritual gift. Worrying, or being fearful, or having some anxiety is not only natural, it is probably good. Mark Twain said, “If a cat sits on a hot stove it will never sit on a hot stove again. And it probably won’t sit on a cold one.” Our fear or worry can often keep us safe and help us make wise decisions going forward. 

But there is an irrational side to the fight. (I am kind of irrationally believing you are going to read this whole thing. That’s crazy!) The irrational response takes it to the extreme. It obsesses, gets compulsive, catastrophizes. The very worst thing is going to happen. We will never get over this. I can’t stop thinking about it. “My car broke down and I don’t have the money to fix it. I’m worried.” Understandable you should be. But, “This is the end of the world. Nothing good has ever happened in my life. I might as well set fire to everything I own.” Well, that’s not rational. That’s over the top. And that is exactly where the enemy is trying to take you. The spies come back from scoping out the Promised Land and say, “They are like giants, and we are like grasshoppers. They will eat our lunch.” Irrational, Joshua and Caleb say, “Yep, they are big’uns but our God is bigger. We can do it. Rational. And in that story, the devil won. They believed the irrational and suffered for 40 years because of it.  

Here’s the moral of the story. We don’t have to win the whole battle. Half of it is spiritual and it belongs to God anyway. He’s already won that. Of the other half, half of that is natural and rational. God made us to be thoughtful and cautious. We just learn to live with that part. Only one fourth of the whole battle do we need to win, the irrational part. That part that tries to take over our thinking, destroy our faith, kill our joy. That quarter of the battle is what the devil tries to use against us to make us think we are weak, faithless, and forever failures. That’s the part where he has us calling ourselves grasshoppers. AND IT JUST AIN’T SO! 

Listen, (I am coming to the end, I promise) when the battles come (and they will) that the enemy tries to use to make you give up, turn back, fall down in a panic, remember, you only have to win one fourth of it. Give the supernatural to God, He’s better at that part than you are anyway. Put the natural part in perspective. Don’t be defeated because of natural worries. And stand your ground against the irrational part of the battle. Look the devil in the eye and say, “Get behind me devil. I am not giving in to your craziness. This battle belongs to God.” 

How? Well, go back and read the story in 2 Chronicles. Pretty cool. The synopsis is this: 

  1. They took the whole thing to God and asked Him what to do. 
  1. They listened for and to the Spirit of God who wrote them a blog. (Just kidding.) 
  1. They divided up the battle, half singers and half praisers. (You need to read it.) 
  1. They rehearsed all the time God had been faithful in the past. 
  1. And they sang praises to God in the face of their enemy. 

And what happened? Well, read it for yourself. But suffice it to say, Jehoshaphat was jumping up and down, hence the name Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat. ( I just made that up.) But they did in. And so do we. We win. All we have to do is fight a fourth of the battles we think we have to fight. The rest belongs to God. Yay us. Yay God!!! 

Now, get out of my nose, demon. 


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