We are reaching the end of all this giant talk. But one giant still lurks in the paragraphs of this post, one last giant we still need to dislodge from his hiding place…
In my previous post I wrote about survival in the valleys of our lives. Little did I know then what valleys would still lie ahead. Schools closing again for another month for most grades. The academic school year now going to flow into 2021.
For our family that’s not such bad news, as our children have been schooling from home the last four months anyway. We have worked hard and could do with a school break. For many other parents in South Africa though, the closed schools mean yet another logistic nightmare to deal with. The impact of this on our children’s long-term education is still uncertain. I belong to a few WhatsApp groups created around school topics (one is actually called “Mammas in die donker”! ) and I can tell you emotions often run high. If you keep your eye on the news, you will see it mirrored there. Political parties, trade unions and the private sector arm-wrestle and play the blame game while the legal battles soar all the way up to the courts.
My sister is a teacher at a private school, and she and my teenage nephew travel there together every day (when not restricted under lockdown). They had to use some freshly discovered trade craft to actually go to school inconspicuously after COSAS felt they had the right to disrupt and intimidate private schools.
It’s not only the school situation that’s at breaking point. The social and economic turmoil worsens daily. Emotional isolation is starting to gnaw at the nerves of many. We saw some friends contracting the Coronavirus. Others had to self-isolate due to close contact. Some lost jobs. Others experienced death of family members. Disrupted lives are at the order of the day.
The healthcare workers at the hospital where I work, carry a unique burden. Caring for ill patients during this volatile time, blows fear into all our souls. We all feel a bit stigmatised, knowing we could expose friends and family because we are exposed to COVID-19 patients every day. The yearning for the social and physical contact is visible in all the socially distant, masked and visor-covered conversations. Nothing is normal. We cannot explain the tiredness settling deep into us. We carry the uncertainties that lie like secrets in the corridors of the hospital.
Our country is at the summit of the COVID-19 mountain top but deep in the Valley of Low Morale. With all this going on, Giant Despair and his shape shifts are more than ready to pounce on us instantly.
Blogging about Giant Despair and his buddies was quite an eye-opener for me. It came as a bit of a surprise that the root-cause of my “control-tantrums” would actually be Fear. (See more about this in Rooibos Tea and World War Z, as well as The Giant of Doubting Castle and the Keys of Promise). Perplexed at not succeeding to tame my “demons” with mere self-control, I have missed looking the real giant in the eyes. Giant Fear awaits a battle with me. It’s time to dislodge him from his hiding place.
Upon this discovery, I started a reading plan on You Version (excellent online Bible resource) about fear. The following plans were really useful:
The Bible is full of stories and verses of encouragement to stay strong and not give in to fear. That means at least one thing: I am not the only one that feels timid and afraid in this world. Some people have fought Giant Fear before me and won. The Bible teaches that I can win. So I must strategise.
Preparing for the battle
The dreaded giants, such as Despair and Fear, come to taunt us, whenever they can. They try to taint our views, to spread lies and to inflict us with doubt. God knows this and does not leave us without a strategy. The Bible is rich in training about facing the giants. I could use two analogies to summarise what we need. Funny enough, many computer games also draw from these two things. One such game is Fortnite (a VERY familiar game in our household during this lockdown period). In this game, players need both Shield and Health to enable them to stay in the fight. We need similar things as Christians in battle. The Bible calls it Armor and Power.
Ephesians 6:10-18 describes this in detail. Being a mom, I had our kids draw pictures about the armour of God when they were small, but this armour is no child’s play. Think of how heavy those shields and swords must have been in AD times. So is the message to put what we need preparing for battle. This battle is as real as the battles of the Israelites against the Anakim and the other Giant clans Paul wrote about in another blog post.
The sword is the Word of God. Like veteran soldiers, we should know how to use this Sword swiftly and skilfully. We should learn how to use Scripture to deflect the lies from Satan and thrust Light and Truth into situations. In Hebrews 4:12 the Word gets described to be sharper than a two-edged sword. Without God’s Word in our hearts, we’ll be swayed in many directions and probably get gobbled up by the giants along the way.
I’m grateful for the emphasis on Bible verse memorisation during my biblical counselling studies at the Bible Institute in Kalk Bay. Often, when I am tempted to walk in the flesh and give outing to my anger, those verses enter my thoughts.
We need our ‘power-banks’ filled, or we’ll run out of steam before we know it. Like many Capetonians Paul and I have done a few Cycle Tours (we still call it Argus!). We know first hand what the fatigue and cramping feels like when we run low on energy. Once Paul literally had to walk with me and my bike for a big part of a mountain bike race. I just didn’t have enough power to continue.
The Bible reminds us that we cannot fight without power. The phrase “be strong and courageous” is mentioned at least 16 times the Old Testament (two examples are Joshua 1:7 and 2 Chronicles 32:7). So how do we fill these power-banks?
Firstly, our strength comes from the Holy Spirit. We cannot fight in our own strength. Paul exhorts the Ephesians to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:1). He told Timothy that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul also spoke to the Romans about a spirit of slavery which will make us fall back into fear. We need to be reminded that we have the Spirit of adoption as children of the Father (Romans 8:15).
Secondly, no battle can be won without prayer. So many accounts of battles won in the Old Testament, started with petitions for God’s help. Philippians 4:4 and Colossians 4:2 are very clear about prayer, supplication and thanksgiving. Praying is submitting all authority of the fight to God. We read in Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” God is merciful and we know that He can change circumstances in an instance. What a mystery that God would listen to us in this way.
Thirdly, we should never fight alone. Again we can look at the Old Testament battles, especially David and his mighty men. They had a strong bond. They knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They were familiar with each other’s style of fighting and knew how to complement each other. Movies such as 300 give us a glimpse into this camaraderie. God created his church partly with the intention that we should do battle together. Somehow, if we let fellow Christians in on our private battles in the shadows, the giants lose their grip on us. In 2 Corinthians 1:4 and Colossians 3:16 we find examples of teachings about our role in helping each other to stay standing. Again the design of God’s church as the body of Christ is a mystery and often neglected these days.
We have a refuge where we can feast
While we journey through spiritual valleys in our lives, we will feel the heaviness of it all. We get tired, and we need space where we can refill our power-banks and repair our armour. God gives this refuge.
Proverbs 14:26-27 brought me such comfort:
In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
With God, we can have life instead of fear. We only need to fear God. That’s a different kind of fear though, seated in deep love, trust and respect.
He also wants us to have time to feast on His presence, His Word and His promises. In Psalm 23:5 David praises God for letting him feast while his enemies are looking on. This is an oxymoron. Only in God’s presence can we do something as absurd as rejoicing while life hurts. Yet, that is exactly what the Bible teaches in Philippians 4:2. We can only rejoice during times of suffering if we know the end goal of suffering. When we cycled the Argus we could enjoy the toughest part of the race despite exhaustion, physical discomfort because the finish line awaits.
I am not sure at what point in life this message reaches you. You might have experienced much more than me facing the giants along your life path. I definitely haven’t experienced the worst kinds of suffering yet. My faith hasn’t been tested to the extremes yet. However, I know that God has taken me through enough trials to taste and see that He is good.
Even when walking through valleys of pain, He will carry me and help me to endure. That solid knowledge gives peace that surpasses all other knowledge.
My hope for you is to explore if you have not yet. To taste and see that God is good. I hope you will be able to identify the giants in your valleys and that you will hunt them down.
God will lead you, guide you and protect you during this battle.