If given the choice on a night out, I instinctively will always go with a chic flick, comedy, or anything Disney. I love however true stories, whether it be in film or written form. Although in complete anguish and covering my eyes through most of it, sitting through movies like Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, and American Sniper always captivated me. It was real. Not just Hollywood embellishing battle scenes to bank a buck. In reality, I am always aware those gruesome scenes are probably mild in comparison to those who were forced to play those roles in real life.
The WW2 Battle of Stalingrad has been noted as the deadliest in history. Estimates conclude nearly 2 million casualties occurred during the 7 month siege. That is equivalent to the entire population of Houston, TX and averages to 10,000 men falling to their deaths every 24 hours.
What would it have been like? To see the devastation day after day after day. To continue fighting knowing the odds that you had seen the sun rise or set for the last time was extremely high.
The fiercest battle. Picture it. Engrain those images you have either personally experienced or simply seen on a big screen in your head. The explosions bursting all around you. The screams. The adrenaline. The sights and smells of death with every turn. The split second decisions. The horror. The ultimate sacrifices.
Psalm 46 reads:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations He has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Verse 10 is all familiar. One you have probably memorized and seen written on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and framed art. As I have thought of this verse many times in my life, it is usually during an overly anxious, hectic time. As one sitting on a yoga mat, legs criss-crossed, eyes closed, pinky fingers pointing to the sky…silently chanting “be still and know that I am God.” A calming of the spirit.
However, after studying this verse in context, the picture I have in my head is now one of complete opposition. Instead of a quiet calming reassurance from the Lord, I am picturing myself in the heat of a fierce battle. The first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Do you remember it? As you sat in your comfy cushioned theatre seat munching on that buttery goodness, you became frozen. A sickening knot formed in the pit of your gut, and you wondered if you had the endurance for the remaining 150 minutes. THAT. That is when the LORD Almighty powerfully walks into the scene from Psalm 46. He utters a single word and the earth melts. He effortlessly snaps the semi-automatic rifle in half and crushes the atomic bomb with his heel. All air raid shelters are burned to the ground.
In the midst of all the chaos, the terrors of the night, the arrows flying by day, He boldly commands, “Be still…” Stop! All of it! Every military combat strategy. Freeze right where you are. Do you not see? You have no power, no protection apart from Me. Stay right beside Me. I am your ever present help. Your refuge. Your strength. I can stop this war in a single word. But TRUST ME if I ask you to take ahold of my hand as I lead you THROUGH it instead. I am God. I am in control. And I know what is best for you.”
This summer the Lord has providentially laid Psalm 46 on my heart. Over and over again, He keeps bringing this passage of Scripture back to me. Why? (maybe only an extreme analyzer like myself would ask this question) But do you ever get the feeling something is on the horizon? That God is preparing you for a single event or series of them in the days ahead? I absolutely have, and to be honest, it always scares me to death. To have a sixth sense (or a gut feeling) that tough days are inching closer and closer. That has been my heart this summer. (...by the way, I am a public school teacher in Texas if that helps explain my possible anxiety. ha! The Lord tends to use the summer months for this very thing, and I am grateful for the time to mentally, physically, and spiritually refresh.)
August in Texas equates many things, but one that probably trumps them all is…high school football. It’s the beginning. The past 3 days, standing at the sink in my kitchen, I have casually watched our high school boys begin 2-a-days on the practice field across the street. Although as a girl, I have never personally experienced the blood…the sweat…the tears…and even the occasional sickness that accompanies these highly intense football workouts, I did have 2 older brothers that did. So why do they do it? What is the purpose of these grueling (seemingly) torturous workouts? Are the coaches just evil madmen?
Of course not.
They have a plan. There is meticulous strategy and purpose behind every drill. In 3-4 short weeks, the season begins. Hard fought battles will occur every Friday night all across this great state. The coaches know it. The players know it. The opponents know it. As well as the onlookers, we call fans. 2-a-day workouts are quite simply…preparations for battle. They are not easy. In fact, I’m guessing 99% of the boys do not wake up early, nor are instantly pumped and ready to go each morning. They are keenly aware of what will be required of them mentally and physically. There must be great discipline to continue day after day after day, as they push their bodies to the extreme. They also must have knowledge of what the ultimate goal is by the end of the season and have the heart to do whatever it takes to get there.
Spiritually speaking, this is what I have felt the Lord walking me through this summer. Preparing my heart and using great friends to speak truth over me. And reminding me "this world is not our home...we are only passing through."
I have no clue what lies ahead. I have no idea if this will be a year of immeasurable blessings or pain like no other. Maybe even a combination of the two. However, the Lord has used His words in Psalm 46 to give me great peace and hope and strength.
You’re with us IN the FIRE!
…with us AS a SHELTER,
…with us IN the STORM.
You will lead us THROUGH the fiercest battle…
Did you catch it? He does not say outside the fire, away from the storm, or around the fiercest battle. We will walk in the fire pit. Our feet will be burning. Pain will be felt. We will be caught smack dab in the middle of the worst Texas thunderstorm you’ve ever seen. Large hail stones will hit you and be felt as 1000 bee stings all over your body. We will be asked to fight from the front lines. Injury and death will fall all around us.
Yet, picture it! HE will lead us. Not around it. Not over it or under it. But right through the middle of it. He never leaves. He never lets go of your hand. He shelters you. He is your ever-present help.
It’s easy to be frightened of battles you see looming on the horizon. The urge to want to run far far away is 100% normal. Take heart and KNOW your God is in control. Plead for His help and ask Him to prepare you now….not after the battle has begun or the whistle has been blown and the referee signals GO! Preparation for war begins day one of boot camp, or if in Texas…day one of 2-a-days. As Christians, I believe we should always have the mindset that if we are not currently IN a battle, we need to be self-disciplined and preparing ourselves (spiritually) for the NEXT one coming.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. “ 2 Cor. 10:3-5
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”