We try to trivialize our pain around other Christians, hedging it off in Christianese language, telling our friends and family that we’re “going through a wilderness season.” There’s plenty of other metaphors I could use, such as “walking through the storm,” but I’ll spare the rest.
I think we downgrade our admissions of torment, because obviously, it’s embarrassing. None of us want to be the problem child in conversation. But that’s not what really lays the wood on us.
No, it’s the fact that we’ve read too many books, listened to all the sermons, and had all the conversations about activating our faith, engaging in spiritual warfare, and resting in Christ. We’ve heard it all, and convince ourselves that knowledge is enough.
That’s why we don’t like to pull the curtain on our skeletons even with our closest confidants. We’re so used to hearing the battle plans, that the actual combat appears quaint, a done deal according to others’ opinions.
That kind of thinking produces lone-wolf Christians, believers who become stoics, clamping their pain within. We brag about spiritual warfare like new recruits boasting about how many enemy they’ll drop. What we forget is that, like actual combat, we will make critical errors.
Our sins and misjudgments have a cost, and such is life. Spiritual warfare is not a shooting gallery; it’s trench warfare, hand-to-hand combat. Christians will face agonies like serious depression and hopelessness, anger and regret. And getting through no-man’s land isn’t a strut on a Hollywood runway.
Here’s the good news. We have the King and combat tools to win. The real war is deploying them—to find hope in hopeless corners of our lives, to find joy under the ashes of depression, to find self-control amidst anger, to find peace despite regret.
And that war takes more than a quick name-it-and-claim-it or some cute Facebook post with Philippians 4:13 splayed all over it. Truth is found in the trenches. Just interview anyone who’s ever dealt with serious despair in their lives. The truth of Philippians 4:13 emerges when we’re gutted to the bone and are shaken, because when that time comes around in each of our lives, we either believe or are completely broken.
Brokenness is a catchword in Christianity that describes the consequences of our sin and the personal agonies we suffer during our lives. It’s overuse has worn away the stopping power of the word, and now, everything is called “brokenness.”
I’d like to amend this designation. How about battered, not broken? If we believe everything that exalts itself against Christ must be cast down, then our tribulations come under Christ’s feet as well.
You may feel broken and destroyed, but if you’re still praying and pleading—you’re battered, not broken. Christ keeps us in the fight, and the Holy Spirit props us up even in the shadows of death.
I guess what I’m trying to say is captured by the Apostle Paul.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” -2 Corinthians 4:8-9
If you’re crippled under the load of a personal torment, then you know what this means. Those who suffer deep cuts to their spirits have the potential to be the fiercest warriors, because they know what it’s like to be in their own foxhole, curled up in the thick of the enemy’s barrage.
When someone gets clear of that kind of pain, they are not only thankful but also humble, knowing who pulled them out of that foxhole. They’ve been battered, but they got by because of grace.
These are the people who have the wisdom concerning spiritual warfare that we all desire. Go find them. They’re probably only a pew away from you in church.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. For updates on his latest blog posts here at restandrefuge.wordpress.com, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email. Want to read more? Check him out at themajestysmen.com/author/kevincochrane, a friendship and mentoring community for Christian males (views on my blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com are my own and do not necessarily represent those of The Majesty’s Men). To contact, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.