“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.””Deuteronomy 31:8 NLTI’m reading a devotional on You Version called “21 Ways to Thrive by 45.” Today’s reading was about facing fear by putting our focus on Jesus and trusting Him. The scripture for today was Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 . I’ve heard Deuteronomy 31:6 multiple times in my life. At one point I had it written on an index card taped to my desk as a daily reminder. But I’m not sure the passage from Psalms 56 has ever resonated with me before. I had to read it twice this morning before I felt God nudge me about these two verses. It’s summer time where I live. In a month or two the leaves will start changing color, the temperature will turn cooler and the evenings will get darker earlier. Although this is a beautiful time of year with backdrops full of bright yellow, orange and red, this is also a warning sign that winter is right around the corner. For some, this brings the excitement of winter activities such as snowmobiling or skiing. For me, because this also means poor road conditions, it brings fear.Today’s verses reminded me of a time that I found myself caught in an ice storm. My children had had doctor appointments in late afternoon. Although it was the middle of winter, driving to their appointments, the roads were quite clear. However in a short period of time, freezing rain came down and turned the roads into an ice skating rink. I had a 20+ mile drive home. I proceeded with great caution.What should’ve been less than a 30 minute commute was taking well over an hour as I creeped and crawled in my vehicle to ensure I wouldn’t lose control. Vehicles in my area tend to be equipped with four wheel drive but that doesn’t help on ice. Four wheel drive on ice just means you have four wheels spinning out of control instead of two. The closer we got to our home, the worse the road conditions get. The hills also seem to increase frequency and depth.Two miles before home I stopped at the top of a very steep hill. It was dark with freezing rain still falling from the sky. The ice covered road before me had a bright sheen when my headlights hit it. I thought about the best approach for this hill and then I proceeded. My slow decent took a turn for the worst as my vehicle did a complete 180 and I found myself stuck in a ditch, in the wrong lane facing on-coming traffic. With no success, I tried getting out of the ditch and back up the hill. I realized I was going to have to proceed down the hill backward. As I slowly let my foot off the brake to begin backing down the hill, the ice took over and my car slid backward, landing at the bottom of the hill completely parallel to the crossroad that was ahead of me. I was now taking up both lanes. This was a narrow road with large drop offs on either side. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to get my vehicle turned straight into the proper lane and moving forward again. I prayed. I panicked. I constantly reassured my kids that we were going to be ok. But I was shaking with fear. I feared rolling my vehicle. I didn’t fear for my safety-but I feared greatly for the safety of my children. I’m a momma bear by nature and will risk life and limb to protect my children.I also knew that I couldn’t stay where I was at because any traffic coming from either direction could’ve hit us. My daughter was riding in the front seat, my son in the back. All of us had seatbelts on. I grabbed my daughter’s hand. I told my kids I had to get us out of there and proceeded to straighten out my car. Each attempt pulled me closer to the drop off on the right side of the road. In my mind I had already accepted that rolling the vehicle was inevitable. But I spoke out to my children saying “It’s ok. We’re going to be ok. God is going to protect us.” Just as my vehicle pulled farther to the right and I knew we were going into that drop off, my vehicle straightened and I was facing the right direction again. I drove a few feet away from the drop off, pulled to the side of the road then called for help. Tears of fear and relief flowed as I sobbed on the phone to the person I called. God protected us in a mighty way that night. Do you know every winter I still get anxiety over driving on bad roads? Do you know I still wrestle with fear, struggling to sleep some times? I also avoid chasing my dreams and rarely putting myself out there because of fearing rejection. The verses from Psalms 56 were a great reminder to take my focus off fear and remember Who is really in control. It’s also a great reminder that He promises to protect us whether it be bad roads, bad relationships, poor health, toxic situations, etc. When we focus on the what-ifs we give fear and anxiety all the control. We may even become paralyzed and unable to move forward because we’re listening to fear (or get ourselves stuck in a ditch because we tried to handle the circumstance in our own wisdom.) But when we stand on the promises of Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 peace overthrows fear because we know that God is watching over us. Fear is a choice. Trust is too. Do not fear. Choose instead to trust in the One who promises to protect us always.
“So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.”
1 Samuel 17:50 NLT
There are times in our lives when we come against a mountainous Goliath. This person could come in the form of a school bully, a domineering spouse, a manipulative boss or even from a parent, sibling or close friend. Whatever form, they are a person who seeks to have power and control over you. They display an overwhelming strength that can be very intimidating. Your instinct is to want to fight them but fear, lack of resources perhaps or some other barrier keeps you from doing so. Maybe you do fight back but their coarse words or even physical strength leave you feeling even more defeated. You may cry out for help but no one seems to be willing to stand up to the giant. Maybe it feels as though God will never send help. I am confident David’s people knew exactly how that feels.
They prayed for God to send someone to defeat this overpowering beast who killed off anyone who even attempted to take him on. Day after day Goliath taunted the Israeli army. The Israelites shook in fear of him. I am confident they wondered where God was and how He was going to redeem them from the Philistines. God answered by sending David (who interestingly enough enters this story as a delivery boy checking up on his brothers.) if you’re familiar with the rest of the story then you know that David, the unlikely hero, overcomes the giant through God’s divine intervention.
When we read this story, it’s easy to pray for God to send us a “David” to triumph over our giants. I’ve prayed this prayer many times hoping God would conquer my giants the same way. But what if, God’s plan is to empower you and/or me to be our own Davids? What if ultimately we are the ones who will stand up and defeat those who seek to dominate us?
If you’re thinking in human terms, you could be wondering how that would even work? Maybe you’re thinking it’s impossible even. Jesus’ answer to that would be: “…Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NLT) Clearly though, if God wanted us to defeat our enemy it would’ve happened by now right? But what if it hasn’t happened simply because we’ve failed to take a stand, set boundaries and say “Enough is enough. I will not tolerate this anymore.” Think about this: the Israelites HID from Goliath. David ran toward him. The Israelites trembled when Goliath spoke. David responded to Goliath’s taunts with this: “…You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…” (1 Samuel 17:45 NLT) Verse 46 begins with “Today the Lord will conquer you…” David’s secret weapon was His confident faith that he could fight this behemoth bully because God ultimately would be the driving force behind his victory! Even when others told him he couldn’t fight Goliath, David refuted their words by reminding them of how God had already protected him from brute wild animals who threatened the lives of his sheep.
David’s triumph over Goliath is a reminder of the warrior God has made each of us to be. We aren’t made to be prisoners of war or ladies in waiting locked away in a tower guarded by a dragon. We were made to be conquerors over all the real enemy throws at us including bullies, controllers, abusers, and overbearing people. How do we do that? How do we fight and become conquerors in our own trials and tribulations? Here are some useful tips I have been applying in my own life to become the David who defeats my giants.
1.) Set boundaries for yourself that protect you physically, emotionally and spiritually. This may look like telling someone not to speak to you a certain way but could also mean having to cut off total communication if the person continues to be demanding, abusive, harassing, or manipulative. This may also come in the form of police involvement or obtaining a personal protection order if the person’s actions violate your physical safety.
2.) Controllers do not like boundaries or being told what to do so once boundaries are set, expect backlash or retaliation. Do NOT tremble or cower from this. Be consistent in setting boundaries no matter how intimidating your controller becomes. Even if your heart is racing and fear tries to consume you, stand firm.
3.) Pray continuously and stand on Exodus 14:14. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to remain calm!
4.) If name calling or manipulation is the weapon of choice for your giant, do not feed into their lies. Stand on God’s truth and focus on what God says about you. Our enemies will never define us as good. They will always seek to be destructive because of their toxic make-up. That is their issue-don’t make it yours. God’s opinion of us supersedes any other, especially that of our enemies.
5.) Read the book of Psalms. David was taunted by more than one giant in his lifetime. Psalms is full of times he had to repeatedly remind himself of God’s victories in his life. Even when he feared for his own and was hiding in a cave from Saul David continued to praise God as a way of reminding himself that God would deliver him once again. (Psalms 57 and Psalms 142.)
6.) Don’t focus on your enemies’ actions. This gives them more power and can grow more fear, develop a root of bitterness and turn you toxic. Focus on God’s ability and His promise of deliverance. Praise Him in your storm.
7.) Seek our wise counsel but recognize what is and isn’t helpful. Before David met Goliath, Saul tried protecting him with armor that actually would’ve hindered David from defeating Goliath. Our friends and family can have the most meaningful intentions and still give us advice that, if followed, could set us back instead of bringing victory.
8.) Pray. Not just for protection and victory but for guidance, strength, endurance, wisdom, discernment and grace. No matter how awful our enemy is, God calls us to love and forgive them. This request is the hardest for me to practice in my own life so as I am praying for you, please pray for me in this regard especially.
9.) Don’t go down the rabbit hole of arguing with them (another weakness of mine.) This will only lead to giving them control over your emotions and leave you feeling defeated. If you have to communicate with them-stick to the facts and ignore every attempt they make to discredit you.
10.) If your Goliath is a boss or supervisor, remind yourself that you are working for the Lord. If their actions are creating a hostile workplace or coming in the form of harassment then you may need to enlist help from Human Resources or legal assistance. Laws were created to protect people from harassment in the workplace and more people need to stand on these laws.
No matter your circumstance or who your Goliath is, God will deliver you. Sometimes God will send a David to help us. But other times, He brings out the David within us to bring a victory that exceeds what we could ever imagine. If you’ve been battling a Goliath for a long time, it’s time to ask God to show you the David within you. Then trust God to deliver you from your Goliath by taking a stand, setting boundaries, praying and forgiving.
“Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.”
My freshman year of college I lived on the 4th floor of Robinson Hall. This dormitory had no elevators, only stairs-many, many flights of stairs. There’s a “freshman 15” saying referencing the amount of weight you gain your first year of college. The amount of times I went up and down those stairs on a daily basis I am confident I lost fifteen pounds and then some. Along with the stair climbing you had to walk across campus multiple times a day for classes, meals, etc. For a girl who at one point lived across the street from her high school, this world of walking a country mile and climbing stairs that equated to scaling the Empire State Building on a daily basis was a tad much. It was even worse when I was running late. Speed walking doesn’t get you to class much faster than normal walking and even at eighteen years old, my knees were not built for running, especially carrying several textbooks on my back. Have to admit, twenty plus years later, I think my freshman year of college was a mini boot camp for this diva.
After I graduated college, I moved back home. I had big dreams to change the world and ended up with a minimum wage job at a retail store. My college relationship ended and I found myself partying multiple times a night. I found a job that was a remote fit to my degree but it wasn’t stable and it wasn’t satisfying. I came to a realization that I was going in circles. Going in circles gets you nowhere. Going in circles, simply makes you dizzy. I took out a map and I picked a city to move to. About six months later, I was settling in to a city seven hours away from home only knowing two people in the entire area. I secured a job in the downtown area and gained many lifelong friendships from working there. I also walked a lot. You see, in most cities, there are parking structures that cost money to park. People who worked downtown typically would spend $40-80 plus in monthly parking fees. Paying for parking was a foreign thing for this small town girl. So I found free parking, on the outskirts of a rougher part of the city, and I would walk about six blocks to my office in high heels. At lunch time I would walk a round trip of about another six blocks to grab a meal and eat it at the office. On the weekends my friends and I again would walk from bar to bar to go dancing. You basically drove to the downtown area, just to walk to where you needed to go.
It’s been seventeen years since I’ve moved back to my home state. Where I live, walking to work or to get my kids to school or even to the grocery story is only a possibility if you’re in the shape of marathon runner. In fact, the only extensive walking I do now is 1-3 times a week on my lunch break as a form of exercise. Other than that, I am driving every place we need to go. Now, walking isn’t a form of transportation, it’s simply a form of exercise.
I have been battling with car repairs and unreliable vehicles for the past decade. Since moving into the home I’ve raised my children in the past 10 years, I have owned four vehicles. Each one has needed multiple repairs and each one has left me stranded a time or two. Some repairs have been routine needs like new brakes or tires. Others have been incredibly expensive and/or major safety issues. Each one causes a great stress in figuring out where to get it fixed, how to pay for it and how to get to work and other places I need to go while the vehicle is being repaired. At some point, the repairs get to be more than the vehicle is worth and then I pray extensively for the Lord to provide a better, more reliable and more affordable vehicle. Each time, God answers.
Two years ago, God provided me with the nicest vehicle I’ve owned in several years. This vehicle seemed to fit all my needs and even handles very well on bad wintry roads. It’s needed a few repairs here and there but it’s all been routine maintenance until last year. At the beginning of the year, I noticed a loud banging sound when I would drive over bumps. I kept checking the area where the sound was coming from and couldn’t see what would be causing it. One day I got to my office, checked it again and discovered my entire wheel well was broken. If you know anything about vehicles, the wheel well holds the rear shock into place. If the well is broken, the shock bangs up and into the trunk area of your vehicle. Not only is this a safety issue but it’s an expensive repair.
A family member did a free weld repair on it first. This lasted several months and I was incredibly grateful. However, in December of last year, the weld broke and replacing the wheel well was unavoidable. It was Christmas time and very cold outside. It was also the time of year where it’s dark until about 8am and dark again around 6pm. My commute to/from work is 70 miles (112 kilometers) and given the time of year, walking to work daily wasn’t a realistic option. Neither was driving my vehicle in the condition it was in. Given that fact that is was also Christmas time, financially speaking, this kind of car repair would break the bank as they say. I prayed a lot. I cried a bit and I reached out to others for prayer and help. God answered in a mighty way. My vehicle was repaired, I was provided a loaner vehicle while mine was in the shop, my children had an overwhelmingly abundant Christmas and I suddenly found myself in a position to bless a family in need with an abundant Christmas also. All this happened in a three-week period. All this happened because God used friends and family and other avenues to provide for my children and me.
About a month ago, my car broke down on the freeway. It actually just shut down as I was traveling. Fortunately, it was a slow motion occurrence where I was able to safely pull to the side of the road before losing my brakes and power steering. I couldn’t get it started for a bit. It was raining and vehicles were passing me at speeds high enough to shake my vehicle as they went by. I prayed and asked God for help. Tried to start the vehicle again with no success. This happened a few times and I found myself quickly losing my patience. At one point the high maintenance diva side of me came out and I actually asked God this, “Do you expect me to walk down the freeway, in the rain, in my high heels? Is that what you’re expecting me to do right now?” He answered by starting my vehicle and getting me to a safe park N ride area. I was able to call my mechanic who arranged for a tow truck and delivered me a loaner car to get me home that night. My car was repaired the very next day. I thanked God for His continued provision and embarrassingly humbled myself when I thought about those who walk in the rain without shoes because they have no other means of transportation and cannot even afford a pair of shoes. Who was I that I thought I was too important to walk in the rain in heels?
The past two weeks I have battled yet again with another needed repair. This time, it’s a second broken wheel well. This one is worse than the first. The Lord provided the financial means to repair this one rather quickly, however, the body shop doesn’t have an opening to fix it for three weeks. I drove the vehicle (after consulting with professionals who said it was ok) for the first week. However, the noises grew increasingly louder and the damage worsened. I tried to get the repair done sooner with no luck. I reached out to a few friends for a possible loaner vehicle, with no luck either. I prayed asking God to show me what to do for transportation over the next two weeks until I could get my car into the shop. I didn’t ask nicely, mind you. I had a world class toddler style meltdown over the whole thing. In fact, I remember two things I prayed out of anger in that moment-1.) I told God I didn’t want to learn whatever lesson He was trying to teach me and 2.) I was deeply disappointed in His method right then. I even tried venting to two people I trusted and was told I was venting to the wrong people. It was a whirlwind moment of deep discouragement. My frustration grew as I could feel God going silent-just letting me have my rant. In December God overwhelmed me with help. This time, it felt like I had been left alone to figure it out.
But then He answered. He answered by sending a family member to look at the vehicle once again and advising me on how long I could drive it. He answered by providing transportation for my kids to get to/from school and by giving a dear friend a willing heart to drive me to/from work. He answered by the generosity of another friend who loaned me a vehicle for this entire weekend. Although I don’t have a solid plan for this upcoming week regarding transportation, I know He will answer because He promised to take care of my children and me and God is faithful in keeping His promises.
Now, if you’re still reading this, you might be asking, what do car repairs and where I lived in college have in common. My answer would be this: turtles. You see my freshman year of college, 4th floor Robinson Hall had t-shirts designed for each resident. The shirts had a couple turtles on the front and the back read, “4th Floor, Robinson Hall, Moving Slow but Working Hard.” I was reminded of this motto this week when I watched a turtle attempting to cross a busily traveled country road. I actually found myself asking God to please help that turtle make it safely across. Then I thought about how slowly turtles move. There is no rush or urgency in a turtle. They simply were not built to move quickly.
Turtles crossing the road is very common where I live. Many times, humans intervene by picking up the turtles and moving them out of the road in an effort to save them from getting smooshed by vehicles. But other times, the turtle has to get across the road by the grace of God only because there is no human intervention. That was the case of this particular turtle. Nobody was stopping to help it. I saw a few cars drive around it and hoped anyone encountering it would do the same. Aside from darting cars, from the outside looking in, that turtle was on its own to make it safely to where he or she was journeying to.
In life, and especially when dealing with a broken down vehicle, I feel like a turtle. I can see where I need to go, I can develop a plan on how to get there, I usually choose the shortest route possible and then race off to the finish line. That’s when I encounter delays or other roadblocks that slow my pace down or bring me to a sudden stop. Delays and roadblocks trigger my impatience. There are things in my life,-plans, goals, etc.-that I want to happen in hare speed, not turtle speed (if you’re not familiar with the Tortoise and the Hare story this analogy may not makes sense so google “The Tortoise and the Hare” for a better understanding.) I especially get impatient when I know how to get something done but delay puts me in a position where I cannot get it down on my timeline and I have to depend on others for help during the waiting process. I am a very impatient waiter (unlike Abraham who waited “patiently” and received the Lord’s promise.” God knows this. He also knows I learn best when He answers with “daily manna” instead of delivering everything I ask for all at once. Because this year is the year He is developing my character to reflect how He designed me to be, He is slowing my life down to turtle speed, putting me in positions to be dependent upon others and in position to be totally dependent upon Him.
I’m gonna be real right now and admit that this form of character building, I. Do, Not. Like. But God tells us in James 1:2-4 to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let the steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (ESV).” The NLT version uses the word “endurance” instead of steadfastness. This word “endurance” is also found in Romans 5:3. “we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Verse 4 ties it all together with this; “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation (NLT,)” Instead of acting like a toddler, God gently reminds me that I should be rejoicing through these trials because He merely developing more of my character through them.
If you’re going through a trial, even something as trivial as lack of transportation, remember this-God uses all circumstances to refine us, especially the ones He knows will really put us through the test. Our fiery furnace doesn’t have to be something major. It could be taking the same “test” over and over again until we learn to not let that circumstance rattle us. Maybe your test is a different financial struggle, dealing with a toxic person, having the same argument with your spouse with no resolution in sight, struggling with a rebellious child or something more intense like battling with a life threatening illness or job loss. Whatever the circumstance, you may be feeling like you’re going in circles, this journey seems endless, God is silent and your trying to walk through heavy traffic (get through this situation) at a turtle’s speed. There will be times you will feel like God uses others to pick you up and carry you to where you need to be quickly. Other times in this journey you will feel like everyone is bypassing you and you’re at the mercy of your own strength to get across that road. Just remember this, whether a human moves that turtle or the turtle makes it across because travelers choose to swerve and avoid it, God’s divine intervention is what truly gets that turtle safely across the road. No matter how God delivers your miracle, know this-it’s coming from God, in His time and in His way. Don’t give others more credit than they deserve and don’t be a hare trying to rush through life on your own. It’s in the turtle speed that we notice more around us and are even gifted moments of pausing (like when you’re waiting for someone to pick you up.) You’d be amazed at how beautiful life truly is when you’re not rushing and you’re not rattled. You just keep going, moving slowly but working hard. You do what you can, and then trust God to do the rest.
One last note-as each vehicle passed that turtle, it never once stopped or hid in its shell. It kept its eyes toward the direction it was heading and it kept moving forward. That is the epitome of unshakable faith. When we’re faced with delays, roadblocks or feel like we’re metaphorically trying to cross a road through heavy traffic, there’s a confident trust we can exude by keeping our eyes focused on where God is leading. We must continue to move forward believing He will get us to the other side completely unharmed. God used that turtle to teach me this: I can look at the problem and worry about how to solve it-or I can look to Jesus and trust Him to bring the solution even if it means hours, days, weeks or years of roadblocks and delays. God used Abraham’s journey as a testimony that He is never late but always on time in delivering His promises, even delivering car repairs.