Grace and the Second Battle


Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
1 Corinthians 12:14

I had emerged victorious from a season of trial in my life. I’d weathered the grief of losing someone I loved, the pain of seeing my parents’ marriage end, and other lesser tribulations. I had kept the faith and grown stronger and closer to God. Now I was ready to explore His calling more deeply and share encouragement with others.

I volunteered in the chaplain’s office of my local hospital, offering prayers and words of hope for those who were suffering. Thanks to my past experiences, I even thought I had answers to some of their questions about coping with difficulties.

But it wasn’t long before a new season of trial enveloped me, this one more insidious than the last. I became beaten down by feelings of stagnation, personal failure, and uncertainty about the future. This time around, I couldn’t find answers in prayer and Bible study. In fact, everything I said or thought about God seemed to end in a question mark.

I couldn’t help wondering why things were so different this time around. Where was the victory? Why couldn’t my faith make a way through the wilderness of questions and doubt? Worse yet, what did all of my present wandering say about the quality of my faith in the first place? I’d attributed past triumphs to it, but had it even been real?

It’s so easy to second-guess even the most fruitful faith journey when it doesn’t seem to hold up to the stresses of the moment.

Recently, I read a good novel whose main character demonstrates this struggle rather poignantly. Natalie, the protagonist of The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli is a devoted mother and Christian radio host who spends her days handing out just the right words to uplift her listeners and reassure them of God’s love. But all of that changes when an unthinkable tragedy shatters her family. She’s left reeling when she realizes that her faith code isn’t enough to protect her loved ones or keep her life from descending into chaos. It doesn’t bring her deliverance from the aftermath either. On top of all the other painful questions, Natalie is plagued by the thought that she might be a hypocrite.

Natalie’s struggle and eventual journey to completely trust God resonates with me, although my own was not nearly so dramatic. But one thing that particularly intrigues me about her story is the supportive presence of her best friend Danielle. Danielle walks beside Natalie through every difficulty, and gives her the words of affirmation that Natalie can no longer find within herself.

Natalie simply can’t get through her situation by her own faith alone. As it turns out, neither could I.

Let me pause for a minute and remark on what a startling concept that is. I couldn’t get through on my own faith alone.

I grew up with the mantra, “You and God make the majority.” I was taught that with even the smallest weapons, I could defeat the biggest giants as long as I put my trust in the Lord just like David did in the Bible.

There is an interesting thing to note about David, though. He wasn’t always a giant slayer.

Years after the Goliath incident and after David had become king and reigned for some time, he faced another giant. This is how 2 Samuel tells it:
The Philistines went to war again with Israel, and David went down together with his servants. They fought against the Philistines, and David grew weary. Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was fitted out with new weapons, said he would kill David. But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and attacked the Philistine and killed him. 
2 Samuel 21:15-17a
David needed help! He’d conquered by faith in God’s power alone in the past, but this time around, he needed support and community to overcome the enemy.

That’s what I needed too.

Rather than focusing on my own faith journey, I began to look around to fellow travelers. During this time period, I started making new Christian friends and I became more open about my struggles with the friends that I already had. I also gained deeper appreciation for church family, and found encouragement and comfort in the repetition of liturgy and praise in the midst of a faithful community.

The unalterable fact is that, as believers, seasons of trial are bound to overtake us many times throughout our earthly sojourn. And with each season comes a new invitation to deeper and closer fellowship with God. Sometimes that invitation comes straight to the heart, and we're buoyed by one-on-one communion with Him. But sometimes it comes in the face of a friend or in the fellowship of an entire group of believers. They offer companionship and words of encouragement when individual faith isn’t strong enough to produce those words anymore.

The latter seasons are about so much more than personal faith victories. These seasons are humbling and beautiful reminders of what it means to be part of the Church, a member of the body of Christ, giving and partaking in mutual love and service.

Thanks be to God.

Comments

  1. Chloe, thanks for your insightful post. I appreciate your observations around how while something worked one season or occasion it does not mean it will work the same way another time. I loved the Scripture passage you referenced to illustrate how David had previously fought one battle one way, and another battle a different way. It is also a good reminder that sometimes we must face battles alone, sometimes with others, and sometimes we must rely on others to do battle for us. There is a discernment process we must be sensitive to regarding the season, the nature and timing of the trial, and where we are currently at emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Thanks again for your post. Blessings.

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    1. Anne, I appreciate your response. What a great point about discernment! It does take so much wisdom and guidance form the Spirit to know how to traverse each part of our journey. Thank you for reading and have a blessed day.

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