By Jennifer Slattery, Crosswalk.com
Long before the taliban came into existence and the CoronaVirus hit our world, eighteenth century theologian Matthew Henry wrote, “All human life is warfare.”
I imagine, many of us have felt the reality of that statement over the past few years. We have a real and relentless enemy bent on our destruction. And every mighty movement of God seems to trigger an explosion of evil.
Yet, quickly review our world’s history and you’ll see, every explosion of evil also triggers a mighty and beautiful movement of God. A movement revealed not through loud displays of power but rather quiet, yet inspiring and contagious, demonstrations of grace and love.
Radiant displays of beauty that reveal our radiant Lord.
This battle, at times, is exhausting. But we must never allow it to become defeating. Or deceiving.
What we’re experiencing and witnessing today, it’s not new. The players may shift, but wars continue to rage, terrorists rise up, are conquered or supplanted and new ones take their place. Friends and family betray one another and children experience abuse and neglect, and often, by the hands of the very ones who were supposed to keep them safe.
Surrounded by such ugliness, it’s easy to get caught in the fray. To allow the ugliness to seep in and then out of us. Adding hurt upon hurt, brokenness upon brokenness.
But God infused within us incredible, untarnishable beauty: life, love and light strong enough to shatter the darkness that tries to press in.
Decades ago, our family visited the Grand Canyon, and I went hiking along the Kaibab trail. I don’t know what the trail looks like during blooming season, but when I was there, it was dry and largely barren. Which is why each desert flower I saw had such an impact. The colors were so vibrant against the landscape of brown. Each one drew me, and I was intrigued by the tenacity with which it grew.
The tenacity that allowed the seed that became that blossom to grow while other seeds remained dead in the dry soil and other emerging plants withered away in the unrelenting heat.
Reflecting back on every sign of life I encountered, I sense God asking me, “Which will you be? The seed that never grew. That lay dormant, engulfed, lifeless by its environment? The blossom that sprouts for a moment, maybe a day or a week, but then allows the harsh realities surrounding it to destroy the sweet aroma I created it to produce?”
Who will claim the victory of my life, my enemy, who is bent on my destruction, or the God who died that I might live?
And I’m not speaking about salvation here. I’m assuming most of you reading this belong to Christ. That you’ve accepted His gift of spiritual life, but that doesn’t mean you’re living in the victory of it.
Are you believing the lies that say you’re powerless, ineffective, unimportant, and besieged?
As I said previously, for every miraculous movement of God, our world experiences a countermovement of evil. Consider all that occurred after Christ’s death. In a moment, the church was born and division and social hierarchies broken as the gospel united people of all nations. (Acts 2:1-41) Soon after, however, a wave of persecution hit. And to some, this may have felt like the end. Their circumstances hopeless.
But just as life ignites our enemy to attack us with death, so his attacks spur God to unleash unconquerable bursts of life. In the first century, He did this by inspiring His persecuted children to share the gospel in each place to which they’d fled.
Dotting the landscape with beauty through His ever-blossoming, soul-beautiful children.
Just as He’s doing today, through you and I.
This war we’re in, it’s personal. We’re called, empowered and commissioned, which is precisely why we’re under attack.
Satan will try to destroy the most beautiful parts of you. The parts of you that most radiate Jesus. That gift of compassion that reveals the heart of the One who wept over Jerusalem’s hard-heartedness, deception, and impending destruction (Luke 19:41-44), and who wept before raising Lazarus from the dead as well (John 11:38-44).
A gift intended to radiate a unique, life-changing aspect of Christ, of who He is at His core. A gift that should, in its expression, bring joy, but that Satan will twist to feel burdensome. Or, through the hurtful words of others, diminish by telling you that you’re defective, too sensitive. That you feel too intensely, enticing you to withdraw and isolate. To hide behind a facade of “strength” and stoicism.
If God has planted leadership skills within you, satan will tarnish your strength with pride, causing that gift intended to unite and mobilize the kingdom to wound and divide. Or, again, through the hurtful words of others, tell you you’re domineering or prideful. Maybe too loud. Tempting you to hold your tongue, to keep your head down, and to “go with the flow” even when you know things are flowing toward a deadly waterfall.
In short, satan will try to entice us to fight one another and ourselves. To become self-obsessed, easily offended, and defensive, rather than leaning deeper into Christ and His love.
But we know our enemy’s tactics. We have an entire book recording his futile attempts, and they are indeed futile, because our play book assures us, Christ has already won. He broke the power of death and replaced it with vibrant and beautiful life.
And He’s working, day by day and wound by wound, to replace our rubble, the ashes our enemy created in our lives, with untarnishable beauty.
That’s why Jesus came. Speaking of our Savior, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NASB).
That’s what God did through Jesus. He turned our mourning into dancing, swept away the ashes and rubble our sin and the sins of others created, and gave us a Spirit of strength, joy, and praise.
Now, He’s inviting you and I to live in that. To be part of the mighty movement of God that will, and even is now, rising up against the onslaught of our world’s evil. And not through ugliness and arguments but, through our words and actions, by sprinkling flower seeds wherever we go and plunging our roots deep into the One who nourishes and refreshes our souls.
Consider, what is one way God wants you to shine light into your world, your sphere of influence and contact, today?
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.