Why am I so overwrought?
Why am I so disturbed?
Why can’t I just hope in God?
These are not my words, although there are so many days they could be. They were written thousands of years ago by the sons of Korah, as recorded in Psalm 42:5, 11 (VOI). Have you ever experienced such an intense struggle with discouragement? The psalmist knows God is real, and that He is with him day and night, but still he still cries out to God:
“‘Why have You forgotten me?
Why must I live my life so depressed, crying endlessly while my enemies have the upper hand?’
My enemies taunt me. They shatter my soul the way a sword shatters a man’s bones. They keep taunting all the day long,
‘Where is He, your True God?’” (Psalm 42: 9-10 VOI).
I can relate to so much of this psalm, but when I read this last part, I thought, “I don’t really have any enemies. No one says that to me.” And then, I think the Holy Spirit spoke to me and reminded me of the truth, as Jesus said He would do (John 14:26; 16:13). Yes, I do have enemies who say these things.
I was reminded of Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12 NLT). Yes, I do have enemies that taunt me and “shatter my soul,” and so do you. Their attacks can seemingly come out of the blue, and if we’re not prepared, they can assault us and knock us down just like a massive tidal wave. How can we prepare for and protect ourselves from these kinds of attacks?
1. Always keep in mind that the enemy is real and that he is going to attack. The apostle Peter warns us to “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith” (1 Peter 5: 8-9a NLT). Be aware and don’t become complacent.
2. Be committed to standing your ground. Because of the nature of the enemy we are fighting against, Paul says, “you need to be head-to-toe in the full armor of God: so you can resist during these evil days and be fully prepared to hold your ground” (Eph 6:13 VOI). This reminds me of the scene in Princess Bride when a large squadron of men is stationed to guard the castle. As a giant, engulfed in flames, is approaching, uttering menacing threats, the head of the castle guard keeps shouting at his frightened men, “Stand your ground! Stand your ground!” Don’t believe the enemy’s lies and empty threats, and don’t run away. Stand your ground.
3. The verse quoted above also says we are to wear protective armor. We are to stand our ground protected by truth, righteousness, and peace, but the most important piece is the shield of faith. Paul says, “Don’t forget to raise the shield of faith above all else, so you will be able to extinguish flaming spears hurled at you from the wicked one” (Eph 6:16 VOI). In her e-book on Ephesians 6, The 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience, Stormy Omartian says these flaming spears that are hurled at us “are designed to pierce our heart with discouragement and make us fearful, anxious, uncertain, or incapacitated.” To prevent us from being such an easy target, we must remain under the cover of our shield of faith. The apostle Peter says that through faith, we are “shielded by God’s power” (1 Pet 1:5 NIV). It is God’s power, extended to us through our faith, that protects us from the enemy’s words, taunts, barrages, jabs, and flaming arrows. Reflect on some of these passages describing God as our shield, our source of protection.
- “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety” (Ps 18:2 NLT).
- “Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers, will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you” (Ps 91:4 VOI).
- “He is my tower of strength and my deliverer. He is my shield of protection and my shelter” (Ps 144:2 VOI).
- “Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle” (Ps 140:7 NIV).
- “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high” (Ps 3:3 NLT).
4. Finally, we need to stand our ground together. We don’t have to fight this enemy alone. Paul says that we are to “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Gal 6:2a NIV). I am reminded of when the Israelites were fighting a battle, and Moses was atop a hill holding up the staff of God. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Ex 17:11 NIV). When he grew tired and unable to hold up his hands on his own, “Aaron and Hur held his hands up –one on one side, one on the other –so that his hands remained steady till sunset” (Ex 17:12 NIV).
I am so very thankful for the Aarons and Hurs that God has placed in my life that help hold up my hands and reinforce my shield of faith. Just as with Moses, it makes a difference in the battle.
If you see a brother or sister who is under attack who is struggling to hold up their shield of faith, encourage them. Pray for them. Hold up their hands and help support their shield. Likewise, if your shield of faith is sagging and you feel targeted by the enemy, reach out to a fellow soldier and allow them to help you, to encourage you, to pray for you, and to help bolster up that shield to protect you from those arrows of discouragement. Let’s stand our ground together.