I‘ve never served time in the military, or really even considered it. I only have a couple of good friends who’ve been in the service and they weren’t in the service at the time that we were friends, so I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of outsider when it comes to things related to war and battle.

Librarians, please skip this next paragraph. I am, however, currently working through an old, moldy, water-damaged copy of Lee’s Generals. Slowly ripping out the pages to turn them into hearts and Valentine cards and leaves. I noted the other night that someone read Psalm 51 to Stonewall Jackson just before he died. The story is now re-memorialized as the leaves of a wreath hanging in our den. So that’s my current relationship with the Civil War.

And, I have seen my fair share of war movies. I love thinking about battle — the imagery as it relates to us as soldiers of Christ, the way 2 Timothy talks about it. I have been behind enemy lines, to my credit, but that’s just because I’ve played some paintball. I imagine that to be about as close to war as I’ll ever get.

My most recent paintball experience was a few years ago in Edinburgh. Lots of folks from our church decided to get together at a big paintball place just outside the city. Since I had a little prior experience under my belt, I was pretty excited about jumping in.

And then we picked teams.

Oh yes.

And to make it ‘fair’ they just decided to count off numbers — one, two, three, four… — and all the even numbers were on one team, all the odd numbers on the other. You’d think this would be a reasonable way to divide things up nicely.

It. Was. Not.

Somehow, all — and I do mean all — the bigger, stronger, and/or faster guys were on one team. They had like one girl. It wasn’t me. And the other team (which you know by now was my team) had our awesome, but about my height {I am not tall}, skinny worship leader, a couple guys still in high school, me, another girl, and some other dudes who I think, if we’d gotten into a fist fight, I possibly could’ve taken.

Right-o, captain. Onward and upward.

The first game had little to no strategy in it, and it did not involve a great amount of skill. It took one team being brave enough to head into enemy territory to capture the flag, and they had to brave dodging paintballs with no cover, covering a decent amount of distance before getting a chance at grabbing the flag.

My team was more patient {read: less brave} so we waited it out and ended up winning, since the other guys were willing to risk losing in order to attempt winning. (And because you only get to play for a certain amount of time — why waste the whole paintball session on a lousy game of capture the flag?)

I may or may not have shot Hero Hubs in the back in order to win that game. (Of course we were on different teams.)

The next couple of rounds had more skill involved. My team was tanking, hard and fast. I was really frustrated. No one was really leading — no one was taking charge. We had zero strategy. The other team had a member in the Scottish army — yes, actively serving at the time. It felt like we were in a fight we had no chance of winning. I consistently thought “Dang it — this isn’t fair!” And probably went so far as to think “Lord! Why is this happening? This just seems so unjust!” {I tend to pray about a lot of things and then wonder if the Lord is thinking, “Uh, seriously?”}

I was still disappointed when I ran out of ammo and got taken out by a couple of good shots, but I wished things had turned out differently — I didn’t feel like things happened the way they were supposed to.

It didn’t feel like I was in the right fight.

Thinking on it years later, I realize I have a few other life experiences under my belt that I sometimes look at in a similar fashion.

Maybe you can relate to this — you know those times in your life when you feel like you’ve gone into battle and absolutely nothing happened the way you thought it would?

The job that you thought was going to be a dream ended up being more like a nightmare?

You answered a call to step out in a new area — it took some bravery on your part — and then you felt like just standing up got you shot down? It put you in the enemy’s sights and the grenades started flying?

The natural thing that I immediately begin to do is turn to God and ask Him, “Lord, where did this all go wrong? What did I do wrong? What should I have done differently? Why am I in the wrong fight?”

There were some moments like that during our time in South Africa — more than I’d care to mention — like when the partners that were supposed to be helping us deliver thousands of shoes around the country during the World Cup pulled out. And we were living in an upstairs flat that never got any direct sunlight through the windows and the resultant mold problem had me getting sick on a regular basis. While I was watching the Bear, the Hubs was in a warehouse shifting hundreds of boxes of shoes to distribute over the next few weeks (meaning thousands of pairs of shoes inside hundreds of boxes) by himself because the promised volunteer assistance didn’t come through. We were financially strapped and, at the time, being on this particular mission field did not look the way we thought it would.

And. The Hubs had bronchitis.

I felt really helpless. We’d only been in SA maybe eight months at this point and already I was wondering — did we miss a step? Did we miss the Lord on this?

“Lord, am I supposed to be fighting this fight?”

Last Saturday night I was laying in bed, awake, thinking this thing through — how the Pawn Shop was a pretty hard season for me, but how I saw so clearly afterwards that it was God-ordained. And now looking back on some rough experiences since then — I see that I have fallen back into the mindset of thinking I somehow stumbled into the wrong fight. Because surely the Lord wouldn’t want me to go through hard stuff…right?

Processing all this slowly, with the Lord’s help, I start to draw a different conclusion:

Maybe the fact that the fight is hard sometimes means it’s the right fight.

It reminds me of the disciples asking Jesus about the blind man: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

I ask that in my own way: “Lord did I mess up? Did I totally miss it or not hear Your voice? Or did somebody else mess up to put me into this hard situation? Who’s to blame for this? If this is hard, it must be wrong… right?”

But Jesus breaks that either/or who-messed-up-mindset by saying:

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Something so hard — could it be the will of God, for His glory?

The morning after I lay awake pondering this, our pastor pointed out a simple principle during his message, about God sending out the vine. When times are hard, the roots go deep. Our roots in God grow deep because we’re withstanding the storms.

On the surface, things may look rough. The strong winds are shaking leaves off of you, the heavy rains have you soaked — but underground, a good thing is happening. There is strength coming to your soul.

God builds us so that we don’t panic when pressure comes. He strengthens us so that we have the Faith to Face Lions.

Walking through the hard stuff — going through and not skirting the process — on the other side we are stronger, and on the other side we have a story to tell.

And the Crucifixion — not exactly a stroll down a lane lined with daisies. But wasn’t it the hard that that Jesus was willing to walk through what brought us peace?

Maybe the fact that the fight is hard means it’s the right fight.

Could I encourage you to be brave today? Because the fact that things are tough doesn’t by necessity mean you’re in the wrong place or God has forgotten you. {I tend to forget that my comfort isn’t His first priority.} It might even mean you’re right where you’re supposed to be.

He says:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,

and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. {Is. 43:2}

We can be certain there is going to be a fight. A fight for justice. A fight for doing what’s right and staying above reproach. A fight to keep our souls trusting Him when the question Why? doesn’t have an answer yet. And perhaps the fact that we’re in the midst of a fight means we are exactly, exactly, where we’re supposed to be.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. {Deut. 31:6}

Keep fighting the good fight, friends. Believe the Truth that incredible suffering purchases peace, and a hard fight so often means glory is just around the corner.



P.S. In case you lay in bed one night this week and suddenly thought otherwise, this little bit of news was not an April Fool’s joke!