The War Is Over

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Wars are being waged around me. Everywhere I look, I see the darkness and carnage that only war can bring. As I’ve navigated the treacherous landmines of my own battlefield, I’ve found myself glancing to my right and to my left and seeing the battlefields of my friends and family. War is everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times in your life when you have to go to war with your own flesh. One of my friends says that sometimes looks like the Lord squeezing everything out of us that doesn’t look like Jesus. And sometimes? Sometimes that just looks like war. As hard as some of these times have been, I’m thankful for the pieces of my own dying flesh I see littering the ground. Each piece of dead flesh represents a specific area in my life that didn’t look anything like Jesus. My Papa, the Great Physician, skillfully and carefully wielded his scalpel, surgically removing those decaying places out of me. He tossed those pieces by the wayside so they would no longer encumber me. He got rid of them so I’m able to look a little more like Jesus. And for that I’m thankful. But just because He’s a skilled surgeon doesn’t mean there was no blood shed in the process.

But sometimes? Sometimes war finds you straight in the midst of the chaos and confusion that can only be an attack from the enemy. Flaming arrows whiz past you, lighting in their intended targets, the places where the enemy knows he can do the most damage – your relationships, your hopes and dreams. You smell the acrid smell of smoke as it rises and fills the air around you. You pick up your weapons, stretch out your arm, pull back the arrow, and aim for your target… this is battle. This is war.

There are times when you walk out of those battlefields with your arms raised up in praise, knowing the Lord has brought deliverance and victory. These are the times when you’ve been able to put a stake in the ground, claiming new territory as your own. The times you’ve drawn a line in the sand and screamed at the enemy, “YOU CAN’T COME ANY CLOSER.”

And then there are the times when you turn around and catch a glimpse of the enemy trying to sneak back in and advance on your territory. Completely caught off guard, you pick up the armor you’ve just laid down and prepare for battle again. You fling your broken and busted up body over your relationships and your hopes and dreams, arms and legs outstretched like human armor in an attempt to cover exposed areas of weakness and vulnerability. Completely taken by surprise, you realize the battle isn’t over yet.

Early last week, I found myself in exactly such a place. I was completely disoriented when I sensed attack in an area where I’d already seen victory. I felt that the situation demanded I take up arms and prepare to fight. I found myself talking to the Lord early one morning and telling Him what all I thought I needed to do and laying out my plan before Him. (Yeah, I know. Ridiculous now that I think about it. What I needed to do? MY plans?) I kept asking Him over and over, “What do you think, Lord?” And time and time again, I was met by silence. Deafening silence.

I spent a day or two hearing nothing but complete silence from Him in this area. One morning, I woke up completely frantic. I said “God! What is our battle plan here? What do I need to do?” It was then that I finally heard Him speak: “Be still.” I remember shaking my head, panicking, and thinking “BE STILL? In the middle of WAR?” He nudged me gently and said, “Remember me telling you last week to be still? I meant it. Be still.” I sat there, dumbfounded. I still didn’t quite grasp the concept of sitting still in the middle of a battle. He had to have sensed my confusion because a few seconds later I heard Him say, “Brave girl, lay your weapons down.” If you know me at all, you know I’m a verbal processor and I had to keep talking to gain understanding. “But Lord,” I said, “I need to fight for this. I know I need to fight.” And like the patient, loving Father that He is, He reminded me, “You don’t need to fight. I’ve already told you this isn’t your battle. I’ve got this. Let me do the fighting. Be still. Lay your weapons down. Trust that you’ll see victory in this.”

Later that morning, my spirit was still in a state of unrest. I knew I needed to spend some more time with Him. I was listening to a random Bethel playlist on YouTube while I was reading my Bible and journaling when a song filtered through that I’d never heard. The first few lyrics stopped me dead in my tracks:

The war is over, turn around

Lay your weapons on the ground

 

I stopped what I was doing and sat and listened through tears.

He has made a way for us

Born for glory out of dust

Children held within the arms of peace

 

He has made a way for all

Mercy waits where sinners fall

He is our Victory

 

It is finished.

It is done.

The blood of Jesus overcomes

It is finished.

He has won.

He has won.

After I *mostly* pulled myself together, I sent a link to the video to my friend Morgan. I was like “This is a new one I haven’t heard! I bet it’s gonna be on the new album!” And sweet Morgan was like, “That’s the one they did at the Worship Night we went to that I kept talking about!” Ummmm… yeah. Apparently I was on the floor crying or journaling or something when they did this song and completely missed it. Like I don’t remember it at all. Isn’t it funny how the Lord works? I know for sure He kept that song for this time when He knew I’d need to hear it most.

I’ve spent the past several days being still and trusting the Lord for victory, and this song has not been far from my mind or lips. He’s been faithful to bring it to mind every time I start to feel anxious, and He’s ministered to me and taught me so much through it.

—–

The war is over.

Those places I thought were victorious but then found the enemy sneaking in to stir up the battle again? They completely caught me off guard. But God? He sees all and knows all. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He is never caught off guard by a surprise attack. There’s no battle being fought in our lives that He isn’t intimately familiar with.   And there’s no outcome of any battle that hasn’t already been won for us. You heard me right – there’s always victory available in any battle we face. When He was on the cross, He fought every battle we will fight. He won victory for us on the cross.

Lay your weapons on the ground.

So many times I’ve wanted to pick up weapons that were never mine to hold in the first place. And when we aren’t used to holding these weapons that were never intended for us to use, we can’t stand up under the weight of them. We fall trying to fight a battle that was never ours to fight in the first place. All He asks us to do is cease striving. To simply rest in His might. To trust Him to be the God that only He can be. He’s God. And He’s good at being God.

It is finished, it is done. The blood of Jesus overcomes. It is finished, He has won. He has won.

I’m so thankful for the finished work of the cross. The work that restored mankind to God. The work that defeated death and the grave. The work that tore the veil so I can walk in daily communion with Him.

I love the redemption of the cross, but somehow I think I’ve managed to get it completely wrong for years. There have been countless times I’ve faced a lost battle, a dead dream, an unanswered prayer, a broken relationship, or a nagging sin and with a half-hearted laugh said, “Well there’s nothing His blood can’t redeem.”

No. That’s not it. That’s not it at all. There’s nothing that His blood hasn’t redeemed. The cross was final. When the blood poured out of his beaten, pierced, and mangled body, it wasn’t just to cover the lost battles, dead dreams, unanswered prayers, broken relationships, and nagging sins of the day He died on the cross. The blood covered it all. The past, the present, the future. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s. And because of His blood, we get to live in victory. We are victorious because He was victorious for us.

—–

I still don’t know the outcome of this particular battle, but I’m trusting in the victory He promised me. I know Him to be the God who keeps His promises and the God who finishes what He starts. No promise to me will return void. I’m victorious because He is victorious.

 

 

Unexpected Grieving Births Unexpected Hope

roses-1373441_1280There’s a rose bush growing outside my apartment.  A tangle of skinny little branches that grows wild and free in the midst of several shrubs.  I can only assume that the last tenant planted it there sometime before I moved in.  I walked past that bush twice a day for close to two years before I finally noticed it.  There were no bright pink or red blooms to draw my attention, so it just blended in to its surroundings.  Once I finally noticed the wayward plant, I couldn’t un-notice it.  For the past year, pretty much every time I’ve walked past it, I’ve said to myself “You know, I really need to get my Daddy to come help me yank that thing out of the ground.”

I honestly don’t think there’s ever been a bloom on that rose bush in the three years I’ve lived in this apartment.  No blooms – just prickly stems and branches growing unhindered.  It’s so tall now that several of the branches have bent under the pressure of their own weight – a miniature, thorny weeping willow.  This bush is growing like mad, but it’s producing no fruit.

I don’t know much about gardening, but one thing I do know is that most plants require some sort of pruning in order to produce good, new growth.  Pruning isn’t just about cutting off weak or dead places.  Pruning is also about cutting back places that are thriving but need to be subdued.

Cutting back growing, living places can help grow a stronger, more resilient plant so it can live up to its original purpose.  That rose bush outside my front door?  It’s never going to produce the beautiful, sweet flowers it was intended to create if those wild offshoots continue to grow unchecked.  It needs to be trimmed, pruned.  The act of pruning allows for prosperous growth as intended by the Creator.

It’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it?  Cutting back these places allows for the intended growth of the creation to take place, for it to be shaped the way it was intended from the time it was planted.

The uncomfortable part is knowing that pruning is not an enjoyable process.  Pruning is painful.  Cutting off what’s living and breathing and thriving and growing is one of the most intensely painful things you can ever go through.

This is the hard place I’ve been in for the past several days.

I opened my eyes a few days ago and looked around – completely startled to find myself in a situation that looked all-too familiar.  A situation I swore I’d never let myself walk through again.  A situation where I thought I was in complete control.  A situation that I realized all too late was growing wild and unbidden – just like the rose bush outside my front door.  I knew I had to get these thorny places under control soon if I didn’t want them to completely overtake the good in my life.

I reached out to several friends and mentors.  One of the women I consider a spiritual mother was wise enough to gently remind me that it is completely ok and very necessary to be honest with God and honest with myself about what I was thinking and feeling.

I did just that – I talked through some things with some of my girl friends and I prayed… a lot.  After a good while, I finally felt like I had a grip on what was rolling around in my heart and mind.  I knew exactly what I was going to do.  I knew how I was going to get rid of the wild mass of thorny branches in my life.  I had a plan.  I was in control.  I was resolute. I had it handled.

But I didn’t.  I was cleaning my apartment and listening to music when Sarah McMillan’s King of My Heart shuffled through.   (If you don’t know this song, you really should do yourself a favor and listen to it here!)

All of the sudden, I was sobbing.  I don’t just mean crying.  I mean sobbing.  Like loud, ugly, shaking, doubled-over-at-the-waist sobbing. I told a friend that there was nothing to compare it to but wildly uncontrollable grieving.

As much as it completely rips me apart to admit, there were several places in my life where I had not given Him full reign and trusted Him to be King.  Places where I didn’t see Him moving and working, so I assumed He wasn’t.  Places where I refused to acknowledge His sovereignty.  Places where I doubted His goodness.

When I realized this, it broke me.

I finally recognized those places for exactly what they were – places where the night was holding on to me.  But the one thing I hadn’t realized?  God was right there holding on in those very same places.  If I believe Him to be who He says He is, I have to believe that He’s the King over every aspect of my life – even the wild, thorny places growing unbridled.  I have to let Him have authority over every part of my life.  Not just because of His title. Because He’s good and He can be trusted.

I realized that just like I want my daddy to come help me yank that thorny, tangled mess of a rose bush out of the ground at my apartment, I needed the help of my Father to prune back the wild places in my life that were growing out of control, the places that were threatening to stifle my growth if not subdued.

I want to live up to my Creator’s purpose for me.  I want to grow strong and resilient, but I’ll never be able to if I don’t allow for a little pruning of the wild places in my life.

Those places over which I wasn’t trusting God to be a good King?  Those are the very places that are growing wild and unfettered in my life.  The places that are threatening to bend over and drag me down against the dirt.  The places that are blending into the background and the noise of this life and not producing the fruit they were intended to produce.

Those places are now being pruned by the best Gardener I know.  It’s a process – most likely a long one.  It’s hurting like crazy, and I’m grieving. But sometimes you need to allow yourself to grieve over things you didn’t know you needed to grieve over at times you didn’t expect to grieve.  It’s in those places of grieving that you find healing.

The grieving, the hurting?  It’s worth it.  Unexpected grieving births unexpected hope.  The places in my life that are being pruned will bring forth new life.  As long as I trust Him to prune me where He sees fit and however He deems necessary, new growth will take over, shaping me as the Creator intends me to be shaped.  I trust Him as King over all these places because He’s good and because He can be trusted.  He can grow me and shape me however He sees fit.  After all, He created me.  He planted me right where I am and He desires me to produce good, beautiful fruit.