For Mother’s Day this year, we decided to take our mom for a walk down the Niagara River Gorge. It was fun going up and down over the myriads of boulders as we followed the path of the Niagara River, and to my complete delight, the walk offered hundreds of perfect photo opportunities.
But everything was not completely perfect…
You see, I tend to get caught up in picture-perfect moments, and I often drag behind the dynamic trekkers that make up the rest of my family. Naturally they tend to worry about me, and as soon as they see I have my camera to my eye, cries of “Kodak moment!” fill the air and everyone halts. But there are times when they don’t realize I have fallen behind, and sometimes I lose sight of them completely. So I speed up to try and catch up. Unfortunately it’s when I hurry that I become much more likely to trip, and that’s what happened that fateful Mother’s Day alongside the Niagara River. And not just once, but twice!
The second time was the most embarrassing and also the most painful. Especially when my right elbow made hard contact with a boulder. Ouch! But what hurt even more was that my entire family were witness to this event…
Being the loving family that they are, they came running to help. But I would have none of it. I shooed them away: “I am fine! Really I am! Go on ahead! I’ll be right there.”
But it seemed I was speaking a foreign language, for none of them showed any signs of comprehending my words. In fact, nothing I said or did would make them do anything other than stand there looking the more and more horrified!
Reality was, I wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want any help. I wanted to suffer in silence!
That’s when I realized how childish I was acting.
But how is someone supposed to act when they find themselves on all fours with their athletic family watching?
Isn’t it true that we, as humans, tend to become discouraged easily, and when calamity strikes, we often insist on being left alone? It isn’t much different from what I experienced in the Niagara River Gorge. Except that many remain discouraged for days, even weeks or months. It’s during these times that we become infective, and for whatever reason, during these times God’s work usually becomes completely neglected. We become defeated by our own discouragement.
That day in the Niagara River Gorge, I decided to shake off my ineffective misery. I stood up and thanked my family for caring, and then continued down the trail. After all, I was created not to be defeated, but to shine! I sure can’t shine on all fours!
The Israelites experienced something quite similar to my latest embarrassing moment. They faced dire calamity when the Philistines defeated their army and captured the Ark of God. Miraculously it was returned to them (See The Doubters. Facing unimaginable Odds Series, part 12). This touched them deeply: “Then all the people of Israel turned back to the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7:2b, NIV2)
And so they assembled in Mizpah, confessing their sins and longing to getting closer to God. Whenever we turn to God we can be assured that the evil one will do anything to discourage us. It was no different with Israel: “When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them.” (1 Samuel 7:7a, NIV2)
In such circumstances we either crumble, or we stand firm in our faith. Our first tendency though is to worry: “When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:7b, NIV2). Hadn’t the Israelites been defeated by the Philistines the last time?
Frightened beyond comprehension, the Israelites decided that this time they would rely on God alone: “Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:8, NIV2).
What happens when we depend on our Father instead of letting ourselves being discouraged?
“That day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.” (1 Samuel 7:10b, NIV2). The Philistines were defeated, not by human power, but by God Himself! This battle of the Lord was so significant that “Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:13b, NIV2)
Every day we need to decide who we will depend on: Our fears that will render us ineffective? Or on our Father who gives us victory?
The answer seems clear now. However when adversity hits us, when we suddenly find ourselves down on all fours, who will we truly depend on? Only by focusing daily on our relationship with our Father will we be able to stand firm. He is our victory!
(To access the entire “Facing Unimaginable Odds” devotional series, please click here.)