Do you ever feel ill-equipped to deal with whatever you’re facing in life? As a dad, I’ve felt ill-equipped to raise my kids. As a husband, I’ve felt ill-equipped in the realm of marriage. As a pastor, I can’t tell you the number of people problems, financial burdens, and staff challenges I’ve faced where I have been less than equipped.
I just read the other day that Amazon.com tracks the most highlighted passages of books since the inception of the Kindle. Highlighted almost twice as much as any other passage is from the second volume of The Hunger Games: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them” (Brian Jones, Finding Favor, 47).
None of us knows completely how to handle every situation thrown our way. Part of our move toward competence is acknowledging our incompetence. Humility is the pathway toward growth. We don’t need training in areas where we’ve already been trained. Even re-training exists only because, like a cracked pot, we leak.
Anna, my daughter, is serving a mission in Costa Rica for six months. She called the other day to tell us her struggles with bugs, heat, and the barriers of language and culture. She feels ill-equipped. But the only way she will grow in dealing with bugs, heat and cultural barriers is by enduring bugs, heat and cultural barriers. Our desire to become fuels our willingness to endure. Training always precedes arriving.
I want to say to my daughter, and to all of us ill-equipped to handle what life throws our way, “The further the soul advances, the greater are the adversaries against which it must contend” (Evagrius Ponticus, fourth-century monk).
At some point, we would rather advance no further, lest our adversaries become too great. But I remember an old fable I once heard about the Apostle Peter. One night Satan came to Peter and woke him with a frightful scream. When Peter opened his eyes and saw who it was, he simply said, “Oh, it’s you” and rolled back over and went to sleep.
I’m not at that stage of faith, and perhaps neither are you. But the only way for us to be equipped to handle the attacks of the adversary is through training on the use of weapons of warfare (Ephesians 6:10-17). The only way to assess our training is by entering the arena for testing. And the only way to claim the victory is by engaging the enemy one battle at a time. The Christian formula is simply this: training leads to testing which leads to triumph. There are no shortcuts to overcoming the adversary. No training and no testing leads to no triumph. And we praise the Lord that our ultimate victory is found in Jesus Christ, even when we feel ill-equipped.
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).