For my fifth birthday, my parents allowed me to invite a few friends for a party at the fun new pizza place in town. There was an arcade area with a variety of silly games, so we all got coins and could play to our heart’s content. My favorite was “Whack a Mole”, the one where you pick up a padded mallet and proceed to hit the heads of moles as they pop up through the holes on the board. They surface so fast you can barely react quickly enough, and while you’re trying to knock one down, another one appears. The goal, of course is to make contact with as many moles as possible, successfully whacking them back into their holes. You’re rewarded with a stream of tickets, redeemable for a variety of worthless trinkets from behind the prize counter.
This game had me hooked, and if I didn’t do well on my first round, I played it again. Even though I couldn’t care less about ring pops, fake jewelry, whoopie cushions and googly eyed stickers, there was something deeply satisfying about defeating those silly plastic moles.
Life often feels like a game of “Whack a Mole”. The challenges we face are constant. You think you settle one only to turn around and face another, and if an actual reward was given for success, you would never see it.
Laundry. Meals. Discipline. Emails. Bills. Grocery shopping. Cleaning. Repeat. Needs and demands pop up everywhere, often too quickly for you to react and successfully meet them. You whack away all day long and it never feels like enough. You look around and see all that didn’t get done and you feel the pressure to have something to show for your efforts. Feeling defeated by what’s required, you clench your fists and fall to the ground in a crumpled heap whispering–sometimes screaming– cries of, “I can’t! I can’t! I just can’t do this!”
How do we live victoriously in the midst of what causes us to feel so utterly defeated?
Humble yourself before the Lord.
In her book, None Like Him, Jen Wilkin writes about the limitlessness of God. This attribute of God’s is not one we can imitate, but we try time and again to adopt it as ours. We work harder, try to catch up with everything that’s left undone, and exhaust ourselves with endless productivity. We are limited creatures, so feeling incapable of fulfilling the tasks before us is actually a good thing.
I know, it’s uncomfortable to admit weakness, especially if you are a generally capable and efficient person. But when you feel like you just can’t, you can accept your position as a created being, embrace your limitations, and respond to God appropriately. Constantly trying to outdo our humanness will never work; we will always fall short.
What is our response in light of this truth?
The call for you and for me is to humbly bow before an Almighty God and say, “I am weak, Lord. I am needy. I cannot live this life you’ve given me without you.” We have to admit our need, but also acknowledge that God can meet it. God made a way for us to draw near to him through the blood Jesus, and his invitation is to come with a humble heart. Striving to accomplish anything in our own strength will always leave us feeling defeated. The more readily we admit our inability, lean into our weakness, and humble ourselves before God, the sooner we can find victory over the feelings of defeat.
Arm yourself for the battle.
Our daily struggles run deeper than a game of Whack a mole; we are fighting a spiritual battle. The enemy of our souls longs for us to feel defeated by the circumstances and petty issues of life. He wants nothing more than for you to surrender to your inabilities. He wants you to look for satisfaction in lesser things — scrolling through social media, eating a handful of chocolate, grumbling under your breath, or lashing out at the people who are making your life difficult. Succumbing to these desires is like waving your white flag to Satan and saying, “Alright. I give up. I can’t do this. You won.”
Satan wants to prey upon our weakness but God wants to be glorified in our weakness.
Out of his love and faithfulness to keep and guard his children, God has given everything we need to be ready for the fight and be the victor in every battle. We must daily take up and put on our spiritual armor–every piece of it–so that we can stand firm (Ephesians 6:13-17).
Two great weapons for the battle are knowing the Word of God and prayer. Somehow it always comes back to these simple yet powerful practices of the faith. Through regular reading and study of the Bible we will know God, our confidence in him will grow, and our understanding of his calling on our lives will equip us to do his work. Praying in the Spirit, as Paul commanded, is what happens when the truths we’ve learned are brought to mind in the midst of our everyday battles.
Sometimes this means praying out loud as you move from one need to the next, telling God your struggle, confessing any committed sin, and asking for his strength to keep going. It might look like pulling your children together in a circle and collectively asking God to help you treat one another with kindness. Or maybe you need to sneak away behind a closed door and fall face down before the Lord for a few minutes. Putting on the armor is critical; praying in the Spirit on all occasions will keep it in place.
As we faithfully gird ourselves with the armor we’ve been given, we stand ready to watch God fight for us with the weapons of sure victory.
Believe the promises of God.
In the midst of struggles we tend to want a solution, a quick fix to everyone and everything. Less strife, a good night of sleep, health, obedient children, comfortable circumstances. God says that the promise is not found in a solution, it’s found in His Son. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything that God promised (2 Corinthians 1:20) and it’s our hope in Christ and all that he promised that enables us to live victoriously in life.
What promises are specifically helpful in the face of defeat?
God will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
We have been given everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-11).
God’s grace is sufficient for you and his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We are more than conquerors in all things, through the power of the Spirit that is at work within us (Romans 8:31-37).
Rehearse these promises as you go about your day. Speak truth to your soul. Allow the interwoven work of the Word and the Spirit to shape your every response to life.
Laugh at the days to come.
Spiritual warfare is not funny, but when we know that God has the victory — and one day the battle will be completely won — we can laugh at the daily struggles that we know face us tomorrow. The messes that might get under our fingernails? Turn it into a hilarious moment, because who would have thought that this would be our daily work. Children who need countless instruction and discipline? We don’t laugh about their sin, but we can approach our job of shepherding their hearts with joy because we have a Good Shepherd who leads us beside still waters and restores our soul. We can be joyful in the face of adversity of all kinds, because we know these things are producing in us a greater glory that will be revealed one day. We can look back at yesterday and be reminded that God gave us what we needed to make it through. In light of our experience with God in the past we can face tomorrow’s challenges. His mercies are always new, his grace is always sufficient, his love at work to conform us to the image of Christ is always victorious.
Lean into the power of God, whack away at the challenges before you, and watch the strength of Christ be perfected in your life. The battle is constant, but the victory is sure.
For further reflection, spend time in the following passages:
2 Peter 1:3-11
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
2 Corinthians 1:3-22