“I don’t dwell on it.”
I often find myself thinking about my grandmother’s signature phrase. Grandma went through a lot in life – the Great Depression, WWII, and all the armed conflicts in between. She outlived seven of her fifteen children. When we asked how she coped, she simply said:
“I don’t dwell on it.”
Her words became my primary coping mechanism. When pain whispered, I refused to dwell on it, ignoring my tears and the feelings that went with them. I thought I knew her secret to strength: shove things aside and keep moving. Race ahead and pretend it didn’t happen. Refuse to dwell on it.
But then life caught up with me. Traumatic memories played on an endless loop in my mind, storming my mind and heart like a mighty army.
I realized that I had not only started to dwell on them, but to dwell in them.
I finally had to deal with my pain. Healing made its way through my carefully curated collection of secret wounds, and strength surged through me.
I realized Grandma had refused to dwell on things;
I had refused to deal with them.
I am learning to allow myself to feel the hurt when it hits because I know strength does not come from arbitrary barricades but from enforcing guardianship of my heart and mind. I now see that, while pain has been trying to invade, my God, my loved ones and my own strength have stood outside too, ready to help me fight if I would only let them in.
I am now striving to be the kind of person who deals with pain but who abides under the shadow of the Almighty, and who dwells among those who are amazing enough to love me through it.
It wasn’t meant to last.
When Gustave Eiffel’s team won the heated bid to construct the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was meant to be temporary. Still, for two years they employed their bridge-building skills to fashion the wrought-iron lattice tower, hoping their precision would combat any destructive winds. The temporary exhibit was designed with permanence in mind and soared 81 stories high.
Critics were quick hurl insults, labeling it ugly, daring, impossible, and rebellious, even to the point of circulating an “Artists against the Eiffel Tower” petition. They must have found some solace in the fact that it was at least scheduled for demolition in 1909. No one expected it to change the Paris skyline forever.
After all, it wasn’t meant to last.
And yet it did.
In World War I, it intercepted enemy radio transmissions and dispatched troops. The next world war saw Hitler’s unsuccessful attempt to demolish it. Today, it continues to inspire us, creating moments of international solidarity when its colorful lights reflect triumphs and tragedies around the world.
It wasn’t meant to last – and yet Eiffel’s team built it as if it would stand forever.
Your season may be temporary, intended to last but a moment here, but how are you building it? How will your legacy outlive you when your critics and naysayers are long gone?
Temporary seasons in lives lived with a legendary outlook cannot help but change skylines, worlds, hearts, and lives.
The dawning of the nineteenth century brought about the birth of nations. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm chased down folk and fairy tales, realizing that it was in the telling of Germany’s stories that identity could be unearthed.
The Book of Judges opens on a contrasting landscape: the people had forgotten their stories and so they lost sight of who they were each time they were conquered.
But many years later, an eight-year-old king discovered some forgotten scrolls and sought out a storyteller. Although Judah was later conquered by many empires, in the telling of their stories, they remembered who they were even though it would be centuries until they had a land to call their own.
In telling our stories, we tap into an incredible source of strength and power, not only for us but for those around us as well. Revelation 12:11 tells us that when the enemy attacks, we overcome “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of [our] testimony.”
In telling our stories, we have the power to overcome.
Although our stories are filled with twists and turns, we have the bright hope and blessed assurance that one day He will call us into yet another new story – one that He has been preparing for years.
Rather than reaching the point of happily ever after, we will realize that our once upon a time is really only just beginning.
“Faith begins where Reason sinks exhausted.” (Albert Pike)
To the untrained eye, it had to be the most unorthodox move in the armed history. The fact that a kid with no combat training had squared off against a giant even the king’s most would not challenge was one thing. But to do it without a shield? The battalion must have whispered to one another as he walked by. Hadn’t the king provided him with armor? But David won one of the most decisive victories in military history, all without the aid of a shield – to the untrained eye, at least.
So why did David reject the armor of his king? Perhaps, being as covenant-minded as he was, he recalled God’s words to Abraham as Saul’s men adjusted the ill-fitting armor:
“I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)
Perhaps he realized that with God as a shield, Saul’s armor was not so necessary after all.
Years later, David, now king, would find himself on the run from a son who had not only betrayed him but who had also amassed an army against him. Perhaps he thought back to that same moment with Goliath – the moment he had prepared for battle by laying aside his terrestrial shield, when he wrote in Psalm 3:3, “
Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”
As we move through life, we tend to collect pieces of armor to keep us safe from all manner of pain and injuries, physical and personal. Even so, even our greatest armor cannot always keep us safe. Still, as we face our greatest battles, we can cast our eyes to the hills and exchange our earthly shields for a divine one that will never fail not only to defend us but also to lift us in our hour of greatest need.
Two armies faced off in the Valley of Elah. The Philistine army had sent their best man to fight and had demanded the same of Israel’s army. Tradition dictated that the man who won would secure victory for his people while the remaining army would be their slaves. If Israel chose the right man, they could win the war without a single casualty.
There was just one problem: the challenger was a giant.
Elah was known as the Valley of the Terebinth, a tree sacred to various tribes in Canaan. Perhaps the Philistine armies felt bold, knowing they would be surrounded with the trees they worshipped during their big showdown. Whatever the case, the Israelite army stood the side, cowering in fear at the thought of facing a giant. The stakes were high – if they lost, they would lose both their Promised Land and their freedom – a fate they had suffered once before. In fact, they had been through much of this before. After years of slavery in Egypt, their first trip to Canaan led them into the Valley of Eshcol where they found fruit and giants – giants they knew they would have to face one day in order to claim their Promised Land. Yet here they stood in Elah, wondering if anyone was strong enough to face this giant in the valley.
But then along came a young man, fresh from herding sheep. He was no stranger to valleys but this one presented a unique challenge. He saw the giant but did not fear him. His only focus was on the fact that this man was insulting his God and his people. As he stared down the giant, David must have remembered the stories he heard as a boy: stories of the patriarchs, of his people enslaved, of the Exodus, and of Israel’s desert wanderings of almost 40 years after they did not face the giants in their valley. David knew the stakes. He decided he would do things differently – after all, God was on his side. What follows is possibly one of the most famous stories in the Bible. A little Hebrew boy took up his slingshot, having rejected the king’s armor, and hurled a stone at his enemy who immediately fell. David learned a vital lesson that day: through his own strength he could do nothing but God made him into a conqueror and later a king.
We encounter giants in our own valleys. Physical threats, financial obstacles, and emotional upsets may seem insurmountable. In many cases, giants from our past torment us. And yet God still sees. Sometimes He moves the storm out of your life. Sometimes He joins you in it. And sometimes God sends divine enablement. When your heart is right and you are seeking to do His will, God supplies strength and encourages you throughout the process.
No matter the size of the obstacle in your valley, remember that your God can make any giant fall before your feet.
It must have come as quite a surprise. When he was at the age many would have planned for retirement, God issued a challenge and a promise to the 75-year-old Abram: Leave the familiar and step out into the unknown and I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. So Abram packed up his life and obeyed. He endured loss, failure, and had plenty of reasons to doubt but somehow he held on to that promise.
Some years later, Abram’s faith was put to the test. After hearing his nephew had been kidnapped during a turf war between rival kings, Abram and his servants won back everything that had been stolen. What a sight it must have been to watch the nomadic herdsman and his caravan of riches, food, and freed hostages as they marched into the Valley of Kings. Families were reunited. The hungry were fed. Crown jewels were returned to their kings.
Among the dignitaries in the desert was the king of Sodom, who offered Abram a huge reward. It must have been tempting. Hadn’t God promised this? He could have taken the praise and he could have taken the fortune. He had marched into the very pit of death and had accomplished what the armies of five kings could not. It was impressive – especially for a man in his twilight years. Who would have blamed him for taking a reward? Hadn’t he earned it?
But Abram saw the temptation in the valley for what it was: letting man supply his needs instead of God.
He held onto his promise and rejected the king’s offer: “I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” Abram resisted the quick path to success. He was offered some of the very things God had promised him but realized this didn’t line up with God’s plan. Abraham maintained faith even though all he had to go on was the possibility on an inheritance.
Immediately after, Abram received a message from the King of Kings: “I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward.” After Abram refused the riches of earthly kings, God confirmed His plan once more. God Himself would be everything Abram needed and He would enter into a covenant with Abram that would turn the world upside down.
We often walk through our own valleys of temptation. We rest in God’s promises but it can be so easy to be distracted by human impatience, letting our eyes focus on manmade solutions. When we try to force things to unfold on our own, we will always be disappointed. God promised Abram riches and a family.
The king could have provided him with riches but when Abram held out for everything God had to offer, he received everything he had ever wanted.
When we hold onto God’s promises even in the face of temptation, we receive riches beyond compare.