This morning I woke with a song that my hubster has had on his playlist for a couple of months. It's called Shoulders, by For King and Country, a band we've recently come to love, and it was swirling around as I got my coffee and settled down for a little morning quiet time.
I don't always pick up my Bible in the mornings, but today I felt prompted. I flopped onto my pile of cushions in my little room and flipped it open. Psalm 121 jumped out at me, which, I realised about twenty minutes later, is the same scripture for the song Shoulders.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains -
It's a funny thing, the way the mind works. We are led to things, or feel prompted to do things, or search for something, go somewhere, call someone, etc. And there are times when we follow that leading that we find something that helps us, and sometimes helps others, too.
As I was pondering the scriptures around this part of the Psalms, I felt that a friend of mine, who is going through a significant health battle, could really do with the encouragement, so I started writing down the scriptures as they seemed relevant and then I listened to the song again.
As the first bars began, I saw a picture.
It was of a person, and then another, and another, and so on until there were at least a dozen people in the picture. I could zoom in and see their faces and as I did, I saw more than just their face.
I saw this little world, like it was their internal world, and each person's world was different.
But these worlds did not just look like a ball with stuff on it. No, what I saw were battle fields.
And each battle field had unique enemies depending on the person. If you're a fan of war movies and even movies like The Lord of The Rings, you'll know what kind of world I am talking about.
Dark. Grimy. Gruesome.
I took a look back at the face of the person, whose world I just saw and I saw one expression that sat underneath various other expressions, which sat over the first, kind of like a veil.
The second expressions were calm, happy; some smiling, laughing, or just concentrating, basically looking nonplussed and engaged and, well, normal.
The underlying expression, though seemed to have the same root cause.
And then it hit me.
It was like I could see everyone's internal worlds as if they were floating outside of them, like a thought bubble, and I finally understood what this picture was about.
We all face battles. The mind, as I said, is an unusual and terrifyingly beautiful thing and as much as it can conjure wonderful things, it can pull us into battles, some that are definitely real and others that only exist in the wild and unpredictable space between our ears.
Each one of us is facing a battle, some more than one at a time, and each battle is raging. It seems there is no respite. We are in the thick of it.
But each battle is different. Each enemy is different and they vary in size and strength but for the person facing that battle, it can feel like life or death. It doesn't matter that some enemies seem small and defeatable to me; each person is easily consumed with their version of it.
Again, a reference to The Lord of the Rings, but bear with me. There is a battle that the characters face, which runs through the story and affects the characters in varying degrees. Some become consumed with this battle and are unable to keep fighting whereas others are almost unaffected, finding the strength to pull away from it and keep pressing forward to their goal.
The battle was not so much the physical fighting of a physical enemy, which is part of the storyline. In this picture, the battle was with The Eye of Sauron and every time the person focussed on the battle, their focus became that of fighting the battle, raging against it and doing everything they could to survive.
But here's the thing: God says that we are to look to him in times of trouble. I can't count all the times I have missed this, instead raging against the battle in my mind, weakened by my own efforts to defeat the enemies I face. Sometimes I realise I'm doing this and find the strength to shift my gaze away from my own 'eye of Sauron' and look to the hills from where my help comes from.
And when I do, my focus is no longer on the enemy, or on the battle and with nothing to fuel the enemy, it seems to reduce in strength and sometimes has even disappeared all together.
I suppose what this all says is that we are not to be unaware of the battle but that we have the opportunity to look at something bigger than the battle. Jesus said,
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
We all face The Eye of Sauron in our lives and that eye encourages us to focus on the things we fear the most, keeping us in a loop of fighting and warring against an enemy that we cannot fully defeat on our own. God calls us to look away from that 'eye' and to let him be the one who fights for us. He encourages us in Joshua 1:9:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
And all through the Bible he encourages us to look to him instead of at the battle. He even tells us that he wages war against our enemies on our behalf. Cool, huh? Check this out:
He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me - God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
So pursue God. He is our help, our refuge and our strength. He is our Battle Chief, after all.
And remember that we all face a battle, sometimes more than one at a time, and each person's battle is unique to them. Even if I have overcome a battle in my life, I must be careful to be filled with compassion for my friend facing the same battle, because for them, this is as real as it was for me, even if I don't see that it's that hard to overcome, now that I have, with God's help, overcome it.
Finally, read Psalm 91. It's bursting with encouragement for times of distress, sickness and challenge.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Thanks for reading. I know this wasn't necessarily a normal post from me, but it just felt so universal and relevant at a time when many feel the battle raging against them, me included.
May you be blessed with the grace and revelation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. I may not know you, but I know that He does, and I write for him, hoping you will be encouraged and feel his love through my pen.