You can hear the arrow as it hits the target, embedding deeply in tender flesh.
“If God really loved you, He wouldn’t be holding out on you.”
“If He really meant what He said, your circumstances would have changed by now. He obviously didn’t mean it.”
“Actually, God probably isn’t the problem. It’s you. You keep Him from answering your prayers. It’s a shame how you are always failing, always messing up, always doing the wrong thing. People think you’re so great. But you’re not. If you were, God would have answered your prayer by now.”
“Look at how bad things are! They aren’t going to get any better. This is hopeless. You are helpless.”
“You can’t really trust Him, you know.”
Lies from the enemy.
All designed to make you doubt the character of God.
Doubt His goodness.
Doubt that He is for you and not against you.
Lies designed to make you believe only what your five senses tell you.
To make you focus on the circumstances you are in.
And the ways out of it that you can see.
The plans you can make, understand and manipulate.
All Christ-followers face these lies of the enemy.
These flaming darts.
Which is why God has given us the shield of faith.
Faith in what? What does that look like?
My ability to deal with the lies?
My ability to discern them?
My ability to fight?
Faith in myself always, always fails.
Because I am not a worthy object of faith.
I am a fallen human being in desperate need of saving.
So this shield of faith is cannot be about me gritting my teeth and conjuring up more faith from somewhere inside of me.
Rather, this shield of faith HAS TO BE about me putting my confidence in the only worthy object of it – God.
Not the God I imagine Him to be or claim Him to be or think Him to be.
But Who He is.
As revealed by His Word.
By the cross.
By the empty tomb.
By the record of history.
And the glory of His creation all around me.
Yes, this shield of faith is about me choosing to believe.
But not believing in my belief.
But rather putting all my faith, all my trust, all of me in the Truth about who God is.
Which is why I think it could really be called the shield of thankfulness.
The shield of praise.
And the shield of remembering.
Because when the darts come, thankfulness protects my heart.
The enemy says, “God is not good.”
Thankfulness says, “But I have seen His goodness in these specific ways” as I list them out.
The enemy says, “God doesn’t know what He is doing.”
Praise says, “Here’s a reminder of His character, His faithfulness, His transcendence. He is God. I am not.”
The enemy says, “God is holding out on you.”
Remembering says, “I have seen in my history – and so many others – the faithful love of the Lord. I cannot see what He is doing in the days ahead – but I can look back at His track record and choose to trust.”
The Roman shield that Paul modeled the armor after in his letter to the church at Ephesus was a frame with layers and layers of leather stretched over it. Before battle, the shield would be dipped in water to make it ready to put out flaming arrows.
The shield of faith is made up of layers and layers of history.
Personal history with the God who saves.
Stories from the lives of people I know who have seen Him work.
Reports from recent history where He has intervened.
And the record of Scripture, the true stories of His story.
And over, within, throughout each of those layers, more layers of thankfulness.
Gratitude for what He has done.
That His character has always proven trustworthy.
That He has always turned the darkest nights into dawn.
That He has come through time after time after time.
In my life. In those lives. In the faithfulness of His story.
I have stretched those layers over the frame by studying His Word.
Learning from His people.
Asking His Spirit to enlighten my heart.
And recording what He has done so I can remember it well.
Rehearsing thankfulness in the days before the battle.
Learning His history and character when the arrows are not flying.
So when the fly, I am ready. The layers are stretched. The shield is thick.
And then, when the arrows start to fly, I dip those layers in the refreshing water of praise.
I lift my voice to sing, to pray, to shout His goodness.
I whisper praises through tears and brokenness.
I soak in His Word, drenching those layers with Living Water.
And when those fiery darts land they find no purchase.
The thoughts come.
The arrows fly.
But the shield refutes them. Refuses them. Repels them.
Not the shield of me trusting me.
But the shield of my thankfulness for the character of God, even amid difficult circumstances.
My remembrance of Who He is even as the lies fly.
And my praise for His character, trusting His heart even when I cannot see His hand at work.
And what was a flaming arrow intended for my destruction bounces off, drenched. Instead of taking me down, it becomes a burnt-out matchstick, sizzling weakly at my feet.