I’m not a fighter. I’ve never punched anybody, and I haven’t been punched (and I hope it stays that way). The only black eye I’ve experienced was, um, self-inflicted by my own carelessness. I grew up with two sisters, and they’re tough gals but we really didn’t rumble in the basement knocking each others’ teeth out like brothers do.
I would rather flee than fight.
Some of you reading this are just the opposite. You were born ready to rumble. You run toward conflict, not away from it. You punch first and ask questions later. I remember reading one of my favorite Christian authors who writes to men about leadership and being good dads. His son was getting bullied at school. Mom tried to comfort the boy, and contacted school officials to resolve the conflict. That didn’t help. This author looked his son in the eye, and commanded authoritatively,
“Next time he hits you, I want you to hit him back. Hard.”
For various reasons, I instinctively recoiled at this suggestion. But as I think more about it, my discomfort with such aggressive physical contact was less about God’s way and more about mine. I’m not a fighter. (When Jesus says “turn the other cheek” he isn’t prescribing passivity at all costs, but describing a moral standard). My point is: determining a proper response during conflict isn’t easy. Fight or flee? Negotiate or demand? Step in and throw punches or pull out your phone and take video?
The Bible assures us that God fights for us. Nehemiah was a godly leader in Jerusalem, appointed to rally the people and rebuild the city wall after returning from exile. He promised,
“Our God will fight for us” (Nehemiah 4:20).
Interestingly, this wasn’t a call for a passivist prayer: “God please overcome the obstacles for us, reshape the circumstances, and rebuild the wall for us while we go about our busy lives elsewhere, thanks. Amen.” Enemies were scheming to prevent the people from rebuilding. Nehemiah notes, “They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Nehemiah 4:8-9).
They prayed because it was God’s fight. And they posted a guard because it was their fight. Don’t ask God to do for you what he asks you to do. And don’t do for God what he says he will do without you. I know, determining that response isn’t always easy. It calls for attentiveness and understanding where God speaks to us clearly—in the Bible. It calls for faith and humility that the way I want is not necessarily God’s appointed way, but neither has he forbidden it. So actively pursue it while asking him if it is good. I fight with one eye on the enemy, and another on God.
Are you sick? Need a job? Struggling as a parent or spouse? Overwhelmed or underappreciated? The best thing you can do is to fight with God’s terms of engagement.
- It’s his fight. Don’t battle without him.
- It’s your fight. Own it. Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Don’t pass it off on others.
- It’s a good fight. Struggle isn’t necessarily a sign that something is wrong, or you made a mistake.
To fight within God’s terms, add to your struggle a faith-filled wrestling match with these two questions:
- Am I expecting God to do what he asks me to do?
- Am I trying to do what God has promised he will do?
Then, pray and work.