Tug of War

One of our youth leaders said recently that our youth are in a tug-of-war with the world and their faith, and their faith is losing. This certainly makes me worry as a mom and as a pastor. I wish I could give our kids a world that would respect their beliefs and even honor them. I wish that they could have the sweet faith of their childhood their whole lives.
But at the same time, faith is made to be tested. It is just the way it works. I was reading Psalm 3 and in it, David has just fled from his son Absalom, who was going to kill him. He cried out, “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying to me, ‘There is no help for you in God.’”
I think this is similar to what a lot of our kids feel—and many adults too–that there are a lot of foes out there; foes who tell us that there are better things out there to do on a Sunday than come to church. Foes who ask us, why would you give away money when you could buy something you really want. Foes who say there really isn’t a God, because if there was, this world would not be in the bad shape it is in.
I love the way David lays it all out there. He is mad. He is sick of having someone after him every time he turns around. And now it is his son.
But then his prayer continues, and what he prays about next is what I find particularly moving. He prays: “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory and the one who lifts up my head.”
When soldiers in David’s day went to battle, the shields they carried were huge. They went from the ground to their heads. They were flat in front with a sort of curved side that blocked them on the right and on the left. And when you started to walk with one, you could only go forward.
But you could do that because the shield would protect you.
I wonder if our kids know this about their faith. I don’t mean protection in the sense that they won’t have loved ones die, or lose jobs, or have break ups or go through hard times. That is part of life, and nowhere are we promised that if we believe we will avoid hardships. To the contrary, Jesus says when we follow him, we will be taking up a cross.
I think of that shield as more like a lens through which to see those hardships. That with God, you can go straight through them. Because God will surround you and lead you, and never let you go.
It is hard to teach this unless you know it. I can’t tell you how many countless stories I have heard from people who have gone through hard times and they know in their bones that were it not for their faith, they could not have done it. Or at least they could not have done it and had some healing.
I guess we can be better about modeling that. Maybe that is praying out loud when we have struggles or worries. Maybe it is telling stories about our faith or the church or our Christian friends who just would not leave us alone when we were struggling, but instead, carried us through the hard times. That is what faith gives us–a way through.
So grab your shield and invite your friends to walk behind it with you. It is our armor for the tug of war we are in. And there is no way through but to walk with God.

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