“When the odds are the greatest and hope is the smallest.”
Isn’t that how we feel during every single trial life throws our way? I think it’s safe to say that we have all felt “abandoned on the battlefield.” And in those moments, we often believe that unlike Katniss Everdeen, the odds are hardly ever in our favor.
Or are they? During our greatest struggles, are the odds actually against us? The world would probably tell us that we might as well give up. The world would probably say the odds against us are too great. And if our minds aren’t trained to look to the Lord in times of trouble, we might just fall for that ludicrous thought. In all the busyness of life, it’s easy to forget, it’s easy to justify the incorrect prioritization of all the bits and pieces of our lives, it’s easy to get lazy and become apathetic.
That’s what happened to me. I got busy with life. I got busy with trying to be a grown up. Granted, my sleep schedule has been all out of whack since I started night shift – that’s surely one of the factors that has impacted me as of late. But I can’t blame my weird schedule for why I haven’t been exercising my brain and heart to spend time with the Lord consistently.
Let me give you some background: I’m kind of OCD. I mean, not really…I have never been clinically diagnosed with this disorder, but it’s everyone’s way of saying I’m kind of a pain in the butt about stuff. I like order and cleanliness. I thrive on organization. The only kind of chaos I enjoy is organized chaos. I love organized chaos. I’m a scheduler, a planner, a think-through-every-possible-option-er. I like having a routine. Even though nursing school was beyond chaotic, it was actually easier for me to make it a point to spend time in the Word. That was because every hour of every day was accounted for – class, studying, lunch, more classes, clinicals, group meetings, etc. But after I graduated and started working, it became harder and harder for me to find the energy and discipline to have my quiet time. Why? Because I had a lot more free time than I did when I was in school. But rather than choosing to use all that extra free time to spend meditating on Scripture, I chose to catch up on all the TV shows I hadn’t seen in 2 years. I chose to plan lunch dates and dinner dates and coffee dates and Top Golf dates with my family and friends that I had rarely seen during those 2 years. I chose to catch up on ALL the sleep and fun nursing school had deprived me of. While it wasn’t wrong for me to catch up on the things I had missed out on during school, it WAS wrong for me to indulge myself in them. It WAS wrong for me to choose everything else before precious moments spent with the Lord.
All that time choosing to catch up on the things of this world rather than catching up on time with God, atrophied my brain and heart muscles. Yes, I still read my Bible and prayed. Yes, we still had family prayer at home. Yes, I still went to Sunday worship and prayer meetings. But I wasn’t doing that extra training – the focused, intimate, 1-on-1 training my heart and mind needed with the Lord. And because of that, when the chaos of switching to night shift hit, I was lost. Completely and utterly lost.
Last week was particularly difficult for me. Although I had given myself that pep talk before work every single day, it somehow wasn’t enough this past week. Why? Because what I needed most was to submerge myself in the Word. Self-motivation is fine and dandy, and it usually does the trick. But when there’s not much to back it up, it kind of just…falls through. While my little pep talks had worked for 2 weeks, they were just not doing the trick as things progressed and got harder at work.
I felt abandoned by God. I distinctly remember whisper-yelling at Him in the staff restroom as I cried about how defeated I felt because HE wasn’t doing His job.
He wasn’t doing His job?
No. I wasn’t doing my job. I wasn’t spending quality time with Him. I wasn’t completely focused on Him when I was reading my Bible. I wasn’t completely focused on Him when I was talking with Him during my long drives to work. I was semi-focused on Him, sure. But I was more focused on myself. My problems. My insecurities. My lack of knowledge. My lack of critical thinking skills. My struggles at work. Me. Me. Me. Even when I was spending time with Him, I wasn’t “all there.” I was too preoccupied with myself to give Him the quality time He deserved – the quality time my soul was starving for.
When we don’t consistently, sincerely train our hearts and minds to dwell on the things Above, we do our God a great injustice and we ultimately, only make our situation worse. Without regular and focused training, our muscles atrophy and grow flaccid. They lose their tone and they start sagging. Yeah, I hope you’re a little grossed out by that description. Because THAT is exactly what happens to our spiritual muscles when we don’t exercise them. For all you health nuts/gym rats out there, I’m sure you will appreciate this analogy: when you just go through the motions and don’t focus your training or give it your all, you don’t get the maximum results out of your workout, right? In the same way, failing to completely and sincerely focus on Him during our quiet time, doesn’t do much for us spiritually.
We have to actively choose Him. We have to live intentionally. Doing so will not only give Him the greatest glory, but it will also enrich our souls. It will strengthen us in the faith. It will enable us to soar right over these hurdles life puts in our paths.
Yesterday morning, as I made the decision to spend quality time with God, I asked Him to speak Truth into my life. He knew the condition of my heart and mind. He knew I was trying to get back into the routine of training my spiritual muscles with a focused energy. And He also knew that I needed encouragement; that I needed a reminder of His faithfulness in light of my failures both at work and in my personal walk with Him.
He proved His Strength when the odds were the greatest and my hope was the smallest. The funny thing is, the odds were never against me. In the eyes of the world, sure – I was done for. Work was just too overwhelming and I could never be the Florence Nightingale of my time. The world would tell me I would never be good enough, smart enough to be the RN I wanted to be. The world would convince me to quit clinical nursing and hop on the research train. In the eyes of the world, the odds against me were too great.
But in the eyes of the Lord, no threat is too great, no giant is too big, nothing is too hard, too dangerous, too risky, too overwhelming. He is our Strength. He can and will kill any giant that threatens our life, our sanity, our peace of mind. As the excerpt from His Princess says, “Sometimes I will lead you to shelter for safety and restoration. Other times I will ask you to join Me on the front line in the heat of the battle.” God may not always protect us from ever having to fight a battle, but He will always equip us with all that we need to face the enemy. Our duty in this is to be ready for whichever command He gives us – to retreat to the shelter of His wings, or to march forward into battle with His armor protecting every vulnerable area of our lives. Thus, we must be diligent in the training of our hearts and minds. We must be diligent in exercising our spiritual muscles with focus and consistency.
Remember, He will fight for us. All we have to do is “march forward, pick up the stones, and face [our] giant.”
Have no fear.
Know with confidence: the odds are ever in your favor.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.