When Pulling Away Gets Too Difficult

Whoever introduced sticker bushes to the Iowa landscape should be tar-and-feathered. We spent all day Saturday wrestling with those stupid thorns while we were clearing the trails on the property. And we have a boatload of puncture wounds to show for it.

If you pull away from the thorns, they catch you. Each thorn grows at a diagonal, pointing back toward the stalk, forcing themselves into your flesh and clothing when you pull. This is their defense mechanism.

There is a secret, however, to not ripping your shirt and your skin. If you stop pulling forward and pull backward instead, in the direction the thorns point, you slip right off. Nothing gets torn, and you don't bleed. The thorn doesn't do any damage when you stopping tugging.

But isn't this what we do so often in our lives? Something painful happens, and we pull as hard as we can to get away from it. One hurtful situation panics us, and our sudden pulling rips us more, and we bleed emotionally and mentally.

And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you. 2 Chronicles 20:15-17

The people of Judah had every reason to be afraid. The great multitude from beyond the sea was primed for an epic battle, and everyone from the soldiers to the king were shaking in their boots. There was no way this tiny army would be able to defeat an enemy of this size. If they tried, it was guaranteed to be a slaughter.

So the king turned to God with a simple plea: You have all the power and might to protect us from certain death. You have driven out the enemy before, and we beg you to do it again. We know that you hear us in our fear and pain, so please stand up for us again.

When the Spirit descended upon Jahaziel, God's mouthpiece to the people, He didn't explain some elaborate battle plan. Instead of training warriors, He instructed them to ... stand still. Do nothing. Leave it alone. Stay by the brook. Find a good place to watch the battle that was about to happen.

In essence, God told the people to quit pulling against the thorns. Fighting and pulling would only cause torn clothes and bleeding skin. This wasn't their battle, so stepping in would only wound them further.

Pull back. Wait.

The battle isn't yours to begin with. It belongs to God alone. Quit pulling so hard that your heart and your flesh come out bloody and bruised. The thorns will keep coming, but God has a battle plan for every one of them. And it may not include you.

I pray that in the days to come we will all listen for God's perfect will in our lives. This is the only way to protect ourselves from the wounds that come when we try to fight on our own.


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