A young friend of mine sees the world sideways. His favorite pastimes are turning lights on and off; opening and closing doors; and staring at overhead fans, whose whirling blades can send him into a state of euphoria.
He loves to be sung to, and I often open a long-unused compartment of my brain for some camp meeting songs. As I sing the old, dusty lyrics, fire smoke embedded in each line, I’m struck by a quality that I’d missed all those years ago: they’re good, old-fashioned battle songs designed to stir a sense of mission in even the tiniest heart.
The memories come back with the tune and the lyrics: “My mother was a solider/She had her hand on the gospel plow/But one day she got old, she couldn’t fight anymore/She said, “I’ve got to stand here and fight anyhow.”1 This line was always followed by a slightly jazzy “Hallelujah” that the young singers could freestyle to their heart’s content. There we all were—a perfectly riled-up pack of Christian soldiers ready to march into the future with our blood-stained banner.
I’m not discounting the challenges of the early days. I know that children struggle with more than is often recognized. The optimism of childhood, however, always assured me that by the time I was an old, worn-out person, I would always have the strength to cry out the only correct answer to anything that I would face: “Stand and fight anyhow.”
Some days I do have that strength, but some days I don’t.
I didn’t realize during those early campfire days that the battles of the Christian life are like guerilla warfare. They’re full of covert attacks, the slow grind of unexpected challenges, the small erosions of faith that come from sleepless nights and anxious days. The realization that a child born so perfect and small also came with symptoms imposed by a sinful world hidden deep inside his brain.
Children of Promise
The apostle Paul wrote movingly of the maladies that he faced. He didn’t shy away from addressing problems that might not have victorious endings here on earth. He recognized the pain and division in the early Christians’ lives while continuing to assure his listeners that the combat of everyday life is often a distraction from our real purpose. He reminded the church in Galatia—and the members of our church today—that we’re all children of promise.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart,” Paul writes in Galatians 6:9.
We can’t give up. There’s no truer call to the Christian than to continue to hold on to God’s love, hope, and peace and to help those who are struggling beside us. We’re all Christian soldiers, marching into our daily battles with God as our guide.
Ellen White writes: “We need not despair when we see that others have struggled through discouragements like our own, have fallen into temptations even as we have done, and yet have recovered their ground, . . . fought their battles in the strength of the Lord, and conquered gloriously.”2
Sometimes conquering gloriously may sound like trumpets and fanfare. Sometimes it sounds like a drawer being opened and closed a hundred times by my young friend, while not allowing myself to fall into despair about the road that stretches out before him and the family that loves him so much.
Most of the time, though, conquering gloriously simply sounds like a quiet step taken again and again, one day after another.
Tricia Murdoch Zmaj writes from Ventura, California.
2 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4 (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1876), p. 15.