While we're on the topic of being called and equipped and not having to go after every thorny tree that is anywhere adjacent to your path, can we talk about some really toxic advice that we keep giving one another and can we instead give ourselves permission to say better things?
The toxic advice that we always seem to fall back on is, "Push through." Perseverance is everything. God wants you to conquer everything that comes your way.
We couch this sometimes, as we've also talked about recently, in religious language. "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." "God wants to use you so mightily." "God put this in your path for a reason."
It all sounds nice, but it's not necessarily true. (Note: it's not "necessarily" true. Sometimes, it is. But sometimes, it's not.)
There are plenty of things in this broken world that God never intended for you to encounter. God never wanted you to have to deal with them. Just because God made snakes to bite doesn't mean you're supposed to go hold out your hand to every snake and hope you get bitten. (Yes, I know there are churches who believe in this; I don't attend one of them. It's just the example that popped into my mind.) God sends lightning, but He doesn't expect you to stand outside with a metal pole. Cancer happens; God never intended you to be diagnosed with it.
Just because something exists in the fallen world doesn't mean we have to embrace it. And more than that, we don't have to fix it.
That's what a lot of us spend our time doing, and it's what our toxic advice is so often meant to convey: this world is broken, and every time you triumph over a broken thing, you put a little bit of it back together. Isn't that what we think is really happening here? Isn't that what we've convinced ourselves we're actually doing? Every time we refuse to run away from a fight, every time we stick it out and persevere, we are beating the devil back just that little bit and taking back a little bit of God's Kingdom.
Never mind whether we are called or equipped for that fight. We fight it anyway, and we encourage others to fight it anyway, because we fight on God's side, whether or not He ever enlisted us into this army.
Let me be perfectly clear about this. Are you ready?
There is no battle in this world that you have to win to push the devil back a little bit. He's already been defeated. There is no fight you have to stay engaged in or risk losing everything. The victory is already secure. Christ on the Cross and the empty tomb have assured everything in this world that we have convinced ourselves we have to fight for. So...why are we still fighting?
Remember, I'm talking here about battles you haven't been called to. Fights you haven't been equipped for. Certainly, there are things God calls and equips us to do that require a lot of fight, but just because there's a fight in front of you doesn't mean you have to engage it. Just because there's a fight in front of you doesn't mean God has called you to it.
We spend so much of our time trying to encourage one another in fights that we were never meant to be in. What I would love to see is us, as a people of faith, more willing to give different advice. I would love for us to be able to look at one another and say, "This isn't your fight. Walk away."
I would love for us to be a people who give this permission more often. Who give this encouragement more often. Because we're wasting our time and energy trying to save the world on behalf of, get this, our Savior, who has already done that for us.
What if we just believed that? What if we just looked at the fight, realized it's not ours, realized it's already been won and our participation isn't going to change that one iota, realized we're neither called nor equipped here, and walked away?
I think it would change a lot for many of us, particularly in how we practice our faith.
And I know what you're thinking, but let me say this: trusting in the work of the Cross, believing wholly in the empty tomb, and walking away on account of those two things when there's no calling nor equipping for this fight? That's faith, too. Trust me. That's faith, too.