Attacked from within…
It’s not until your own start shooting at you that you realise it’s not actually friendly fire. In military terminology, friendly fire is an attack by neutral forces on friendly troops whilst attempting to attack the enemy.
I always assumed that when hardship came within the body of Christ it would be akin to friendly fire – an unintentional wounding, all just a big mistake, aimed at the enemy but the bullets went awry. When the metaphorical hand grenades were thrown at my husband and I earlier this year, from our supposed brothers in arms, it didn’t feel friendly, it wasn’t unintentional, no mistakes were made and nothing was aimed at the enemy. He was behind it alright, but we were definitely the target.
What do you do when your own start shooting at you? Where can you go to find refuge? How can you possibly be heard when the gunfire is so insistently belligerent? When will justice ever be done?
Head to the Psalms…
It just so happened, in a Ruth-just-so-happened-to-be-in-Boaz’s-field kind of way, that God had prompted me to begin the new year reading through the Psalms. The last few times I was in this book God worked a whole lotta truth into my heart. “This will be a nice reminder, a jogging of the memory…” I thought to myself, “…a gentle ease into 2022…”. But on day two the first hit came. The not-so-friendly-fire. We ducked for cover but it just kept coming. We thought a cease fire had been reached but it turns out it was only for re-loading.
In those days, in the ministry trenches, with critical bullets being shot from all angles, unjust hand grenades being thrown from behind a screen, and irrational missiles flying through voice messages, the only duck and cover to be found was in the worn and weary, underlined, annotated pages of the Psalms; in the God they glorify, the Refuge they remonstrate, the Shelter they shout about, the Saviour they supply.
This is what you can do. This is where to seek solace. These are the words you can cry out. This is where God shows His justice will be done. The only war-room strategy in ministry is to:
Run to God in His Word
“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2
“Keep me safe my God, for in you I take refuge.” – Psalm 16:1
[Psalm 59, 69, 73, 95, 108]
Take Refuge in sweet Jesus
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2
“Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16
[Psalm 4, 5:11-12, 7, 9, 31, 46, 63, 70, 91]
Speak His words over your wounds
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” Psalm 69:19-20
[Psalm 42, 56]
Repeat His words back to Him in prayer
“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” – Psalm 57:1
[Psalm 13, 57, 89, 121, 142]
Leave your honour and your justice in your Father’s hands
“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” Psalm 3:5-6
“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: ‘Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love’; and, ‘You reward everyone according to what they have done.” – Psalm 62:11-12
[Psalm 3, 31, 52, 62, 64, 66]
Seek shelter in Christ and in His body (not all its members will shoot at you)
“The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” – Psalm 34:22
[Psalm 34, 65, 73, 77]
Battle weary sisters, take courage under fire. God doesn’t promise to redirect the bullets but He does promise to be with us in the onslaught. He is faithful. He is good. He is safe. He will never turn on you. He will not change. He is not irrational or critical or hurtful. He will bring justice because He sees, He knows, and He delivers. He is your only shelter and stronghold. Your only help and strength. Your only hope and joy. And He loves you, with a faithful, steadfast, abundant love.
Hold onto Jesus, He’s holding onto you.
“My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” – Psalm 63:8
Joanna Stokes is married to Nigel. They have four kids and serve at Emmanuel Epsom.