I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. -Ezekiel 3:9 (NIV)
Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. -Isaiah 50:7 (NIV)
Today is the third day of Buddhist funeral services for my father, with waves of pressure ebbing and flowing. Though my mother and I had come to an agreement about me sitting in a pew while my siblings participated in the ceremonies, she called me to the shrines with my siblings for the very first service.
This was the first test. I stood before the shrines, and even with the crowd of visitors in the room, I gently told my mother I could not burn the incense, offer it or food to the spirits and Buddha, and most certainly not kneel and lie prostrate before these shrines. I could hear some mumbling in the crowd when I was the lone person standing upright as my family around me followed the monks’ lead to bow and make offerings.
The monks’ repetitive chanting rang in my ears, and the incense burned my eyes and filled my lungs. Many in the crowd chanted along, as did my uncle and his son behind me. Sensory overload.
I closed my eyes and imagined angels standing guard around me: before me, behind me, and flanking me. I felt like I was in a pressure cooker. I couldn’t go anywhere. But I was there out of utmost respect to my father and mother, while never taking God out of first place. I cannot elevate anyone over Him.
Subsequent ceremonies became easier and easier to perform, as it became easier and easier to say no to what was not God-honoring…to stand up as a child of the One True King, despite the enormous pressure to give in and do what everyone else was doing and not upset anyone.
What I realized is that when God allows us to endure serious heat and pressure, we can withstand it because of the His armor: the full armor of God. And as we trust in Him and His protection to face anything–and remain standing–He is doing a new thing inside us.
In me, He has been growing a spiritual and emotional backbone…stronger and stronger with each trial. As always seems to be the case, the trials are simultaneous, overlapping each other, so when that happens, we have no choice but to surrender it all to God…to teach us to surrender it all–all the time!–to Him.
It’s almost as if the full armor of God is a kiln, where He can apply great heat to build a spine. And that spine can help you stand upright and tall in the face of pressure and opposition. This is part of the new creation that He makes in us. Trust Him to build your new backbone so you can withstand the trials before you, and even tougher ones ahead.
Maybe you’re facing addiction, guilt, an abusive relationship, or other serious pressure or heat. Believe that God wants you to obediently trust Him with the outcome, and He will carry you through truly impossible fires that can only be endured with supernatural assistance. And as you walk in faith through those fires, He will build a newer, better, stronger you to stand up against them–and even overcome them–to His glory.