Strains of the first song ring out softly in our dimly lit family room.
You go before I know
That you’ve gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and you call it my victory
I stop my reading and look at my daughter curled up next to me on the sofa. Even with her two black eyes and broken nose, her face retains all of its beauty and innocence.
I know this song well and marvel that my daughter has just selected it as the first one she wants to listen to that cold, grey afternoon. The opening lines of Defenderrecount the story of a teenage David slaying the giant Goliath and reveal the mystery that the victory was all God’s doing.
My daughter and David may share their youthfulness in common, but that’s where the similarity ends. While David went to the battlefield and came back victorious, with the head of his enemy, my daughter set foot, not on the battlefield but on the lacrosse field, and came back with a concussion and doctor’s orders to stay quiet and still.
My daughter does not play lacrosse out of habit or because she’s looking for an activity to pass the time. She is deeply passionate about the game, about the hard work, about her teammates, and about pushing her body to the edge of its capabilities. To be kept from pursuing your deepest passion is like being told to find a new way to breathe.
She is told to shut down her real life and be still, avoiding not only physical activity, but mental and social activity as well. No classes, no schoolwork, no screen time, no hanging out and laughing loud and hard with friends. No activity that brings on or aggravates the headache is permissible.
Soon, fierce thoughts bombard her aching head. Fear presents itself first, rising up whenever her mind settles into thoughts of the future. When will I get better? How will I manage my academics this semester? When will I return to the lacrosse field?
Isolation is her steady companion as she is separated from teammates and classmates. Isolation does its work of inviting loneliness into the deepest places of the soul.
Anger lurks in the shadows, waiting for the moment to strike. This is not my daughter’s first concussion, nor her first extended injury. For more than a week, she bravely maintains a positive attitude, optimistic that healing will come quickly. Ultimately anger makes its move by whispering in repeat assaults the great unanswerable question, Why?
In times of trouble, it can be dangerous to be left alone with our thoughts.
As the song moves onto the chorus, I understand this battle raging within my daughter’s mind and catch a fresh glimpse of the true workings of her heart.
All I did was praise
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down
All I did was stay still
When we respond to life from our soul—meaning our mind, will and emotions—our emotions will always rise up to dictate our thoughts. One of the greatest challenges in times of trouble is to suppress this activity of the soul and follow instead the leading of our spirit. Knowing that fear, loneliness, and anger were standing ready to overtake her thoughts, my daughter chose instead to press into the depths of her spirit.
And from her spirit, she chose to praise. Praise reignites our spirit to believe God’s truth about us rather than the lies sparked by fear, isolation and anger. A willingness to praise when our natural response is to withdraw, grumble or question where God was in all our pain opens our spirit to receive a fresh word from God.
Bypassing the order of the queue on her playlist, she selects the next song she wants to hear. The words take my breath away.
I am the Lord your God
I go before you now
I stand beside you
I’m all around you
Though you feel I’m far away
I’m closer than your breath
I am with you, more than you know
I am the Lord your peace
No evil will conquer you
Steady now your heart and mind
Come into my rest
Oh let your faith arise
Lift up your weary head
I am with you wherever you go
Come to me, I’m all you need
Our true character is revealed in the choices we make when under pressure. We can run to distractions—like TV, video games, shopping, eating. We can run to alcohol or drugs. We can run to a friend to issue our complaint or to receive support.
What and whom we run to in times of need really do matter.
That same shepherd boy, David, who slew the giant, would grow up to pen these words: You, oh God, have been my refuge, a tower of strength against the enemy. David learned that even under the greatest pressure, he could trust in God as his strong tower.
When times are good and we’re feeling strong and victorious, it’s far easier to remember God loves us. But when it’s ourhead delivered into the hands of our enemy, it’s harder to trust God still has our back and run to him for refuge and strength.
But, because my daughter intimately knows her God, she knows she can trust him even when she can’t understand the path set before her. Because she has experienced the God of love, the God who gave his life for her, she knows to come to him as her strong tower in times of trouble.
I look at her, amazed, stunned at how she has responded to all she has experienced. With open hands and a heart full of gratitude, she continues to come to her Father God.
Softly I ask her, What did you name this playlist?
She looks up and responds, You Gave It All To Me.