I admit it. I was wrong.
I really had thought spending the winter in south-western Michigan would mean escape from 35 years of relentless snow. Until well into February, I was right. The total snowfall had been negligible. And so when the forecast called for six to eight inches and everyone started to panic, I called it Michigan snowmageddon and mocked the locals who were rushing to the supermarket to clear the aisles of bread and milk and cancelling every event in sight. Even without a snowblower, my superior level of fitness and a trusty shovel would be enough to face any challenge a feeble American winter could throw at a battle-hardened Canadian.
Elaine warned me it would come back to bite me, and of course she was right. It kept coming in waves. I cleared the driveway four times in one day. In the end, we had at least 18 inches, and the last load came with an icy crust on top. The end of the driveway was filled with several feet of large and very heavy frozen icebergs which had to be shifted. By hand, as all I had was that shovel.
Mercifully, at that moment, as I contemplated the fact there was no more place to put any more snow and I had no energy left to move it, it stopped.
And this is just what spiritual warfare looks like.
The enemy comes in waves. Something goes wrong. Then something else. Then something on top of that. And bit by bit, our defences are weakened and our resources are drained. And we eventually come to a point of desperation, where we feel if one more thing happened, we will fall apart.
And at that moment, God comes in, and it stops.
That has been my experience over the years. The theologian NT Wright puts it this way: “God meets us at the screaming point.”
Why he does it that way we will never know. But do not think he ever just hangs us out to dry as if we were helpless victims lying on the track with a train coming toward us at full speed.
In fact, it is actually we who are on the offensive. When Jesus said the gates of hell would not stand against us, he was referring to our assault on those gates. Gates are defensive in nature, not offensive. When Paul talks about the weapons of our warfare destroying strongholds, he is using the language of the siege. We have placed the fortresses of the enemy under siege in order to destroy them.
The last offensive assaults of the second world war, beginning with D-day, were among the costliest in terms of casualties. And yet they were entirely offensive in nature.
The greatest and most successful assault on the powers of hell ended with a man hanging on a cross.
So when things seem darkest, know that you have become a lethal threat to the enemy. He will try to convince you that you are nothing, and that your suffering is meaningless and in vain. Do not believe him. And don’t try to figure out what it is about you that is a threat.
If you’re a target, you are a threat.
I have had several seasons in my life where I felt I would crack if one more thing happened. But every time, at that screaming point, God met me.
My job, and yours, is to throw ourselves into the assault. The worst that can happen is we die and are immediately translated into the very presence of God.
But far more likely, the snow will stop just at the moment your strength has run out, and the sun will come out again.
And a victory, even if you don’t know the measure of it, will have been won.
Never stop fighting.
And never forget this: the last page of the Book says we win.