It’s been quite an emotional month or so. Most of the problems and pains aren’t completely mine to share, so I won’t. But the most wonderful time of the year for me has certainly not started out that way. I barely remember October, and November has been a blur.

We tend to respond to trial in two ways, and I have gone down both paths during long hours in the past few weeks:

We go too hard: no one can touch me or hurt me. I’m tough. I’m enough. 

We go too soft: no one will save me or love me. I’m not someone. I’m done. 

Our Pinterest-quoting world praises the former, calling it powerful and brave. It puffs up the latter, filling it with the fleeting air of self-esteem and compliments.

Neither protect me in the end, because both keep my heart at the center of my power and the target of the world’s arrows. Both paths require me to take my own blows and be my own strength.

So hard life will crack me, or so soft it will crush me. Either way, I’m at the core, and I’m in pieces in the end. 

We need a new way, and as a Christian, the Bible shows me what that is, again and again:

Be firm in your faith.*

Firm, neither rigid and brittle nor soft and yielding. Steady. Securely fixed. Settled.

In your faith: not in yourself or your strength, but in something quite apart from you or your ability to manufacture it. Not firm inside of me, but outside.

Every teaching, every tendency of the world says to build up my core. But God says to build up my cover.

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, the book of Galatians tells me, before listing the armor I need to protect me against the world’s schemes: the belt of truth, the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation, the shoes of His peace (Galatians 6:10-18).

Not one of them made by my own hands or heart. Not one of them improved by my self-confidence or my self-doubt.

Only the truth will set me free from the breakage of too tough and the bruises of too tender. One humble step beyond myself and away from both hard and soft — I’m not enough, but He will save me — and the best protection in the world shelters my weary heart.

I stand firm, not because of who I am but who He is.

I stand firm, not because of what I do or do not do, but because of what has been done for me.

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*a few of the places in scripture that talk about faith and firmness:
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith. I Corinthians 16:13
Resist (the devil), firm in your faith.  I Peter 5:9
We work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. 2 Corinthians 1:24
If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all. Isaiah 7:9
Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.  Exodus 14:13
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7

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