Thirty-five years ago I lost my left eye to cancer. When people meet me, they often comment on how that must have been a horrible trial, but honestly, it really was not. When I came out of the hospital, children nicknamed me “Patch the Pirate,” and it ultimately turned into a wonderful ministry. But on May 18, 2013, my family experienced the hardest trial of our lives when we buried my oldest son.
Leading up to my son’s death, we were working on a Patch adventure about the armor of God. So, for about a year, I had been living in Ephesians six, studying it and trying to make it applicable to children. Little did I know that as I was studying this passage, the Lord was preparing my heart for the battles that I was about to face.
As we have dealt with trials, my family has learned how important it is to put on the whole armor of God. Every human being needs the Lord’s strength. We are all weak, finite humans. As you go through a trial, you have to keep that in mind. I know too many people who have crashed and burned in the ministry. As we eagerly serve the Lord, we can easily become so consumed with our work for the Lord that we neglect to rely on Him.
You cannot work twenty-four hours a day, even if you are working for the Lord. I love God, and I want to serve Him with all my heart; but it is not God’s desire for me to neglect my wife, to neglect my family, and to neglect getting sleep. We cannot find grace in the midst of trials if we are living in our own strength.
Ephesians 6:11 tells us, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” God has provided every piece of this suit, and He wants us to use each of them.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.—Ephesians 6:12–13
It is so important to remember that we are battling forces which we cannot defeat without God’s armor. As we go through trials, we need to be armored with each of these pieces. We are incapable of handling trials without them.
Loins Girt about with Truth
Most commentators believe this piece refers to having integrity. I remember when I was in my twenties, I would look at men in their sixties and think, “Boy, they don’t have any of the temptations I’ve got.” Now, I’m sixty-three, and I have found that I have all of the same temptations. Some of them are even worse than they were when I was in my twenties. It is important to be men of integrity, no matter how old we are. We need to keep fighting and walking with God, loving our wives, and loving the Lord. The battles go on for the rest of our lives.
Breastplate of Righteousness
I try to do everything I can to build walls of structure and accountability to keep me from sinning. But no matter what you do, there are going to be opportunities for you to sin. There are going to be trials that will suddenly come and tempt you to disregard what you know to be right. That is why it is so important to be prayed up, to be in God’s Word, and to be in love with your wife and family, so that when those opportunities come, God gives you the grace to overcome the temptations.
Feet Shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace
We could call these, “gospel shoes.” Some people believe that this piece of the armor is referring to soulwinning. Others believe that this is talking about the peace the gospel brings, the peace you have in your heart from God. I believe that to be true.As Christians, we should be peaceful people. God has saved me, and He has given me a ministry, a great wife, a family, and a home in Heaven; and my heart is at peace.
I want to live my days in peace, trusting God, loving Him, and resting in Him. Choose to not live your life in anger and bitterness. Yes, trials do come that seem to have no explanation, but living in anger and ignoring all that God has done for you will not help you find grace during the trials. Live in peace with God and others.
As I have gone through trials, I cannot help but think of Job and his testimony. Job experienced more than most of us can even fathom, yet he still said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). Job had peace even in the midst of the darkest trials.
Shield of Faith
This piece of armor is vitally important because the passage states, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” This piece is referring to trusting God. My son who went home to be with the Lord last year was diagnosed with mental illness about fifteen years ago. The problem was I had always thought that mental illness did not truly exist. As doctors would ask what we wanted them to do with our son, I had no idea. What do you do when you are in that situation? You trust God. Through that journey, there were so many times we had no idea what to do. You trust God and keep following Him.
There were times through that journey that I could find no explanations. The only way I could find any comfort was by running to my Heavenly Father. He is my God, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, and He loves me; and that is enough.
Helmet of Salvation
This is obviously talking about salvation. In order to find grace to endure a trial, it is vitally important to have your salvation settled. The helmet of salvation needs to be firmly in place. Often the devil likes to use trials to cause us to doubt our salvation. Do not let him. Find the many promises in Scripture of eternal life to those who have called upon Christ for salvation. Claim those promises, and meditate on them, especially during a trial.
Sword of the Spirit
This, of course, is talking about the Word of God. We need to get God’s Word in our hearts on a daily basis, feeding on it and hiding it in our hearts. Honestly, that is something that I have to make happen. I have different responsibilities, but I need to have time with God every single day. There are so many promises in Scripture specifically for those going through trials. Meditate on those promises, and claim them.
Grace in Time of Need
Ultimately, I have learned that through our trials, we learn and grow closer to our Saviour. When you are confronted with trials and sorrow, make sure you have on the armor of God and allow those trials to draw you closer to Him. I have discovered that there is no way to completely prepare for trials. You never know when one is coming. What you can do is prepare by loving God, loving others, and living in His Word. The Christian following this can find grace even in the midst of the hardest trials.
Anytime my granddaughter gets hurt, she will come up to one of us adults, put out her arms, and say, “Hold you! Hold you!” And of course, someone will hold her, and everything will be all right. As I have gone through some of my hardest trials, I have come before my Heavenly Father, held out my arms, and said, “I want to hold You.” And every time, He welcomes me into His arms and gives me grace that cannot compare to anything in this world. In Hebrews 4:16, He opens His arms to us and invites us to come: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”