Battling our flesh is never easy. Sure, we want to fight it and have good intentions to war against giving in. But even with the best of intentions, it’s usually just easier and more comfortable to surrender to its pull, to satisfy our feelings. Well, last month I said “enough” and decided to take a stand. I decided to spend a year going to war against my flesh and the enemy, and purposed to fight for the abundant life the Scriptures promise. To put my head knowledge of God to the test in real life experience…that He is actually as good and satisfying as His Word promises He is.
My first challenge was a month of no television, and friend, what a month. I’ve had some revelations! God shined some light on my own history and helped me pinpoint where this stronghold originated. Over the course of the month, I’ve also recognized five gifts that I’m daily giving back to myself just by surrendering this one thing. Can I tell you my first revelation? I survived. But not only that, I actually thrived.
The Beginning of a Stronghold
It all started 14 years ago, my love affair with television. I was a brand new mom living a life I said I’d never live as a stay-at-home mom. Everything about my life was completely unrecognizable from just 9 months earlier and what I always thought would be the easiest thing in the world, this caring for a child, turned out to be completely overwhelming. Not only was my body a hot mess but I struggled with sleeping, eating, extreme anxiety, and panic attacks. We soon figured out that I was dealing with postpartum depression, and I got under the care of a good doctor.
After several weeks of getting my body regulated on medication and having a lot of help from our families, everyone left, Matt went back to work, and it was just me and my new baby. Those first 6 months were like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Constant self-doubt and confusion over my feelings were my close companions. My days consisted of just trying to make it through the minutes until morning nap time, then afternoon nap time, then Matt would get home. In desperate need of a distraction, television was the easiest option.
This was before the age of Netflix or Amazon TV. We couldn’t afford cable so I was left to whatever daytime programming was on the major channels. One day early in the morning, I stumbled upon a show that turned out to be my lifeline for the next 6 months…Dawson’s Creek. That show became my daytime refuge. Two hours, back-to-back episodes, six seasons. I could lose myself in the drama of Joey, Dawson, and Pacey’s lives and it was a comfort. I knew that for at least two hours that day I would feel numb to what at other times was giving me anxiety. It’s how I coped. Looking back now, I can see that motherhood was bringing me to a level of desperation for God that I had never experienced before. The problem is that I mainly used TV to satisfy the desperation, not really knowing how to take my deep well of need to the only One who could satisfy me.
Stronghold: Dependency on Anything Other Than God
Thankfully, I continually got better, and over time the depression subsided. God revealed that it was this difficult crisis of self that created the dependency. A dependency that continued even after the depression was over, that any time life would start to feel like too much or too confusing or too emotional, I would turn to the TV. Thankfully, over the years, the dependency lessened out of a growing desire for Bible study and prayer. I developed new disciplines and passions that re-prioritized my day. I developed an incredible thirst for God and His Word and tried daily to engage in purposeful study. He was leading me faithfully in the way I should go and I was sticking close, during the day. But, in the evenings, after dinner, family time, and tucking in, I held onto the hobby of television as mine. As something to bring comfort or distraction, especially when life felt hard.
This last little bit I was holding onto was exactly where God was challenging me. Although I wasn’t using it out of desperation any longer, I was still going to it for comfort and rest instead of the Lord. Often He would gently stir my heart, “Darci, I have more for you than this”, and I knew He was calling me to a higher level of obedience. I knew it had to go.
I can tell you, the initial tearing down, it was war. I battled everything in myself on that walk that first day. My fear of the unknown…I mean, just how exactly was I going to relax? I battled my rights…aren’t I entitled to this one small thing? I battled doubt…could God really satisfy even this desire in me? I had no idea how this decision, this one purposed decision in my heart, was going to change my days and the gifts I would actually be giving back to myself.
Five Gifts to Myself
1. The Gift of Relief
Listen friend, that first week, it was weird and different, and I felt out of sorts. But honestly, nothing else compared to the difficulty of the initial “walk of surrender” that you can read about here. All of the fear and doubt and frustration was clamoring, and then, like a breath of fresh air, these verses started parading through my mind…
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things and give me LIFE in your ways. (Psalm 119:37)
You make known to me the path of LIFE; in your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
It was right in front of me–LIFE, the way to true and abundant LIFE, the way to freedom. But I had to choose it, I had to fight myself for it. I so badly wanted what I thought was mine. My right to enjoyment, my right to relax however I wanted after giving of myself all day. My conversation on that walk sounded a bit like this:
Me: “God, are you serious with this? This is that big of a deal? There’s so many other things that I could be doing, that are real sin. You should be ok with this one thing. I’m not even watching anything bad!”
God: “Darci, I’m not trying to rob you of this thing you think you’re entitled to. I’m asking you to open your hand and give it to me and let me put something better in its place. Something immensely better! For you and for the plans I have for you. Trust me.”
So I did. I said ok, and I surrendered it. I can’t even tell you the relief that came in that moment. The peace of knowing that God took immense pleasure in me removing anything that was trying to dethrone Him in my heart. Sure, I was still nervous and doubtful but I had taken the first step to my freedom, and you can’t pay any kind of money for the kind of relief that comes from being right with God. Sweet relief – the gift of obedience and surrender.
2. The Gift of Sleep
Since my evenings weren’t being spent catching up on TV, I would usually take a book or my Bible to my bed and get comfortable. Some nights, if I was missing the habit of watching something to relax, I would watch a sermon online. I started noticing that instead of getting an adrenaline kick after putting the kids to bed because this was “my time” for “my shows” and “my snacks”, I just wanted to listen to my body and go to bed when I was tired. It has resulted in a much healthier sleep cycle, and my ability to get up early to be with God is much more consistent because I didn’t sabotage myself the night before.
3. The Gift of Being Present in My Own Life
It’s kind of like I woke up to my life. To the joy and the pain. I decided I don’t want to miss any of it. For so long I had been operating in a way that when life got to be too much, too confusing, and too emotional I had something that would let me check out, even just for an hour. Just numb myself to whatever hard thing I didn’t want to face. But with that “usual thing” being removed, I was now staying checked-in and taking the confusion, emotions, and too much-ness of life to God in prayer. It’s not like life all the sudden got perfect for that month because I had surrendered. There were still hard moments that I didn’t really want to feel. Moments of disappointment or feeling hurt. Stresses about money and parenting and all the normal things, but instead of masking them, I would feel them before the Lord, cast my cares on Him, and he would encourage my heart and give me LIFE in his Word.
In God’s amazing abundance, I didn’t just wake up to the pain, I also woke up to joy. My habit of turning to something else for comfort was also keeping me from experiencing divine comfort that was waiting for me. I started looking very specifically for God, hunting for light and joy in my day, and He did not disappoint. I wrote about this particular hunting expedition that you can read more about here, but I do not exaggerate that I daily discovered sprouts of His goodness that He had already planted for me, and in exactly the moments I needed them most. Now, instead of watching people live pretend lives in pretend story lines, I am giving myself the gift of living my own unique and beautiful life.
4. The Gift of Clarity
A few weeks into the challenge I noticed that I was going through my days with a new focus and confidence in the things He has called me to do. I wasn’t second guessing myself and doubting my steps because I was so pressed into Him. I had a clearer vision of how to run my race. God confirmed in my heart that this step of surrender was actually me laying down an unnecessary weight like the author of Hebrews describes in chapter 12. That while my television watching wasn’t necessarily sin, it was definitely a weight that was impeding my race. God also showed me a few other areas I had been committed to that needed to be laid aside in order to run my best race, and I didn’t struggle through weeks of decision making, I just laid them down. Without even realizing it in the moment of surrender, I gave myself the future gift of clarity.
5. The Gift of Discipline
My mornings with the Lord have a new expectation to them. I am experiencing His delight and the joy that comes from exercising discipline. I’m feeling more confident and comfortable in my own skin that I’m building a muscle of discipline that I gravely need to continue this ongoing war with my flesh. I’m prayerful and confident that this gift of discipline is going to spill over into other areas of life.
So, there you have it. My first challenge down with all that was learned and given back to me. On day one I asked God to become even more desirable to me than what I had been holding. That at the end of the month I wouldn’t still be lamenting what I’d given up, but rejoicing in what I had gained. I can tell you, He more than delivered. And for the foreseeable future, I don’t plan on going back.
Surrender your Stronghold…Give Yourself the Gift of LIFE
My thing, my unnecessary weight, happened to be a stronghold of TV. Whatever that thing is for you that’s probably already crossed your mind, that thing that gives you anxiety to just think about giving up…yeah, that thing. Well, it’s your weight and it’s keeping you from running your race in the best way possible. I challenge you today to put the satisfaction of God to the test and lay it down. Take Jesus at His word and everything He claims He is…the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I know it’s scary and you may be doubtful, but what if it’s true? True not just for your moment of salvation, but for your actual day to day life? What if you’re settling for the crumbs you get from your “stronghold” when He has a whole feast waiting for you that comes with surrender?
I testify today that He’s every bit as good as He says He is, and much, much more. He is the WAY! He is the TRUTH! He is the LIFE! I enjoyed a feast laid out by Jesus this last month: a feast of peace, rest, joy, pleasure, delight, confidence, and comfort. And sister, it was good.
Second Challenge: Battle Against the Grip of Sugar
For the month of March I’m battling the monster of sugar. Cutting out all desserts and sweets, anything with refined sugar, but still enjoying fruit. Lord help my husband and my kids as they enjoy all manner of donuts, cookies, and ice cream right in front of me. Help them survive me in this challenge.