There is one Sunday school lesson I think should be widely considered and applied regardless of your nationality, religion, or political persuasion: wearing the armor of God. I think this is be applicable regardless of belief, and here’s why.
Sometimes life away from war still feels like war. Whether it’s a hard time at work, a challenging time with family, or unrequited feelings for a crush: we battle to make things better. If we aren’t protected from the circumstances, thoughts, and decisions, we end each day battered, bruised, and maybe even bloody.
The idea of being armored with virtue is certainly undersung in today’s society, but I would advocate it as something that healthy people should use to stay mentally healthy, and those with difficulties should try as an aid to get better. The fundamental idea behind this mental armor deconstructs seeming impossible things into functional chunks which can be easily dealt with.
Let’s say you’re having recurring intrusive thoughts. It could be anything from ‘will my relative survive this medical issue’ to ‘does he like me or does he not even know I exist’. You take that thought, and you imagine it attacking you. You can either strike it down with your sword before it reaches you or it will be deflected when it does land a blow. Biblically, the sword is typically the sword of truth. Exaggerated thoughts are best cut down to size with cold hard facts. The shield is faith. But what happens when you can’t get to your knees in time to pray? What happens if your faith is weak?
That’s where the rest of the armor comes in.
I really liked this idea, but there wasn’t quite enough to cover the difficulties against which I was warring. So I wrote down my best defenses against the usual attacks I’d been allowing to cut me to ribbons. My head was guarded with a mantra of peace straight out of the NT. My breastplate was studded with family members who strengthen me daily with their wisdom, courage, and compassion. My forearms were braced with poetry I’d memorized to keep myself occupied and words of encouragement. To keep my legs from getting cut out from under me, my feet were fitted with wings of time. Time was on my side in this bitter fight.
Then there were my pauldrons. They hugged my shoulders and deflected everything raining down on them. The weight, the responsibility. Atlas carried the world on his shoulders, and what I was carrying was hurting me. I needed something between me and it. On the one side was my determination. That teeth-gritting, dog-with-a-bone, angry determination I don’t show to pretty much anybody, because I’m scared they’ll run away if they know just how stubborn I can be. This piece gripped my one shoulder told me I could hang in there because I darn-well wanted to. On the other: patience.
I had patience, and it was the long-term determination that I could simply wait the situation out and be better for it.
The armor meant I would see the trouble coming and would stop it, realize where it was going to try to hurt me, and respond with the protection I had in place. This little thought practice (pretty easy for someone with a vast mind palace) helped me win that war, and win it well.
It’s a military analogy for every day. So the next time things aren’t going your way – whether it’s external pressure or internal anxiety, if you can armor up, you can rebuff the attacks. Even more than that: you react positively to the negatives. Your brain trying to tell you lies? You tell it back truth and see the lie crumble to the floor. Bad circumstances trying to sweep you off your feet? Stand firm with the knowledge that your long-term plans are still viable; time is on your side.
It means “I hate you!” is answered with She’s angry.
It means “You’re worthless!” bounces off the love of your mother, the pride of your father, and the loyalty of your brothers and friends, and you know you’re not.
It means “How could you possibly do that?” glances off your patience and you look that problem dead in the eye and say “Watch this.”