Life, by the very virtue of it being life, is incredibly difficult. It’s not so much a matter of if it will be difficult, but when (and just how bad). We don’t like to admit it, but it’s true. We know our own life story and what we’ve struggled with. Whatever life has thrown at us, it’s thrown the same at those in our orbit. No one can escape it, so what are we to do?
Not so random fact about myself: I really love watching nature documentaries. Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Life Story, you name it. Ask any poor girl who has ever been my roommate and she will tell you it’s true. If there are animals and David Attenborough talking, I’m happy.
There’s a type of octopus that lives in kelp forests. While life in a kelp forest might seem like a fairly easy gig, the reality is that this octopus is constantly hunted by a persistent little breed of shark. The octopus has to survive daily hunts from this top predator. While it avoids being hunted most often by hiding itself in rock crevices, it sometimes gets caught out in the open with nowhere to hide and a shark on the hunt. So what does the octopus do? Incredibly, he grabs all the closest available shells and holds them tightly around himself. Pretty soon, he’s completely covered like a little underwater tank. He may be out in the open, but he’s not unprotected.
We need to be as smart as that octopus in our spiritual lives. We are going to find ourselves left out in the open in the path of danger. That much is inevitable. So for the love of all things, grab some nearby seashells and make yourself some armor. What does that actually look like? In my experience, I’ve seen three main ways to grab your seashell armor:
First, root yourself in what God has to say about Himself, and what he has to say about you. Get in the word and talk to your creator. If you start searching even just a little bit, you’ll find a myriad of reminders from God that not only are you valued by Him, but have the ability to rely on his strength and wisdom. Verses like Ephesians 2:10, Romans 8:1, 2 Timothy 1:7, Philippians 4:13, and Romans 5:8, just to name a few. If you start talking to God with the intention of learning about Him and what he made you for, you will come to your next struggle stronger than you ever were before.
Second, find people who you can trust to point you to Christ. Fellowship is an incredibly large part of life. We’re simply not made to do everything alone. If I included every Bible verse that somehow touches on supporting each other in hardship, I’d be publishing a book instead of a blog post. There’s no mistaking it, God wants us to do life together. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 touches on the benefits of this when it says: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
I’m not saying you have to be with people around the clock, otherwise, we’d lose all the introverts, but you do need to have people in your corner who are watching you and making sure you’re still fit for the fight. Make a team of people who love you enough to not only support you but to tell you hard truths when you need to hear it and do it all with love. At the end of the day, you need people who will tell you you’re sliding off the road before you get all the way to crashing off a cliff.
Finally, know yourself well enough to know when you need to turn to your resources and get ready for some battle rather than getting caught off guard. This isn’t necessarily a point on its own as much as it’s a way to engage the other two methods. Be sharp, be engaged, and be active. Don’t just passively float around the kelp forest and get surprised when a shark shows up, You need to know where your seashells are or you will not make it.
So while life is, and always will be, hard we have options available to us to make it less so. We will have struggles yes, the sharks will come, but with a few seashells from God to hold tight around ourselves, we stand a far better chance for making it through the struggle and on to the next, and that’s not such a bad thought.
Let's find some joy,