The final bell finally rang (pun intended) ending the school day none too soon. The noisy room turned quiet as I straightened desks and breathed a sigh of relief. It was then I noticed her, one of the students from the last class, still in the room. She said something kind to me, probably because she had witnessed the purposefully rude and disrespectful behavior of some of the students towards me during the class which had just ended. I thanked her and we struck up a casual conversation which quickly became more personal as she shared a little about herself with me. She was dealing with some chronic, long term health problems, that I would never have imagined to be the case, just by looking at her, nor by her behavior. She hadn’t asked for any special treatment or made excuses to exempt her from anything. I was immediately reminded of a favorite quote of mine –
“Be kind – everyone is fighting hard battles you know nothing about.”
Good advice, I think, even though in the moment I often forget to keep this truth in mind when dealing with other people. I am acutely aware of my own battles. But am I mindful of the battles others are facing and fighting every day? Probably not. Most are fighting these battles privately, rather than sharing them with the world. As I interact with other people, I realize I have no idea of the pain they are experiencing, the obstacles they are endeavoring to overcome, the burdens they carry around on a daily basis, the losses they have suffered or of the hardships life has handed them.
Today’s encounter with this sweet high school student, facing her obstacles with such grace and courage, brought me face to face once again with the reality that I need to be kind in all my interactions, because everyone is engaged in a hard battle. This particular student certainly is fighting a hard battle that I knew nothing about. However, our brief interaction was an opportunity for me to show her kindness and pray over her, even as I learned she was also dealing with loss and many other things. What a privilege to pray for her. She had given me the gift of her kindness, first. I was simply returning the favor. Imagine – with all the battles she is busy fighting every day, she noticed the small, temporary battle I was fighting in the classroom that day, which is nothing compared to her larger, life long battles. And yet she took a moment to be kind.
She reminded me that I can be so busy fighting my own battles that I become oblivious to the plight of others as they fight their battles. Too often, I just don’t know what people are going through because our battles are hidden from others, even though they are common to many – such as loss, addiction, loneliness, illness, depression, self-worth – the list is as endless as the battles that we all find ourselves fighting every day.
And yet I am always surprised when I hear someone’s story. This same day, I learned of the battles two coworkers are fighting, though one would never guess they are dealing with such hard, painful circumstances because of the dedicated way in which they work with their students each day. Another reminder to be kind always because there is so much I do not know. In Bible study, last evening, a new woman shared a part of her story. She has suffered great loss and yet she is fighting her battle against, grief, bitterness, depression, and hopelessness so valiantly that she is able to offer hope and encouragement to others. And she does just that. She is still standing.
As I fight my battles daily, I want to have compassion on those I encounter each day, because I can be certain they too are engaged in hard battles. Compassion leads to kindness. And we all need to receive kindness from those we know and even from strangers to get us through the day. As I write this, I am thinking of all the people I know well and the battles I know they are fighting, that others, including the casual observer, will never suspect. We don’t wear warning signs alerting others to our battle weary, fragile state of being, so they have no idea, they never suspect the toll our battle is taking on us.
But there is One who does know what we are up against and what we suffer. Our Heavenly Father is not blind to the battles we must fight each day, even though other people often are. Psalm 103:13-14 tells us,
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”
God knows how weak we are, how easily we tire and become discouraged. But He offers His help to each one of us.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
It is so comforting to me to read these words and know that my Heavenly Father is right here with me, bearing my burdens, fighting for me, strengthening me, helping me, upholding me, going before me and never leaving me, even when the battle gets difficult and dangerous. I am told I don’t need to be afraid or discouraged. I will always be fighting hard battles in this life. So will you, dear readers. But I am not without hope. And neither are you! We have His promise – Jesus said,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Even in the midst of fighting our hard battles, we will experience this –
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. . . . those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)
My Heavenly Father is with me as I fight life’s hard battles. It is He who gives me strength, so that I can persevere. He is the Vine – “apart from Him I can do nothing.” But He has promised “never to leave me nor forsake me.” So I know that one day, along with Paul, I will be able to say –
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” and I will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (2 Timothy 4:7 & Matthew 25:21)
and you and I will rest forever from fighting all the hard battles we have had to fight, battles that others knew nothing about and battles that they did – we will have won them all in Christ’s Holy Spirit power!
sincerely, Grace Day