“But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me” (Psalm 22:19).

Amy Carmichael says, “Life is a journey; it is a climb; it is also and always a war. We are soldiers of the Lord of Hosts. He dares not drivel. This sounds like a rough word, but sometimes roughness helps.” The Bible is full of grim stories of warfare as well as stern counsel about the spiritual warfare in which we are all engaged. When we are tempted to coast through life, we are likely to be confronted with tough realities. A Marine Corps drill instructor is harsh because he is preparing marines for deadly battles ahead. He is determined to teach them that the enemy will do everything possible to kill them. In the same way, we shouldn’t be surprised when the enemy of our souls shoots to kill. We’re in a spiritual war.

Carmichael challenges us to: “Expose yourself to the circumstances of [God’s] choice.” Our circumstances can be tough, but when we receive them from God’s hand, we put on the dynamic attitude so necessary to spiritual soldiers. In contrast, those who “look no way but up, there stands One who offers to exchange the muckrake for a crown.” Even in the dullest of circumstances, we are gathering “wood, hay and stubble,” or we are gathering priceless eternal gems. Do we chafe at circumstances, or do we accept them as God’s spiritual training for the battlefield? Carmichael emphasizes that full engagement in the circumstances God permits is “the call to the climbing soul.” She sees it as an embracing, positive challenge, quoting the scriptural promise, “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy, she says, is “perfect acquiescence in the will of God.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement