Our pastor at church is currently working through a series on an ancient king of Israel named Josiah. Josiah was a good king. He repaired much of the damage that his corrupt fathers and grandfathers had done to the kingdom. The full account of all that Josiah did is located in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles. Near the end of that account, Josiah deviates from the good decisions he had been making over the course of his life. The leader of Egypt drew near to Israelite territory with his army, and Josiah rode out to meet him. The Egyptian king realizing the misunderstanding, sent an envoy to let Josiah know that he had not come to battle him, but was engaging another enemy, one that he believed God had led him to attack. The battle had nothing to do with Josiah, but he couldn’t let it go. He dressed in a disguise and led his army to battle the troops from Egypt. During the fighting, Josiah was struck by an arrow and fatally wounded. Josiah’s life ended fighting a battle he was never intended to fight.
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I know that I have. Most of us reading this aren’t fighting life and death battles with real weaponry, but we battle nonetheless. We argue and battle against our kids, our spouse, political leaders, and referees at basketball games. Some of our battles are small, wrapping up in one conversation, others go on for months or years.
How do you know if the battles that you are fighting are the right battles? How can you tell if you are making a difference, or if you are pushing your friends and family away? Here are a couple of questions to consider as you try to decide which battles to fight and which to avoid:
Am I constantly battling this person?
This one is especially important for parents and kids. There are a thousand things that we want our kids to avoid, and a thousand other things that we hope they will embrace in their life. We want the best for them. We dread the thought of them choosing a life path that will lead to their own frustration and pain. This can sometimes lead to parents battling their children over every issue that comes up, often several times a day. When we correct our kids this often and never allow things to simply pass by, we are doing slow but very real damage to our relationship. Children can not handle constant correction from their parents. It’s too much. Eventually, they will learn to ignore you, if for no other reason than to avoid the stress you bring with your constant redirections. Choose your battles wisely, you can’t fight them all.
Will this battle distract from my greater goals?
I once sat across from a couple in my office whose arguments had gotten out of control. The latest battle was over whether or not they should be packing their kids lunches each day, or if the kids should pack the lunches themselves. They argued back and forth, the volume rising incrementally as the minutes passed. Finally, I asked the husband why it was so important for his wife to stop making the kids lunches. He yelled his answer, “Because I love her and I want us to have a strong relationship!” His goal of loving his wife and wanting a strong relationship was very good, but the battle he was fighting wasn’t getting him closer to his goal. Sometimes we get so caught up in the battle that we lose sight of what we really want. It’s easy to win battles only to lose the war. If you are not careful, you can actually hurt and push away the very person you believe you are fighting for.
How often am I battling those around me?
If you are constantly at odds with others, and always in a battle, it’s possible that you are fighting battles that do not need to be fought. Life isn’t about constantly challenging and correcting everyone around us. No matter how right your cause or motives may be, we were not made to fight every battle we come across. On the other hand, if you are never standing up for your opinion or what you think is right, you are mostly likely missing out on some battles that you should fight. You opinion matters, and your point of view can make your friendships and family stronger, but only if you share it.
Choosing which battles to fight in life is never easy, and we won’t do it perfectly. We need to carefully think through which battles need our attention and which don’t need us at all. The way we choose our battles will often determine the quality of life we enjoy.