I reached the high-water mark of my physical fitness at the age of twenty-four. Back then, I ran thirty miles a week, sweated three hundred pushups a day, and bashed other brawlers in the local boxing club.
In the midst of my peak physical prowess (let’s not discuss its short duration), I met a man with a black belt in Judo. He was forty-ish, chubby, and he wheezed when he walked. I figured his exercise routine consisted of lifting large bottles of beer rather than benching big bars of heavy weights.
He was the first black belt I had ever met. I was intrigued. Could this chubby, middle-aged man really beat me in a friendly fight? The fool inside me challenged him to hand-to-hand combat.
Not since infancy have I spend so much time on the ground. The lawn and I became intimate acquaintances. I huffed and puffed, wheezed and groaned, and maybe cursed (but it’s all still a blur) as he repeatedly and effortlessly hurled me to the ground.
It didn’t matter what punch I threw. Each jab, hook, and uppercut concluded with me staring at the sky, gasping for air, and wondering what day of the week it was.
How Do They Do That?
After my embarrassing attempt to box a black belt, my pudgy pal explained the method to his artistry. He claimed that the secret to his victory was to use my strength against me, to hijack my force so that it was working for him, to turn my muscles into Judases.
Whenever I tried to punch, my friend slipped aside and pulled. My own momentum—aided by his tiny tug—threw me off balance. My own strength became my biggest enemy. The stronger I attacked, the harder I fell.
God says this is exactly how true spiritual warfare works. We may fear the attacks of Satan (or any kind of evil spiritual power), but God doesn’t sweat Satan’s attacks. God didn’t create the malevolence in this world, but He always redirects it so that evil turns traitor and begins to fight itself. As Joseph said to his brothers,
You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
It’s called Spiritual Judo.
The Wounding of David
Look at the life of David. The enormously famous prophet Samuel comes to David’s father to search for a leader. And just like a male Cinderella, David isn’t even invited to the party. Worse yet, when the prophet asks David’s father if anyone is missing, David’s father responds, “Everyone is here but ‘the youngest’” (1 Sam. 16:11).
But to understand David’s wounding, we must understand that the Hebrew word (hakaton) translated as “the youngest” has layers of meaning. It’s hard to translate because the word combines the picture of youthfulness with the deepest sense of insignificance. To merely translate it as “the youngest” isn’t insulting enough. Hebrew scholars say a better translation is:
Everyone is here but the runt.
David was so inconsequential to his family that he was forgotten in the fields. But in the very center of family contempt, he practiced the slingshot to perfection. If the runt David had been treated with respect—if he had trained with King Saul’s army like his brothers—David would have cowered before Goliath like they did.
Instead, God threw the wounding insult—“the runt”—on its head. He used the injury to create a hero. He employed the enemy’s force to turn against the enemy. David became King of Israel through Spiritual Judo.
Your life and my life radically depend on this same spiritual principle:
God is unsatisfied with merely neutralizing evil. Like with David (and Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Debra, and Esther), God hijacks our woundings, partly to deliver their destruction, but mostly to produce His perfect plan of goodness in our lives.
God is the ultimate Black Belt. Our hope for the sufferings of our lives—our only hope—is our Father’s Spiritual Judo, His spiritual redirection of even our greatest sufferings.
When we’ve been wronged, when we’ve been deeply wronged, we all have instinctive reactions. Some wallow in self-pity, some wither away in bitter thoughts, some cling to falsely-created self-esteem, and some think their key defense is to cast out evil spirits.
God calls us to rejoice.
The biggest setbacks we have suffered, those hindrances we feel will block us from the truest triumphs on this earth, God turns those barriers into the paths that will lead us to spiritual victory. They aren’t roadblocks, they are roads. They aren’t detours, they are highways to heaven.
As Scripture repeatedly teaches: Our enemies dig a pit for us … and fall in in themselves.
After all, the greatest need of our lives—salvation itself—was accomplished through the abandonment and betrayal of the Son of God.