If you’re familiar with any of the Bible stories, it’s likely that the story of David and Goliath is one of them. Here’s the short version: a short shepherd boy defeated a giant with just a slingshot and a stone.
Goliath was tall, hefty, and imposing. Texts wrestle on Goliath’s height, settling on anywhere from over six feet to nearly ten feet. The point is—the man was tall. He was also incredibly strong, as a look at the NIV or NLT translation has him wearing a minimum of 140 pounds of recorded armour (1 Samuel 17:4-7).
A few days ago, I struggled to lift a 60-pound bag of soil with my mom. I’m not proud of it, but it really puts things in perspective. If I were to fight Goliath myself, I’d be crushed.
And yet, we all fight Goliaths every day. If you’re a human being during the time of this global COVID pandemic, you know this all too well. If we’re the lucky ones who stay safe from COVID, sometimes our Goliath looks more like physical or emotional pain, loss, financial struggles, or health struggles. Our youth are fighting Goliaths too—they are struggling with overwhelming stress, disappointment, and insecurity. They are tall, hefty, and imposing threats to our survival. They can make us feel helpless, and that we’ll fail if we fight against them. If we fight on their terms, we probably will.
David knew this. When King Saul gave David his armour to fight Goliath, he returned them to Saul, saying:
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.1 Samuel 17:39–40
David didn’t defeat Goliath on Goliath’s terms (i.e. physical prowess), he defeated him using his own natural abilities. Likewise, we can fight our Goliaths with our own strengths. David was a shepherd and had years of experience protecting his flock from wild animals. He was a pro at using a slingshot to kill threats from afar. What is a talent or skill of yours that you have developed over the years? What is something you have learned how to do well, and can be used to protect you? That is, what are your stones?
Some of us have an easier time of seeing the silver lining and staying optimistic. Others do well in researching things, learning what they can about whatever the issue to prepare for what’s next. Some find that they naturally turn to going outside; spending time in nature helps keep them grounded. Others dive into creativity and write, paint, sing, draw, make pottery, craft. Some talk about it with their peers, and others turn to alone time and prayer. Some lean into persevering through the trial, and others take their time. Maybe your “stone” lies in teaching other people, or in helping others.
Some of us have been fighting Goliaths that aren’t COVID related. These battles that are harder to talk about when you’re in the thick of it. Last year, I had been battling my own Goliath in dealing with symptoms that I didn’t know the cause of. I suddenly wasn’t able to keep food down, had little energy, and had physical pain in various parts of my body, sometimes struggling to make it down the stairs, or do more than get dressed in a day. There were also some gross bowel symptoms. I lost 35 pounds in 3 months (while not trying to). My family and I were afraid for my life. I needed to go to a hospital. But because hospitals were COVID-central these days, I was doing my best to suffer in silence.
I remember praying constantly for healing, for answers, and for life. Eventually, I was able to see a GI doctor, and after a colonoscopy and biopsy, it was determined that I was in the early stages of Crohn’s disease. This was confirmed by a later abdominal MRI with a different specialist. I had been experiencing a Crohn’s flare.
When my flare faded, I felt like I had a new lease on life. It became so much more palpable to me how fleeting life and time are—that I must use all the energy and strength I can while I have it, for what’s important: the Lord.
I learned to answer the question: what are my stones? What did I turn to to carry me through the suffering? It’s one thing to be joyous over jumping over the hurdle, but it’s another thing to recount the effort made to jump. What did I lean into, other than my ever-supporting family? What was something that I personally did? I narrowed it down to three things.
- I leaned into my faith. When other people question or pull away from God in a struggle, I tend to lean in. Even when I couldn’t move from my bed, I could at least reach over to my nightstand and grab my Bible. I reached out for prayer from some close friends. I trusted that God would answer my prayer, and made a vow that if the suffering would lift, I would use my newfound energy and ability to live for Him in everything I did. This isn’t to say I felt happy all the time—some of my prayers were deep laments and cries of frustration. The key is that I didn’t turn away. The symptoms eventually lifted, and I’m happy to say that I kept my vow.
- I leaned into my researching ability. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, which has led me through an undergrad and into my second Master’s degree. A by-product of this education is the ability to research and learning how to learn. I spent a lot of time googling, looking up symptoms, and coming up with some connections between my symptoms. Before my diagnosis, I figured it was likely food-related (and Crohn’s is inflammation of the digestive system), and likely autoimmune-related (Crohn’s is an autoimmune disorder). Through extensive research and trial and error, I figured out some of my triggers, and was able to begin to help myself.
- I leaned into my communicative skills. Because I was able to communicate my feelings and symptoms to my doctors, they were able to help me. Sometimes patients shy away from the explicit details, but if I hadn’t described my symptoms accurately, I could have been misdiagnosed. I have since communicated to others about this diagnosis, and in doing so, at least half a dozen other people have come forward to tell me that they have Crohn’s (or a similar IBD like ulcerative colitis), that they have a family member who has IBD, or, in one case, that they’ve been ignoring undiagnosed symptoms and are now going to get checked out, because of my story.
I firmly believe that because I used my “stones” and because of the grace of God, that my Goliath is no longer undefeatable. I’ve been able to complete my first year of seminary online while working part-time, and I’ve started on treatment. God has shown up again and again, and I am incredibly grateful.
And, through my own experience, I learned that like using your muscles, leaning into your strengths only makes them stronger. My faith was increased, and I learned to trust my verbal and research tendencies. Expect that whatever stone you choose and use will be much stronger afterwards.
The question is no longer: how will you defeat this Goliath? It becomes: how will you use your stones after your victory?