When I was twelve, I vividly remember creating the armor of God at a local Vacation Bible School. Cutting out long strips of construction paper, pouring mounds of glitter, and writing in all caps with a permanent marker, my masterpiece was complete.
As I made my way to my mom’s car, my best friend and I struggled to walk. The armor was stunning. Oozes of glue and sequins flaked with every step. I felt so powerful. Who wouldn’t with a cardboard shield, sword, helmet, and breastplate?
Yet as I continued to journey toward my mom, it seemed she only got further and further away. The armor served its purpose; a representation of the power of God within us. But it was growing heavy.
Sometimes in life, we create armor to protect ourselves which later becomes useless. It once served a purpose, but over time, it no longer holds value.
And we collapse beneath its weight.
The Trap of Our Own Armor
While the armor I wore that day was temporary, and I could easily slip it off, other forms of manmade armor we wear aren’t as easy to discard.
When I was fourteen, I felt the immense need to become the third parent of my home. After my father’s physical injury, he quickly fell mentally ill. I built walls to protect myself as I began to fill a role that I felt I had to. My helmet was perfectionism. My sword was endless productivity.
Over the next decade, I grappled with growing up. Relationships quickly strained, and I isolated myself. When family struggles started spinning out of control, I clung to anything I could control. That led me down a deep, dark, and dangerous road of a ruthless eating disorder. Welcome to my shield.
Around my waist, I secured the lie that I wasn’t good enough. I could always do and be more, and I needed to do so. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a girl permanently damaged by circumstances both beyond and within her control. And everywhere I walked, I didn’t walk in shoes of peace but regret, shame, and fear.
I often struggle not to walk in that armor today.
While I try to guard myself with this set of armor, it has only ever kept me behind barricaded doors. Maybe you can relate?
The Beauty of Godly Armor
Christians are to possess the armor of God, which can be seen in Ephesians 6:10-20. And while it’s described as physical items we put on, the weaponry God dresses us with is invisible to the human eye.
From head to toe, God tells us to put on the Helmet of Salvation, the Belt of Truth, and the Breastplate of Righteousness. He then reminds us to adorn our feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace. With one arm, we extend a Shield of Faith. In the other, we thrust forth the Sword of the Spirit and the eternal Word of God.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance…” (Ephesians 6: 11-18a).
This armor is good, beautiful, and powerful. But the beauty of the armor of God is not because of its design or the stature it gives us. It’s because of the Designer. As Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might,” (emphasis mine).
The armor of God works because God made it, not us.
The Problem with Trying to Wear Both Sets of Armor
The thing about our self-made body armor is that it’s not of the Spirit, meaning it’s not indestructible. And we were never meant to carry it. We were never meant to try and protect ourselves.
My armor, in some ways over the years, has served a purpose. The desire to work hard, achieve high standards, and help provide for my family are good qualities—to a point. But when perfectionism, endless hours of work, and inability to rest surfaces, is the armor really worth it?
We were never meant to feel so heavy.
In a recent conversation with my clinical counselor, he reminded me of these truths: While the armor we create to help protect ourselves can serve a purpose, there comes a time when we aren’t meant to carry it anymore. At least not all of it. And for me, not to the extent and weight I had been.
Today, I still wear pieces of this protection. I am addicted to productivity, and the anxiety I feel to complete tasks with such excellence and caliber can be utterly exhausting. It’s a double-edged sword to work so hard and live with such diligence.
But what I’m learning to do is let pieces of that armor down and replace them with the armor God intended for me to put on. As I lay down my pride and the lie that I have to care for myself, and pick up the protection He’s given me, I feel just a bit lighter.
This exposure isn’t easy. Trust me.
Even small tasks that can wait feel like the biggest mountains needing to be moved in my mind. But the armor God asks me to put on daily is for my own good. It’s His protection. Not something I’ve created.
Friend, I want to encourage you that while you might be wearing armor that you were never meant to carry, God has armor that’s so much more effective. His Spirit lives within each of us, and the power of that can transcend and supersede any strength the former gave us.
He can help you lay it down.
He can help you shed the weight.
Because He’s the one protecting us.
And He forever will be.
His love is a shield.
His faithfulness is a banner.
His Word is the hope we need to keep moving forward.
One step at a time.
One day at a time.
One piece at a time.