The other day, I was with my family at a toy store. In the aisle was a box, containing a toy replica of Captain America’s shield. Now, I don’t really have any need for a Captain America shield, but I had picked up the box to look at it. My wife said, “It’s probably made of plastic”, to which I replied, “Well, it’s not made of vibranium”.
Since its origin in comic books, Captain America’s shield can now be found on t-shirts and movie posters. It has been carried by multiple comic book heroes (in addition to Steve Rogers), and it may be more recognizable than Captain America, himself. It is virtually impenetrable by foes, and doubles as a weapon when thrown.
In one of the Marvel Studios movies (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I think), there’s a short scene where Captain America is on the deck of a flying helicarrier, being shot at by the bad guys. He is all alone on this wide-open section of the deck, and he is crouching behind his shield, with bullets ricocheting off of it. At this moment, he isn’t rushing into battle, or punching out enemies. Instead, the the Super Soldier is making himself a small target, and is protecting himself with his trademark shield.
On a good day, we may feel invincible. Maybe our victories are in our job when we close a deal, in our school when we ace a test, or in our families when we see that glimmer of hope that our kids were paying attention. We feel like we’re on top of the world, like we could be the hero (if not in a movie, maybe at least in an episode of a TV drama).
Other days, though, all that we have just doesn’t seem like its going to be enough. Recently, I woke up one day convinced that I did not have enough “gas in my tank”, personally, to get through my day. I knew I had a full schedule over the next 15 hours or so, and was already tired when the alarm went off. I wasn’t depressed or anything – just tired. It was clear that I was no superhero – my responsibilities outnumbered me, and I was out in the open, vulnerable to the challenges of the day.
In times like these, we can rely on our own shield. Better than the fictional metal vibranium, this actual, real shield is our faith:
in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Ephesians 6:16 NASB
In studying about the common shield carried in the time when the book of Ephesians was written, I’ve learned that it was perhaps closer in size and shape to the Greek phalanx, which was carried side-by-side by rows of soldiers to advance as a unit. Whether or not we are going through life with the help of others, this wasn’t a little shield to try and bat away the occasional sword strike – it was something one could get behind for protection.
Faith is an interesting thing – believing in what we can’t see (see Hebrews 11:1). It is not borne out of wishful thinking, though – instead, it is founded on trust in what we have experienced, observed, and learned. From that solid foundation – the confidence borne of God’s faithfulness not only to us, but also to humankind throughout history – we can be confident in our ability to get through with God’s help, even when we don’t have the means to succeed (or even to understand) on our own.
Faith needs to be cultivated, though. It’s not a natural reaction, at first. To strengthen your faith, build on that foundation by learning more about who God is, and how reliable he has been through the ages. Reading accounts of God’s faithfulness in the Bible is a great start, but the testimonies of other Christians in our lives today are also a great complement to these accounts, as well.
By the way, about that day when I didn’t think I could get through…at the start of the day, I remembered passages like Matthew 6:11 and Matthew 6:34, and sought the strength from God to get everything done. About 9:30 pm that night, as I was finishing up some of my last responsibilities for the day, I was able to tell a friend that God had gotten me through. He always does.
O Israel, trust in the Lord ; He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord ; He is their help and their shield.
Psalms 115:9-10 NASB
For more reading, see also: