Choosing Your Battles

By KJ Doogan

The Mini Rescuer

I have been a rescuer from my beginnings: people who need help, stray or hurt animals, out-of-gas bees. You name it. If I see a need, I am an automatic first responder. That seems like an admirable trait, right? Not necessarily. Rescuing has not always gone well for me, and sometimes it was not the wisest decision.

Case in point: the first time my six-year-old self “rescued” a dog. I noticed a neighbor’s bulldog who was minding his own business occupying his front lawn. I assumed he was lost. He knew he was not. I somehow managed to get him in the front door of my house, but not without my requiring minor first aid. (Mom promptly returned him.) Fortunately, as I’ve grown older, I’ve gained a little discernment about pet-rescue vs. petnapping.

Throwing Stones

In the fifth grade, a new girl started at my school mid-term. She moved from another country and spoke little English, so the administration held her back a year. Some of my classmates were cruel to her when the teachers were out of earshot. So, I asked if she could sit at the desk next to mine and I made sure she was included at recess and lunch. Eventually, I invited her over after school to help her with homework and answer some of her so-many-questions. She was hesitant, but I assured her my house was a safe place.

A friend of my brother’s happened to be over to play that day. As soon as he saw her, he used some very mean names he’d heard at school. She burst into tears and ran home. The boy laughed, grabbed his bike, and sped off down the driveway. As he rounded the street corner, he mockingly laughed louder to ensure I heard. Well, I did. I grabbed a stone from alongside our driveway, and then in the most horribly impressive throw of my entire lifetime, I somehow managed to hit a fast-moving target squarely in the head. I was fortunate he was okay. My month of grounding later, the administration at school mercifully moved my friend into her own age group and assigned a tutor.

Mini Mom

Fast forward several years and many rescues into the future. My daughters and I were out for a walk one day when three Goliath-sized teens ran past us chasing a smaller young man. I should mention here that my maximum grown-up height topped out at five-foot-zero-inches. Disregarding this fact, as usual, automatic first responder mode bypassed my brain and engaged my mouth and feet. Well, the extra-large group stopped to deal with me instead of their runner. Fortunately, they responded respectfully to confrontation by a mini-mom type. So, here’s the small print of this not-so-heroic tale. As it turns out, the big guys were chasing the little guy because the little guy destroyed and stole property. I meant to save the little guy from being mishandled, but I assisted in an escape without knowing the big picture. I probably also saved him from being mishandled, so I don’t regret that part. All things considered, my response was a little like a David amongst Goliaths, but with some faulty consequences.

Speaking of David

In the Biblical account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, you may remember young David picking up the stone he would use in what might have been the most impressive throw of his lifetime. He also hit his giant adversary squarely in the head ~ but with a better outcome than when I faced my giant teens or threw a stone at the boy on his getaway bike, or “rescued” our neighbor’s dog. Why did my rescues all go wrong?

In David’s time, the Philistine army had just attacked the Israelites. They put their best foot forward: Goliath, a 9-foot 9-inch beast of a soldier. Israel’s king, Saul, responded not so royally. Instead of leading his army to battle, Saul stayed back, greatly afraid.
(1 Sam 17:11) In the meantime, David’s father called him in from tending the flock to take food to his older brothers on the battlefield. When David arrived, Goliath was bellowing for a fight, and the leaderless Israeli army was in chaos. David considered the situation and asked one of the soldiers, “So, do you think there’s a reward for taking down the big guy?”

The brave question quickly made its way back to Saul and provoked an immediate audience for whoever asked it. When David walked in, King Saul’s face fell. He must have looked sick because David said, “You don’t have to a heart attack, sir. I’ve got this.”
(1 Sam. 17:32)

Saul responded, “He was born a monster, David. You don’t stand a chance.”

“Yes, I do,” David insisted, “because the Lord is with me.”

Saul finally relented. “Alright. Suit him up.” He had David clad in enough armor to side a tank.

David tried to move in the heavy armor. He said, “Nope,” and wiggled out of it. Instead, David walked outside, picked up five stones and a stick, threw them in his pouch, and headed for the battlefield.

Goliath took one look at David standing before him and burst out laughing. “What’s this? You send a boy with a stick? What am I? A dog? C’mere, kid” he said. “I’m gonna feed
you to the birds.” (1 Sam. 17:43-44) It all seemed like fun and games to the giant until he faceplanted in the dirt. The scene must have been a bizarre sight. Not a mighty soldier, but a young shepherd walked over to the supersized Philistine splayed on the ground. David pulled Goliath’s sword from his belt and put a swift end to the attack on Israel.

The Heart of It

David, a young shepherd, followed God’s heart. That is why God chose to use him.
(1 Samuel 13:14 and 16:7) Therein lies the answer to my question. Worldly wisdom
~ my natural and automatic default ~ tells me my truest answer can be found if I follow my heart. Biblical wisdom reveals that my understanding employs a heart that can not only deceive me, but can be desperately wicked and I will not even know it. (Jeremiah 17:9). So, though it seems counterintuitive, I must disengage auto-rescue and auto-defend and stop automatically following my heart. Instead, I need to figure out how to acquire and engage godly wisdom like David’s.

How to Acquire and Engage Godly Wisdom

The Bible doesn’t say how young David’s godly heart developed, but it does give us insight about David’s son Solomon becoming a man after God’s heart. When Solomon was beginning his reign as Israel’s third king, God came to him in a dream and asked what he wished for ~ his heart’s desire. Solomon said he truly wanted only two things: wisdom and understanding from the Lord. This greatly pleased God. He said that
Solomon could have asked for anything ~ riches, a long life, or to conquer enemies, but he didn’t. So, the Lord gave Solomon the great wisdom and understanding he requested. In fact, God made him the wisest man that ever lived. And then God also bestowed riches, and long life, and enabled Solomon to conquer his enemies. (1 Kings 3:5-14)

So, let’s listen to David, the man after God’s own heart, and his son Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived as they talk about godly wisdom.

  • David said, “the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord (awe, respect, and reverence ~ a healthy fear). Practicing this fear will bring good understanding. Fools,” he said, “despise instruction.” (Psalm 1:6, 9:10, and 111:10)
  • David confessed, “You want truth in my innermost being, and in the hidden part of my heart you will make me know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)
  • David prayed, “Your commandments are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. (Psalm 119:98)
  • David wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect, it is clean, sweeter than honey, more desirable than fine gold, it revives the soul, makes the simple wise, the heart happy, enlightens the eye, is righteous and true. It lasts forever. In keeping it there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-14)
  • Solomon said, “When arrogant pride shows up, dishonor comes right behind it. But wisdom arrives with the humble.” (Proverbs 11:2,29:23)
  • Solomon told us to, “Get advice so you can gain wisdom.” (Proverbs 19:20) From who?
  • Solomon advised, “Walk with the wise,” he wrote, “to become wise. The companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
  • Solomon also wrote, “A fool fully vents his spirit, but the wise quietly holds back.” (Proverbs 29:11)
  • Solomon said, “…acquire godly wisdom, it will guard us, watch over us, make us honorable, and give us a garland of grace.” (Proverbs 4:5-9)
  • Solomon wrote, “Write kindness and truth on your heart, wear them like a necklace. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will remove obstacles and make your path straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and turn from evil. If you do this it will be healing to your body, refreshment for your bones. It will give you peace and a good reputation with both people and God. If you do not forget this, if you hide this in your heart, it will give you peace for all your days.”
    (Proverbs 3:1-8)

The Moral of the Story

The lesson of my story is that I need to stop following the judgment of a faulty heart when I go into rescue or battle mode. This is not because God doesn’t want me to be a rescuer or stand up for a cause. He calls me to have courage and do good. Rather, it is because the Lord wants to guide me in making wise, accurate decisions, do some real good, and to fully become the best of who I am made to be. To do this, I need to ask for and follow God’s wisdom and understanding like David and his son Solomon. In other words: God wants me to be a woman after His own heart.



About the author:

KJ Doogan married the cute Tolkien-obsessed boy who lived-next-door several decades ago. They now have three very loved grown daughters who are all occupied in various stages of graduate degrees. Family has always been KJ’s first ministry love, but over the years she was honored to serve the Lord with her husband in Christian camping and youth ministry, then later transitioned into women’s ministry. Currently, she is working on
a double major in creative writing and biblical studies. Fortunately for the (still cute) boy-next-door he still enjoys reading Tolkien in his free time, because the rest of his family is buried in homework.

Her website is

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