Sometimes you know you’re on the right track when you get t-boned by a semi truck straight from hell.
Earlier this month I had what could be best described as a life-changing shift occur unexpectedly. It was as if God had suddenly knocked the blinders from my eyes and I gasped at the blessings before me, ripe and dripping with possibility. It was like the walls surrounding my heart were blown outward so that I could see the endless blue-tinged horizon on all sides, all 360 degrees glowing softly with long-awaited promise.
Until then I’d felt like I was puttering along in first gear in a broken down car. Suddenly I realized that I’d been upgraded and found myself shifting into fourth, tearing down a desert highway at 120 with my hair on fire. It is exhilarating when God starts opening the doors you’re actually supposed to go through after years of beating until your knuckles are bloody on doors meant to remain closed.
That’s when the semi truck hit. It was like a vortex from Hades howled open and the sucker punch came out of nowhere. My figurative ’67 Camaro SS was knocked off the roadway and the literal trouble that ensued brought me to my knees this past week. I found myself asking a dumb question: why did this challenge occur so soon after that blessing?
Oh yeah. That’s how Satan operates.
For my international readers who may be unfamiliar with the Christian faith, Christians believe that God created the angels and then he created man. One of His most beautiful heavenly messengers became jealous of the Maker and led a rebellion against Him. He was cast down to this planet like a bolt of lightning and convinced the first humans to taste the lie that they could be gods rather than respect God. This altered the intended course of humanity, making it necessary for God to intervene by sacrificing His son to pay for the crimes we’ve been committing ever since.
Satan, whose name means accuser, has been roaming the planet since time immemorial, stirring up hatred and fear and taking as many of the Maker’s children from Him as he can in the time he has left. He knows his days as prince of this world are numbered, and since day one he’s been whispering filthy lies into the ears of the Maker’s children to make them doubt His goodness—even His existence. C.S. Lewis said that of all created beings, the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate presence of God.
When you make a decision to accept Christ, the old snake and his minions may actually step up their assaults rather than leave you alone. This is because he doesn’t want you to fully realize who you are and what you’re capable of. Christians who profess that nothing is impossible because we serve a God who can do anything are gigantic problems for the enemy. The other team wants you to think in terms of the natural, not the supernatural. They want you to feel weighed down, not free. The last thing they want is one of Yahweh’s empowered, liberated children running around raining on their parade.
Author John Eldredge has discussed why enemy attacks can sometimes hit so hard. He said, “Do you know why there’s been such an assault? The Enemy fears you. You are dangerous big-time. If you ever really got your heart back, lived from it with courage, you would be a huge problem to him. You would do a lot of damage on the side of good.” Sometimes life just happens and we face difficulties that God allows for our growth and His glory. But other times, when we’re getting bludgeoned or poisoned by numerous challenges, they are a deliberate ambush designed to cause distance between ourselves and God.
Writer Ted Roberts has noted that Satan knows what gets to us and what is most likely to derail us from God’s plans in our lives: “You see, our spiritual adversary studies us very carefully. He is not omniscient, but he has a keen memory. And he knows what we ‘feed’ on. He takes note of all the desires that drive us and strategically places bait in front of our nose… One of the devil’s deadliest games is tempting us to meet legitimate needs in unhealthy ways.”
Roberts knows that the devil may not tempt us into outright sin and instead get into our heads to make us feel horrible about ourselves: “One of Satan’s favorite strategies is to capitalize on our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. He delights in rubbing our noses in our inadequacies and dishing out accusations… Tempting us into shame is one of his more common tactics. Reminding us of our past mistakes, he sets up an intravenous drip-drip-drip of lies. Stirring up the painful memories of our wounds, he tempts us to buy into ideas that are not true. These lies become like fortresses in our mind…”
Joyce Meyer, in her book Battlefield of the Mind, concurs: “Satan works hard on our minds—building strongholds that will prevent us from facing truth. The truth will set us free, and he knows it.” This semi truck-like attack that sidelined me this month was a tangible issue that, stirred by the devil’s long bony finger, became insidious doubts about promises I’ve been believing God for. It also made me question my ability to move forward in the possible blessings that had opened up.
Here’s how he works: “Oh, see, look at this. You’re here again, hardly able to function and suffering when you do. See? You did good and now look what it got you. How can you believe God’s promises when He’s letting this happen to you? If you get through this and choose to move forward, look at all the things that could go wrong. You’re taking a big risk. Maybe you should keep things status quo, you’re safe there. Miserable, but safe.” Even though you were just praising God days before, you start questioning whether He’s telling you the truth and if He’s truly good.
Charles Stanley advises God’s people to “Never forget the devil’s purposes: to draw you away from God, to thwart God’s purpose for your life, to deny the glory of God in your life, to destroy you in any way he can, including physical health.” It has dawned on me in this trial that the night is always darkest before the morning. Great things are about to happen. Satan, however, hopes that this, this awful repetition of struggles past, will shake my faith enough that I slide stealthily into the lava pools of self-sufficiency and stagnancy while shouting Virgil at my Maker: flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.
Suffering and delayed answers can certainly twist our hearts and minds to this point. We all have our breaking point and when you’ve waited years for God to intervene, the enemy wants you to believe that you’re there. This is it. You’ve had enough. You’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, you’re not _______ (insert lie here). But if that’s what you’re hearing, that’s the time when it’s most important to believe that God is faithful and He is working whether you have physical evidence of that or not.
In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, one demon says to another, “Do not be deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never in greater danger than when a human being, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our enemy’s will, looks out on a world from which every trace of him has vanished, asks why he has been forsaken, but still obeys.”
Believing God whether or not He seems present (He is) is incredibly dangerous to the forces that want to separate you from Him. It means you are acknowledging Him as all good, all loving, and all powerful regardless of your circumstances, inviting Him into your situation to be exactly that.
When you are under attack, don’t isolate yourself from people who share your faith. Keep looking for those words of encouragement in the Manufacturer’s Handbook. Keep praying, even if you don’t feel like it. Keep hoping, even if you’re mad. Keep believing for answers. God will send you rays of sunshine that will see you through.
This week that sunshine burst through my clouds when someone spoke directly to my situation seemingly out of the blue. They reminded me to listen to the voice of truth, not all the voices nagging me with reminders of how I’ve screwed up before or how God won’t follow through. This also reminded me to love and praise God even when He hasn’t answered yet, and that if we seek Him first, everything else will fall into place. The timing and content of this message was amazing.
Today I was reminded that God will do what He’s promised and to keep my eyes on Him, not all the hurts and worries that influence me to doubt Him. After all, He can do anything. He’s already started to work in ways that have me thunderstruck. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning and can’t wait to see what He does next.
So when you start feeling those daggers of doubt, those flames of fear, those punches of paranoia, recognize that they could be coming from a being who doesn’t want you to succeed, in life, in love, in anything good. You frighten him. You are waking up to who and what you really are.
The enemy wants to keep you from being a warrior for truth and goodness. He especially wants to prevent you from bonding with people willing to walk and grow with you. But who he is pales in comparison to the Almighty—he’s ultimately a damned and defeated rebel who cannot stand before Jesus’ name. You have been given authority over him.
So back off of me and my people, you bitter, vile worm.
I’m a daughter of the King.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. –C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
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