Satan Doesn’t Play Fair

Gentle Reader,

In fact, he loves to hit us when we’re down.

Satan doesn’t want to just knock us to the ground, you see. He wants to drive us into it. He wants to break our spirits. Coat our minds in lies. Wound our hearts so every beat is unbearably painful. He finds our vulnerable places and grinds his heel into them, laughing as we writhe.

This has been my experience across several weeks. I am simply worn out. Two surgeries, six weeks apart, have done a number on my body. Yes, I am healing, but it’s not a quick healing. It’s not an easy healing. I’m battling insomnia. I can’t seem to get caught up on anything at work. I’m on the “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle of pain and exhaustion.

Makes me crabby. Also heightens my sense of anxiety.

So the stupid Devil has been punching me. He whispers negativity into my soul. Tempts me to despair.

He doesn’t play fair.

Thankfully, God doesn’t play fair, either.

That’s the beautiful thing about being a believer: We who have trusted Christ have the very Spirit of the Living Lord dwelling inside of us. He comes in and makes Himself right at home. Just think about that for a second. God, who made all of creation just by speaking. God, who knows the names of all the stars. God, who exists entirely outside of time and so knows the end from the beginning. God, who got up and walked out of the tomb unaided.

He lives inside of you and me.

Talk about stacking the odds! That old Serpent doesn’t stand a chance. He can keep on punching and kicking. He can get a few licks in. But the nanosecond we cry out, even whisper, for help, he’s done for. The Spirit blasts him out of the scene. The Spirit pours out comfort, guidance and strength upon us so that we can get up and move forward, hand tucked safely in His.

Perhaps you’ve got the taste of dirt in your mouth today, as I do. Perhaps your face is streaked with sweat and tears. Perhaps you’re bloodied and bruised, the shield of your faith knocked to one side. You’re feeling weak, lost, helpless. Dear one, ask. Ask God for help.

He will grant it and then some.

My journey to faith. (15)

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He is Real

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Gentle Reader,

I took this picture as Chris and I walked through the park tonight. The interplay of light and shadow, of textures, of shades of green took my breath away. The pond was still, the crickets chirping in glorious symphony.

God is real.

Unfortunately, so is the Devil.

Last night I went back for my first shift at the shelter after being away for six weeks. In the short amount of time I’ve been volunteering, I’ve seen big things go down in the space of 30 minutes, so I suppose I should have expected to encounter a lot of changes. But I didn’t. Whether it was naivety or hope, I don’t know. Maybe a little of both. I wanted to come back and find that everyone was as they were when I left, plugging away at the program, making progress.

Sadly, that wasn’t the reality. For obvious reasons I won’t go into details here, but as my fellow volunteer caught me up on all the goings-on, I was reminded that the Devil is real. Yes, we make our own choices. Nobody forces us into sin. We are responsible before God for what we say, do, think and feel. At the same time, there is a very real Enemy, one who seeks to capitalize on our weaknesses. He is indeed a defeated foe, but he’s going to take down as many with him as possible before the culmination of this age.

So, I’m going to be blunt: If you call yourself a Christian but don’t acknowledge the reality of Satan, you are blind. Deceived. Evil is real and it is personified. No, he is not God’s equal, but he’s real and he has a plan. He seeks to counterfeit everything that God does in his quest to “be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). He sells a “gospel,” only there’s nothing good about his news. The seemingly-pretty temptations that he dangles in front of us lead only to death and destruction; he seeks to steal everything good from us (John 10:10).

If you don’t believe me, then get out there among people. They are dying by the tens, even hundreds, of thousands, caught in his clutches. Spend some time in a homeless shelter and then tell me that the Devil doesn’t exist. Every abuse or addiction echoes with the ring of his gleeful laughter. He screams lies, doing all he can to drown out the Voice of truth.

We who know the Lord need to step up and intercede. I don’t know all the ins and outs of spiritual warfare. I just know that God hears the prayers of the righteous (James 5:6) and that all who are in Christ are declared righteous (Romans 3:21-26). We need to pray for a world lost in darkness, a world whose ears are tuned to deception. We need to ask that God would open hearts and minds, just as He did for us. And we need to pray that those who hear the truth would choose the truth.

My heart aches tonight for precious women who have snuggled up with Satan. They probably don’t know they have. They’ve been enticed by a velvet touch only to find themselves choking in a claw of iron. I beg God to have mercy on them, to give them an opportunity of escape. I pray they take that escape. I pray they turn to the One who is really real, the only One who can and will fill the hole in their souls.

My journey to faith. (15)

What Depression Means to Me: Halloween

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Gentle Reader,

I’ve barely begun and already I know that this will be a difficult post.

Growing up, my family never really celebrated Halloween. I think I went trick-or-treating once. It was cold, dark and rainy. Naturally reserved me didn’t find it fun to knock on stranger’s doors, no matter how much candy I had the potential of getting. I recall going to two, maybe three, church Harvest Festivals. My parents explained to me, in age appropriate ways, the origins of Halloween and what witchcraft was really about. I didn’t want anything to do with a night set aside for darkness, no matter how innocent it might’ve seemed.

When I went back to school for a theology degree a couple of years ago, one of the first classes I took involved the study of major world religions and philosophies. Looking over the syllabus, I dreaded the week we would spend on paganism, witchcraft and Satanism. This was all from a Christian perspective, mind you, and I am very much in favor of knowing the opposing team’s playbook, so to speak. I just wanted to get through that week as fast as I possibly could.

I learned that covens and Satanic churches view Halloween as one of their high holy days. I read about more than a few instances of child kidnapping. About ritualistic human sacrifice. The conjuring of demons. Astral projection. Spell casting.

Call me crazy, but that made me want to have even less to do with Halloween.

Unfortunately, I have worked to conceal my inner revulsion, peer pressure being what it is and all that. The last couple of years, I’ve participated in my own church’s “Trunk-or-Treat” event. I understand the idea behind it. Kids can come to a safe place, get a little candy, play some games and maybe get loved on. None of that is bad. I don’t think that dressing in costume is a sin. I don’t think that participating in Harvest Festivals has anything to do with being saved.

What I do think is that I can’t participate anymore. Not after the breakdown I went through a few weeks ago.

You see, I know, beyond doubt, that Satan is real and that his mission is to steal, kill and destroy. When I sat on my couch and made ready to carry out my suicide plan, I felt my heart within his icy grasp. I’m not saying that people who kill themselves automatically wind up in Hell. I believe that I would have gone to be with God, but the way in which I got there would have very much been against His will. So, Satan couldn’t take my eternal destiny away from me, but he could certainly take joy in jumping on my self-torture and adding his own hissing voice to it.

I am alive today only because of the perfect timing of the Lord, who brought my husband walking through the front door before I could leave. If I did not believe that He orchestrates things perfectly before, I do now. I’m telling you that I’d be dead if not for Him. Satan would have loved that.

I’ve read several articles by those who have come out of the occult who won’t have anything to do with Halloween (or horror movies, for that matter). They know the reality of evil. I don’t pretend to compare my experience to theirs, but I know that Satan delights in convincing us that things are “harmless fun.” How many kids will play with Ouija boards tonight? How many will dress up as vampires, ghosts, zombies, serial killers? How many little girls will be Lady Gaga’s or some other hyper-sexualized “role model?”

My husband and I are supposed to go to “Trunk-or-Treat” tonight. We said that we’d be part of a group costume effort. I wish I’d been honest about my discomfort with Halloween before now. There’s a significant chance that we won’t make it anyway, due to his work schedule. I won’t be sad if we miss out on the event. I have no judgments against those who will be there. They’re my friends; my brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t for a second think that any of them is endorsing evil.

It’s just…well, this night isn’t innocent or fun.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the What Depression Means to Me series, go here.

Woman, Do You Know Who You Are?

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Gentle Reader,

This one’s for the girls, though men would do well to read and understand.

We live in a society that demoralizes and dehumanizes women. In this supposed era of liberation, women are still essentially valued for their physical characteristics. The ideal woman is a Size 2 (or even a 0 – think on that; you are encouraged to literally become nothing), has thick hair, preferably blonde or at least a lighter shade of brown or red, possesses perfectly symmetrical features (and her eyes really should be blue). Her skin never breaks out, her waist is impossibly small, her boobs surgically enhanced, her skin golden. If she is smart, she hides it. She is “sexy,” not feminine, which usually means lots of skin, accompanied by a hard-edged expression that often goes unnoticed. If she has had children, she must not have stretch-marks, sagging breasts or a flabby tummy.

If she is smart, she hides it. Ladies, this is so true. Look at women like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Whether you agree with her politics or not isn’t the point here; she is derided for being successful and intelligent. If her dream is to be a wife and mother, working within the sphere of the home, she is also scoffed at. Essentially, you cannot have a career and you cannot not have a career.

You must work out but you must not sweat. Your home must be neat but nobody should ever see you clean it. Your clothes should be name-brand and you should never wear something more than once. You should cook five-course meals (but you should never really eat). You should have a French manicure. You should wear a bikini.

Is anyone else tired of being a punching bag?

We are bruised, used and abused, often more literally than we’d care to admit.

You who read this, I have no idea where you are in relation to God or what you believe about the supernatural, but let me tell you this: we have a very real Enemy who desires our harm. He doesn’t want us to catch a glimpse of what God longs to do for us. If we have a relationship with God, the Enemy doesn’t want us to understand or accept how God sees us.

Satan gets a great deal of mileage out of poking at women, all in the never-ending quest to believe that we are ugly and worthless.

What dark, candle-snuffing words.

We were created in the imago Dei, the image of God. We, as women, reflect something of the Divine that men do not. (Please don’t get into men-bashing. That isn’t the focus of this post, and degrading men has not and will not ever lead to health and healing for women). When we think of ourselves as trash, we spit in the face of the Creator. We tell Him that He didn’t know what He was doing when He made us. Instead of being blessed by all the different shapes and colors and sizes and varieties, we assume that He only finds one type lovely.

We ascribe to God the work of the Devil.

Think on that a moment.

You will not find a place in Scripture where God calls a woman ugly or worthless. Are women, just like men, made to suffer the consequences of their actions? Yes. Does the Bible even outright say that women can be punished by God for straying from His path? Yes. Yet these things NEVER give us permission to believe that God sees as the world sees.

We do not have to be defined by our society. We do not have to be enslaved to the demands of the scale, the store or the sensual. We don’t have to take a beating, over and over again, in the hopes of one day finally fitting into the mold. You see, it’s a fruitless occupation. The mold is ever-shifting.

Is it wrong to enjoy fashion or make-up? No. On the contrary; God made this world, and so I believe that He greatly appreciates beauty. Is it wrong to work to take care of ourselves, making sure that we do get proper exercise and that we’re eating healthy? No. Our bodies are a blessing and a stewardship. What we must learn is that we are ALREADY lovely. The make-up and the clothes and the exercise are there as tools for us to celebrate our existing beauty, not to drive us in the attempt to manufacture something unattainable.

Oh, if we could just believe that! If we could see ourselves as God sees us!

Those of us who know Christ, we are royalty. Princess brides. Pure and spotless.

I sincerely hope you understand. We are beautiful, created to be filled with grace and dignity. If we know Christ, this is our status – we must take it. If we don’t know Christ – we must reach out to Him, because being a princess bride has got to be better than anything the world has to offer.

My journey to faith. (15)