TWENTY-EIGHT: UNDER ATTACK
Yesterday, I became acutely aware that I am under attack. Sometimes Satan tips his hand and shows himself. We clearly see what he is up to.
Have you ever felt under attack? If you are following hard after the Lord, you have surely experienced an assault on your health or relationships or finances or peace or all of the above all at once. Satan will often leave untouched those who are following him, but will harass those earnestly seeking to follow Jesus. He cannot defeat us, but he has ploys to discourage us and to distract us from fixing our gaze on the Lord.
These attacks may take the form of things in our lives going inexplicably wrong. Or, in my case recently, we may have an onslaught of negative emotions like guilt, regret, frustration, disappointment, or sadness. What are we to do when these attacks occur?
First, recognize the enemy’s tactics.
When yesterday I was flooded with annoyance over the behavior of another, I could feel my flesh rising up—and not in a good way. I tried to toss it to the Lord (“ casting all (my) anxieties on him, because he cares for (me).” I Peter 5:7), but I did not really stop and engage earnestly with the Lord. It was more like a quick arrow prayer shot up to Heaven as I proceeded with my schedule as planned. That was my first mistake. If a mugger had jumped out at me in a parking lot, I would not have shrugged it off. Satan was trying to spiritually mug me, and I barely paused to ask God’s help.
By dinner, I was feeling spiritually out of sorts. Now you have to understand that I am not prone to emotional lows or depression. Almost all the wonderful Christians in my family struggle with this chemical reality, but that is not the usual for me. The only time I ever thought I might be depressed, I went to the doctor for a physical. Turned out that the loss of appetite and energy was not depression- I was pregnant! So since I knew this was not the case this time (:), I was now aware that I was emotionally a bit low. When my son spontaneously called and said, “Let’s go to dinner,” I jumped at the chance to escape and enjoy the company of one I know who loves me. I should have spent some time with THE ONE I KNOW WHO LOVES ME first.
During the conversation, I made a prideful remark about something that happened 35 years ago. I don’t think my son even realized it, but I was ashamed of not being a better example for him. After I returned home, the enemy badgered me about that prideful remark until I finally fell asleep after much tossing and turning. I should have stopped then and spent quality time with the Lord, but I was tired, another tactic the enemy uses to keep me from pressing in hard with the Lord. I did pray a bit but mostly for the requests of others when my own soul was badly in need of prayer. If I had recognized the full-blown battle I was in and run full speed into the arms of Jesus, I would have had a more restful night and would not have carried that yuckiness into this new, beautiful day.
2. Second, don’t procrastinate about repentance.
So the enemy uses guilt and regret liberally to replace thoughts of the Lord with thoughts of my own missteps. I forget to take that first step to stop everything and spend time in true repentance. Instead, I tell myself I will address it later, maybe tomorrow in my quiet time. I delay. I forget that if I will repent and ask God to take my sin that He will “remember my sins no more,” Hebrews 8:12. In the moment, I forget that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1. I forget that addressing my sin sooner rather than later brings blessed relief. Every time I go through this process of authentic repentance, I think, “Why did I put this off? I feel so much better!”
In the process of repenting of the sins I knew about, God revealed some other sins I had not slowed down enough to notice previously. All the yucky emotions that brought me to this point served to give God an open door to my heart. He was able to do the good, deep cleaning my heart badly needed. I will be a better friend and a better family member because of the last 24 hours of yuckiness.
3. Get your focus off yourself
Self-focus is one of the enemy’s favorite ploys to dilute my energy and worship. Our God is a “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” God. He is a “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” God (I Corinthians 10:24.) He is a God who says we should be washing our brothers’ dirty feet and not waiting for someone to come wash ours, (John 13:12-15.) Think about the Lord and His attributes. Think about the people He has placed in your life to serve. In other words, think of others and not yourself, not even your sin, once you have truly repented.
4. Finally, move on
When I indulge in going over and over what is bothering me about me without turning it over to the Lord, it is a type of self-absorption He did not intend for me. Yes, He wants me to acknowledge and repent of my sin, but then He wants me to let Him take it from me. He wants me to move on. My flesh tends to want to hold on to it, to let it be a part of my identity and my story. It is not. He wants it to be as far as the east is from the west, but He cannot remove it that far if I keep recalling it.
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12.
I think Paul, a notorious transformed sinner, says it best in Philippians 3:12-15:
“12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”
If anyone had grounds to recall his sin, it was Paul. John Piper at desiringGod.com says that in Philippians 3, Paul is saying, “I am not paralyzed by the horrible memories of the fact that I was killing Christians. I was throwing them in prison. I was shaking my fist in the face of God ... I am forgetting all of that and I am pressing on.” Paul fully accepted God’s forgiveness of his great body of sin and did not let the past keep dragging him backward. Instead, Paul had perhaps one of the most world-changing effective ministries of all time, second only to Jesus Himself. That’s what really accepting that you are forgiven can do. It frees you to live today for Him because yesterday is not your captor. Do you need to pray for your own submission to fully accept all the Grace He wants to give you today?
NOTE: Some Christians do not believe in discussing being under attack because it gives our enemy too much credit. I believe in acknowledging the enemy while at the same time rejoicing that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” (I John 4:4.) The battle is ultimately already won, but we are still on the front lines.
More power verses:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
…since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 2 Corinthians 13:3