Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Will the Real Enemy Please Stand Up!

One of the verses that radically changed the way I viewed relationships is Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." We are living in a very conflicted world right now and I can't help but believe it would help us to understand this truth and to view conflicts we face daily in the light of it. Over time I have experienced many things that have contributed to making this truth come alive for me.

First, becoming a wife and mother allowed me to both watch and experience the human dynamics of  our family and saw how that impacted the relationships we formed. There were times my husband accused me of saying something I didn't say and there were times I did the same thing to him. The same thing was true in our relationships with our children and their relationships with each other. I came to believe early on that spirits who were acting as interpreters for our conversations or who were influencing what we assumed about each others' intentions. I sometimes felt frustrated that we couldn't always resolve conflicts quickly. I know we all have past hurts and negative core beliefs that impact our perceptions of the present. But there were times I viewed something transpiring between two of us and saw that one would get angry and hurt and say that the other said or did something. I was standing there and didn't see what they saw and or experience the interaction in the same way. It was as if at times we were ambassadors in the UN and had ear buds in our ears and either one or more were being given a very poor interpretation of what was said or done.

Second, over the years we've been involved in several different churches, some of which were riddled with conflict. At times I was a bystander and able to observe all sides of a conflict and it seemed the conflict had a life of its own. Because I was a neutral person and a good listener there were times  people from differing sides of a conflict talked to me about their perspectives of it and I was left wondering if they had even been at the same same meeting. Even when I saw the events the same way as one of the parties involved, I could see and understand the perspective of the other. I could also see their concern and was left wondering what was influencing them to hear and see things so differently. It could have been that there was something unresolved from their pasts and it was tainting what they saw. But it could also have been spiritual forces of evil influencing what they thought they saw and heard. I think Satan could use this tactic to create divisions among us that none of us really want.

There were times I was involved in conflicts that I wasn't able to resolve. One time I was out of town for a month and came back and found out a conflict I thought had been resolved was still a hot mess. Because I had had no interaction with the person, had not thought about the person, and had not talked to anyone about the person, I believed there was something else at play. Maybe something in the person's past was triggered by me or maybe a spiritual force was influencing them to believe I said, did, or thought something I didn't.

There were also times that people I was in conflict with "went for the jugular." By that I mean they said or did something that hurt me to the core. It was usually in the form of saying words that someone from my past had said that had deeply wounded me. Every time something like this happened, it was with someone with whom I had not even told my story. How would they know that those things would either silence me or hurt me, if they weren't influenced by the Enemy who does observe us and knows us. I have seen the words of others as well as my own words get twisted into something different from the time they leave the mouth until they enter the ear.

Third, I believe the Enemy can whisper into our minds after the fact. One good example of this is of a phone conversation I had with someone. My husband walked in the door and I recounted the conversation to him. But overnight I replayed the conversation in my head until I was angry. The next morning I was talking to my husband about the call again and I said something a little different than I had told him the night before. My husband calmly asked me if the person had actually said that. When I stopped and thought about it, I realized I was no longer was taking their words at face value, I was reading between the lines and was twisting and adding to their words and in doing so was creating a conflict that wasn't there. Maybe it was just me, but maybe it was a spiritual force whispering just enough words and questions to stir the pot in order to divide and separate. 

I'm not looking for demons behind every bush, but I think that because of Jesus victory on the cross that the only power spiritual forces have is in the lies and the half truths they get us to believe. We are called to be image bearers and can reflect the Lord's image through our character, our words, our behavior, and our relationships. So, it makes sense that the Enemy and his cohorts would do all they can to distort the image of our Holy God in these areas. So they stir up strife and division between couples, between parents and their children, between friends, and between church families. They twist our words and color our perceptions of which impacts our response, reactions, and our actions. To stir up strife, all they have to do is get us to believe lies and to see and to hear things differently than they really are.

We don't always recognize the Enemy's activity. After I had healed from depression, I started walking everyday as I prayed and listened to praise music. During one of the walks I became instantly overwhelmed with anxiety and depressed feelings. I remember whispering to the Lord, "I feel like I have just been knocked on my butt." When I walked in my house, the phone was ringing and I picked it up. An older gentleman from church was on the line and said, "Wendy, this is Reuben. I was sitting here doing my quiet time and I know how Satan likes to knock you on your butt, but bigger is He who is in you than he who is in the world." I thanked him and we hung up. He had never called me before and never called me after that. I had never shared with him on a personal level, but this godly man, listening to the Holy Spirit called out of the blue. It wasn't like him to say the word, "butt" to a woman, but God gave him the word I had whispered to Him so I would know it was Him speaking through Ruben. That day I was wrestling with dark forces and didn't realize it and God used Ruben to remind me the victory was already won.

I eventually learned to ask questions to clarify what others meant by their words and that has helped a lot. When thoughts and suspicious are replaying in my mind or I am suddenly overwhelmed with negative feelings and want to lash out or shut down, I ask God to silence every voice in my mind except His and His peace floods my soul. In the midst of conflicts, I remind myself that the person in front of me isn't the real Enemy and ask God to help me see the event, the person, or the interaction through His eyes. Oh, in the heat of a conflict it can definitely feel like my husband or another person has become my enemy. But I need to remember the truth and instead of fighting the person I love, I need to remember to fight for the integrity and health of the relationship. I would be easier if I could just say, "Will the real enemy please stand up." But, that isn't possible. However, I can ask God to silence the Enemy's voice and pray for discernment and wisdom so that I can navigate the conflict in a way that both honors and reflects Him.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!