“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.” –

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

Lately our family has been plagued with sickness and sleepless nights. It is easy enough to write these struggles off as normal occurrences at the start of a new school year and with an infant in the house. But I was reminded recently who our enemy is and the crafty ways in which he seeks to derail us from a healthy and thriving relationship with God.

As our family has earnestly sought to make changes to our daily lives, returning God to his rightful place, these seemingly normal things have begun to rage out of control. Sickness and the quarantine it warrants brought with it isolation from our community. Lack of sleep brings shorter fuses and increased the temptation to give up on all the goals we set, in favor of collapsing on the couch. In the blink of an eye, Satan has us right where he wants us, with weakened resolve, and distanced from the community we rely on to point us towards Christ in the midst of the struggle.

Enter in short remarks made in frustration in the middle of the night (mostly by me, my husband is the most patient human I know), and all of the sudden there is tension in our marriage on top of everything else. At this point we finally realized, this isn’t just a coincidence, something bigger is at work here. The enemy has been coming against us and we’ve just been taking it and letting out our frustration on each other. We finally remembered who our enemy truly is.

If you are a believer who has ever taken a step of faith or a non believer who has ever sought after God, I can guarantee you have experienced the schemes of the enemy – whether you were able to recognize it at the time or not. Today I am writing to remind us that there is an enemy lurking and his goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. So believer, take heart. Remember who your enemy is, ready yourself with the armor of God and charge into battle against the enemy. And to those who are seeking the truth of God, keep pressing on – knowing that the more resistance you feel the closer you are to encountering the one true God.

Here are some steps to help you stop the enemy in his tracks:

1. Pay attention. When you find yourself feeling downcast, frustrated, or like every day there is one more thing attempting to push you over the edge, pay attention. What are you doing when the negative thoughts start playing in your mind? What task are you trying to accomplish when your kids all the sudden lose their minds? My guess is you will start to see a pattern. In my experience it is typically one of two things.

a. I’m focused and trying to accomplish something that I want to do and someone or something is getting in the way (my kids, husband, schedule, etc.) and I’m having a fleshly response to someone I love needing something from me at an inconvenient moment. In this situation, I eventually recognize my own selfishness and am brought to repentance by the Holy Spirit.

b. But then there are the times when I’m trying to sit down and read my bible, or spend time with my husband, or be intentional with my kids, and this critical voice in my head starts going off, spitting poison. Distractions start flying in from phone calls, to do lists, and social media, not to mention the temptation to just veg on the couch rather than actually engage. Lies like “I’m unworthy”, “he doesn’t really love me”, and “I’m not enough” start popping into my head. In this situation, when a perfectly joyful mood, full of expectation for the planned activity that I knew was good and God glorifying, is all the sudden turned on its head by negativity – I immediately think ding ding ding – SATAN!

2. Acknowledge your true enemy and his schemes against you. The first time I stopped and acknowledged that the enemy was clearly at work it was like someone splashed a cup of cold water in my face. I was caught of guard and then totally aware. As soon as you see the enemy’s schemes for what they are, they start to lose their power. Often times for me, the frustration or general moodiness disappears because I realize that whatever I was doing was giving glory to God and the enemy didn’t like that.

3. Rebuke the enemy’s lies and replace them with truth. Sometimes just acknowledging the enemy won’t be enough. Our enemy is crafty and knows how to hit us where it hurts. When the sting is still there even after you’ve acknowledged the offender, you have to rebuke him. Let him know out loud and with confidence that you are not going to sit there and take his abuse. Tell him that you recognize his lies for what they are, LIES. Then come at him with the sword of God’s truth. When the enemy starts listing off all the ways you failed that day and are undeserving of love, you say God sees me as righteous and clean because His son JESUS died for me, and washed me clean once and for all. His love is perfect and everlasting. There is nothing I can do to be separated from Him. And you keep coming at him with that truth until the only voice you hear is the voice of God.

4. Set your mind. Unfortunately this is not a one and done kind of deal, so the worst thing you can do after walking out of a battle with the enemy is to let your guard down. Recently, I was having a particularly bad week. It was an unusually busy work week, my daughter wasn’t sleeping well at all, and my husband and I were functioning at about 50% united and 50% just doing our own thing. The enemy was really coming at me with critical thoughts towards my husband. Instead of focusing on all the ways he was going out of his way to serve me as I worked more days than usual that week, I was nit picking all the things he wasn’t doing that I wanted him to be. I went through steps one through three above, repented of the unfair treatment I’d been giving him earlier that day, and resolved to apologize in person as soon as I got home. Then the rest of my day happened, and I found myself right back in the same vicious cycle again. The enemy coming in and stirring up strife. It was then that I noted the need for a fourth step. Put on the helmet of your salvation, the breast plate of righteousness, and the rest of the full armor of God. Ready yourself for the battle that you are in and then be on your guard against attack. Only then will you be able to recognize and extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (Eph. 6:10-20).

The war has been won, but the battle still rages.

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