My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing. “Worn,” Tenth Avenue North
Spiritual warfare. Let’s talk about it. Because…let’s be honest. When you hear about it, you may think of people being overtaken by demons, questioning their faith, or running from God. Right? Maybe?
It can be these things. But it can also be very different. It can happen to the new believer. It can happen to the seasoned. It can occur to the one being “fed” in the back of the pew, and the one standing up front-the pastor. It can happen to the one whose faith is fragile, and the one who has been the most faithful. Spiritual warfare is real and present in all those who work with and for God, and there is a weapon for it.
First, what does it look and feel like?
Yes, spirtiual warfare can come in the form of intense suffering-one after the other. You may feel your life is in shambles. Some may have a crisis of faith, and some may even fall away from God.
Others experience the warfare differently. Maybe you are on the path you feel led by God to be on, but the weight of the world you are carrying daily is becoming increasingly heavy. You are tired. You are listening to voices that tell you it is all too hard, so you get discouraged. Maybe you even start to look around at others who seem to carry it easier, and you don’t know why you can’t. Your prayers seem to hit the ceiling, if you manage to pray at all.
And my prayers are wearing thin
I’m worn even before the day begins
I’m worn I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn so heaven come and flood my eyes
You are just tired. You are worn. This is spiritual warfare, and it can come out of nowhere.
I have been here before. I wonder, even, if pastors get here frequently. Because there can be a constant flood of comparisons. The world can be really heavy at times for us, and there is a strong desire; even an expectation that more needs to be done; and you are the one who needs to do it.
Before, I have chosen the methods of the world, which I now know lead to destruction. Because that is what Satan desires: The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10, NLT
To kill our spirit. Steal our soul. Destroy our faith in God. And we destroy him, not by focusing on the world. All its resources, answers, solutions, and messages. This is likely what got us in this state. Instead, we remember:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Ephesians 6:12-13
We realize that the warfare is not with each other, but Satan; and we put on our armor, focusing on the answers, solutions, messages and truth God provides. It is right there for us. At our disposal-whether written on pages, or at our fingertips in phones-it’s His Word. We choose to read it, to savor it, and to put it into practice, and use it to rebuke the devil.
Warfare is inevitable as a believer, especially in a broken world. Until we reach our final destination, we will have pain. We will have strife, and we have a real enemy that is the ruler of that evil. We do not have to remain worn. We can resist the enemy in prayer, and by consistently calling out to Him, something we may have neglected as we have grown more weary during the battle. He is the weapon when you are worn out from the war, yet often the last one we pick up. After we look to the world. We look to our friends. We look to everyone else to hear our cries to just make it stop, we remember the One who can.
Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:17-18
Perhaps we have the wrong swords in our hand, and sometimes we are reading the wrong words. Statuses that don’t make us feel anything but worse, and words that only fill us and tell us what we “want” to hear, not what we “need to hear.” Open up the TRUTH you need to get out of the pit, to stop letting Satan win the war, and start praying God moves those mountains you are determined can’t be moved. He will show up. He has before when you started fighting back, and He will again. This is a war only won by Him, and last time I checked, we weren’t promised to remain worn, we were promised to win.
What is our deepest desire? For many of us, what is we want the most?
Think about it. Really think about it.
When we go into a new space. Whether a new job, a new school, a new group, a new place. When we are among new people, or people we have known for a number of years. When we are searching for that special someone. A new church. That place we will drop our kids off for care each day. What exactly are we longing for? What elements are we seeking?
Acceptance. A place to belong. That’s what we are looking for. And in these places, will we find it? Even in places we have been for long times, surrounded by people who smile, laugh, and sit among us-do we always feel it? Like we belong?
Or do we feel something like this?
Just a little unseen
Always on the outside looking in
Just a little unsure
Uncomfortable in my own skin
Hiding in the shadows looking on
Holding out for someone I’ll become
Waiting on the words I’ve burned to hear for so long. “You Belong,” Francesca Battistelli
A need to change who we are to fit in certain spaces? A feeling of loneliness even in places surrounded by lots of people? The feeling that the people who have known us the longest still don’t “get” us no matter how much we talk, try to tell our stories, or seek to be understood?
There is a place we belong. One who sees us. Knows us. Understands us. And from whom we don’t have to hide or pretend.
It’s God. He knows us deeply. So deeply. Intricately.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-16, NLT
Isn’t that intricate indeed?
And He longs for us to know how deeply we are loved immensely by Him. He longs for us to know how we fit in His plan. He desires we stop trying to seek acceptance and belonging from things and places that just can’t fill this deep longing we have. Cannot know us in the exact way the Psalmist has described. We can try, but it just won’t be the same. It will not come close.
Are you ready to belong? To truly belong? Then maybe it’s time to belong to Him.
Summer. Oh, the many joys of summer. Longer days. Sun. Vacation. Outdoor time. Cool snacks. A mid-day thunderstorm. Yes, I actually enjoy one of those…if it also involves a nap, doesn’t come in the middle of a long drive, or wrecks otherwise best-laid plans.
Summer is bound to bring witth it lots of sun, but also many a thunderstorm. This particular afternoon was no different, except it was. We were hosting our church youth group for a pool party. My husband and I had been talking for some time about blessing others with the blessings we have been given, and were in a place to do just that. Except-there was a problem.
Not the food. There was plenty. Not the sodas. Our youth pastor was making sure sodas were aplenty. Not the pool. It had been cleaned. Every leaf, bug, piece of debris was gone. It was the weather. The storm that was brewing; and of course, it was expected to run into “party” time.
We had been here before. This pool saw its first baptism the summer before, and Satan tried to do the same thing then. Throw in an anticpated storm to keep that from happening. It didn’t work then, so why did he think it would today?
Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27, NLT
That’s right. Even the wind. And that is what I requested. That He make the wind obey. Rebuke it actually, and cause the skies to clear so no rain would fall during this evening. I prayed, and I left the outcome to Him.
I didn’t look at the weather anymore. I didn’t focus on what it was like outside. What the clock said, meaning would all this pass before the start of this event? Preparations continued as if the storm wasn’t going to occur at all.
We read these miracles. We have heard this story in countless sermons, but we “of little faith,” don’t call on Him to make the wind obey. To calm the storm. The disciples were even guilty of this. Tucked in the passages prior to this story were stories of other healings and miracles that Jesus had performed: a man healed of leprosy, a Roman servant healed through faith, and Peter’s own mother-in-law was healed. And yet, here are the disciples, in a boat, with the One who they watched do all these things with little faith.
I can imagine exactly what they were doing, too. No different than we are at times, minus the doppler radars, and lightening strike notifications. They forgot everything they witnessed. They forgot the good they saw in Jesus, and they stayed focused on chaos. Scrambling around, focused on their own strength, asking questions of each other: Should we change course? What plans do we need to change? Where should we go? What should we do? What if this? Forgetting that the one with ALL the strength, knowledge, and wisdom was on the back of that boat, and only looking to Him when all else failed.
“You, of such little faith.”
You know, it did rain after all. God did not make the rain simply go away, but on that afternoon it lasted maybe ten whole minutes. Predicted by man to last an hour. It also ended up being clear and sunny for the remainder of the evening, also a prediction by man to not be the case. See, God’s will wasn’t to keep fellowship from occurring-but Satan sure did try. His desire, at all times, is for us to ask for what we need, and believe it. Have faith.
So…are we quick to forget the One who provides in the midst of our storms? Even the thunderstorms? Are we quick to abort mission when our best-laid plans don’t look like they are going to turn out the way we predicted? Or do we go to the one who controls all those predictions anyway? And let Him have our plans?
Because yes…even the wind obeys when we ask, and believe.
I have been discouraged. Let me be clear and honest. Moments of discouragment often come after what I refer to as mountaintop moments. When you get up to the top, you have to come down, right? Anyone familiar with this terrain, whether naturally or spiritually knows there is a valley down below.
In that valley, Satan waits. He hates mountaintop moments. He beats you up. Tears you down. Exposes all your missteps and character flaws on the way down-because he is hoping you don’t have the strength or desire to climb anymore mountains.
It had been that way for about three weeks. No desire to write. An anxious mood. Weary. On edge. The world, and all its mess weighing heavy. Add all this to Satan’s conistent reminders of my own past messes.
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25
That’s the reality. It just is. And we can argue that the book of Judges was written 3,000 years ago, and it isn’t relevant. But folks-His Word is alive, active, present. Read the verse again, and tell me it isn’t just as real and present today.
We wander around daily, not turning to our King. Making poor choices, because we are carnal humans bound by our flesh, and our earthly desires. We do whatever we feel in the moment. “This feels so right,” so we continue it. We do what we think our friends, families, or co-workers would approve of-to be more liked. We “go with the flow,” not having any clear direction, and make all kinds of plans, but we never check in with the King.
All of the messes I have gotten myself into have all been because I stopped calling on God, didn’t listen to Him, and did things my way. I created my own messes, and my King was gracious enough to get me out of them.
I made choices that led me to destruction, and my King saved me from it.
And He reminded me, as I battled through the valley-focusing my attention on Him, and not that dirty liar that this is the exact reason I write. To share the mess, along with the triumphs. To share the mess, and the One who saves from it. To share the truth about the journey through faith that has mountaintop moments and some valleys, but a King who gets us to and through each and every one.
Are you ready to focus your eyes on Him today? Or are you going to keep doing things your way?
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT
I have a love and hate relationship with phone storage, especially when it comes to storing pictures. I have tried every automatic back-up service recommended as the greatest, and it never fails-I always end up with the dreaded “running out of storage message.” It makes me long for the days of point, shoot, develop, and scrapbook all your beloved memories.
The latest dreaded message came from my Google photos app. The app I had downloaded because I was tired of Apple asking me to pay for more photo storage. The app that was now also telling me I was running out of storage, because it was threatening to freeze my email accounts if I did not, well you know-pay for more.
Oh, how we become so chained to our phones, and our need to store those precious memories.
I spent several weeks going through about 4 years worth of pictures, and I noticed something I was also chained to. Not the storing of memories. I think those are OK, if they don’t distract us from simply living in the moment of making them. It was all the selfies I used to take. After noticing that in the last year and a half I had maybe taken 10, compared to the hundreds I had taken previously I began to wonder “why?” Why was I so enamored with posting so many pictures of myself. And if not of myself, of my accomplishments? Of every little thing I did to help or serve others?
I posted my first one yesterday, aside from maybe a profile picture, or a picture about my hair…in I don’t even know how long. In my curls, pearls, and classic “rocket pops.” I thought about freedom, and what we may think today this freedom means. Sure, it has a historical context; this is the reason we celebrate, and eat hot dogs, and shoot sparkly rockets into the sky; but really? Is there a deeper freedom we could celebrate today?
I know I can.
See those were not simply a bunch of pictures I was sorting through to delete, they were a testimony to a yoke of slavery by which I was bound. The yoke of approval and validation. I was chained to a desire and a need to be approved, liked, and appreciated by the world.
Through each post I sought confirmation that I was seen. That I was valued. Each time I shared some accomplishment, I recieved confirmation that I was doing well. Praise. Approval. Each time I shared my comings, goings, work, service-I was being validated with each like and comment. My ego got a boost, and I received confirmation that I was doing something right. That I WAS right. That I was worthy. Special. Important.
Because, here is the truth. I was also bound by the lies of Satan. A prisoner to the horrible thoughts he screamed at me. And the approval of the world, told me something different.
The devil whispered little lies
He tried to steal my victory
But I stared those demons in the eyes
‘Cause these boots gonna crush the enemy. (Zach Williams, “Freedom”)
Until, I began to focus again on the truth. Not what the world thought. Not what Satan said. The truth in His Word. What God said about me. How He approved me. He valued me. He made me special and important, and most of all loved me. And I was set free from the chains of seeking validation from anything outside of Him. Until compliments became something that were nice to receive every now and then, but not sought; because I KNEW my Father was pleased with me. I no longer needed anyone to “please” me with words, praise, or Facebook likes. I was no longer bound by that yoke. I am a prisoner, set free.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32, NLT
And you can be, too. Maybe for you, those pictures are not what they were to me. Maybe every post, every like, every comment does not give you the attention and value you seek. Maybe that is not your “yoke.” Maybe you are bound to something else that has stolen your freedom. Today could be the day you celebrate true independence. Today could be the day you are finally a prisoner set free. He is waiting for you to drop the chains, and simply ask for it-your freedom, that is.