Have you ever worked to reduce stress, implementing proven strategies, only to realize you neglected the most critical strategy: the one staring you in the face? I did, and it was my life with Christ.
Continuing where we left John Eldredge’s practical, insightful wisdom a few weeks ago, he profoundly stated,
“But what finally came clear was what the enemy is up to in this (Pandemic)…the apathy creep is what he is after, especially as it works its way to the epicenter.
Slowly, the creep moves into things essential for our well-being. But the epicenter of the creep—the things the enemy is licking his chops over—is that feeling that we’re too tired to pray or do any of the other things that maintain our life in God.”
I’m reminded I have a cunning enemy:
We’re 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. Ephesians 6:12
But how do I fight an unseen enemy? From Eldridge, I learned 2 practices inching me closer to freedom.
1. Recognize my enemy.
I recently enjoyed 2 excellent World War II movies—true stories. As I watched great men and women work tirelessly to literally save the world, I witnessed the power of understanding the enemy, in this case, the Nazis.
Why was it so critical? To discover how they thought, planned and executed—how and where they might strike next.
Understanding their enemy helped protect, preserve, and ultimately prevail against them.
So too it is with my spiritual enemies. I seek knowledge only as much as it benefits me in the fight.
I heard a pastor say the only good thing about the enemy is he’s predictable, using 3 common temptations (1 John 2:16):
- the lust of the flesh – pleasure
- the lust of the eyes – possessions
- the pride of life – position
Uncovering my sin and false narratives through counseling—selfishness and pride, shame and unworthiness—opened my eyes to where and how he strikes.
But God meets me each time!
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Cor.10:13
I’ll never forget something my counselor said while working through deep shame and regret:
You are not responsible for the thoughts that materialize in your mind, only what you do with them.
What freedom! And, I’ve acquired new weapons for my arsenal.
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 2 Cor.10:3-4
My fight isn’t with people, despite how I feel. Honestly, this is difficult to remember on a good day, but I keep trying.
And those weapons?
When I ask, God hears, moves and protects, even when I can’t see it. (Matt. 7:11)
When I submit to God and resist the enemy, he runs. (James 4:7)
2. Understand my own heart.
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things…Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9
A truth I rejected for years due to pride, I’ve finally identified one of my biggest enemies—me.
When I focus on myself (not soul care, but self-concern), I’m tangled in a torrent of emotions propelling me down dangerous mind-holes to disintegration.
Obsessing over what others think leads to a perpetual cycle of pleasing others, failing, and further focusing on self in defeat.
This vicious, dysfunctional cycle led to anxiety, overwhelm, burnout, and relationship emaciation.
Don’t miss this:
Obsession with self is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.
Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God.
That person ignores who God is and what he is doing… Romans 8:7-8
Worst of all, it led to distance from my Savior who loves me most and best.
Yet He desires a relationship despite all this—crazy good news!
And He restores my heart the moment I ask:
But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
I used to believe daily repentance was overkill until I understood my soul and body have similar needs.
My body gets dirty; I take a shower. My soul gets dirty, I am cleansed through confessing and restoring.
I’m learning to confess more quickly, knowing my sin brings soul-death and chaos to those around me. (James 1:15)
So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Romans 8:6
While I’ve been forgiven for all sins: past, present and future, I’m still in a relationship. So I confess when I’ve wronged Jesus no different than with a loved one.
It’s become a sweet, intimate time, leaving me changed; I feel lighter and easier.
Maybe you haven’t thought much about this before, or maybe it’s been a good reminder. Is there a step you can take this week towards Jesus and away from a particular temptation, sin or false narrative?
Writing a Scripture and posting it in plain view? Maybe an accountability or prayer partner?
Let’s lock arms and do this together. Jesus stands victorious, and so do we!