The battle is real. As a matter of fact, the word battle appears 208 times in my 1984 NIV translation and the words war and wars are spread liberally throughout God's Word.
So I guess it's no surprise that for the last couple of weeks I've been hearing the clashing of the swords in this spiritual warfare. The problem is that the sounds of the battle in which I'm currently involved have been close enough, loud enough, threatening enough to drown out every other thought. I recognize them now as an age-old ploy of the enemy and admit that I fell into one of the most common and heinous traps he lays. I'm here to testify that I am only peeking over the edge of the pit at this point by God's merciFUL grace.
I thought I knew a fair amount about this war. It's made up of many battles on many levels and many fronts. Surprise is an effective tactic and victims of 'friendly fire' are all too familiar. It's necessary to be on the alert at all times because the enemy is always on the prowl. As a matter of fact, Daniel 9:26 tells us that "War will continue until the end."
So what was the problem this time? I ask myself.
For starters I go back to the first sentence of the last paragraph. "I thought I knew a fair amount about this war." Once I discovered and pretty well neutralized the schemes the enemy had thrown at me over a number of years, I settled into a pattern that resembled the Cold War. I still remember the mindset of the years from my birth to 1990 fostered by the relationship between the Soviet bloc and Western nations. The threat was real, propaganda was widespread, but open warfare was suspended.
I guess it was an okay way to live. My peers and I shared that experience for close to 50 years. We seem to have come through it without too many scars. Yet I'm coming to realize that for followers of Jesus a cold war mentality relative to the spiritual battle can be very dangerous. The enemies of God are relentless and those He's named as His own are always fair game, desired prey.
Such an attitude can also cause one to slumber in the midst of incredible opportunities.
I'm thinking most of my fellow pilgrims have had what one dear sister calls a 'bungee cord' experience. You know, we lay our sins of gossip or worry, of anger or control, of . . .(fill in the blank) . . . at the altar of the Lord and walk away in forgiveness and peace. After a few steps we take a deep breath at the freedom we're granted and start to look around. Then WHAM! The bungee cord of old habits, ways of thinking and believing and acting, pulls the painful package right off the block where we left it and impresses the sinful practices back into our lives.
I know this is a reality of the battle in which we're engaged. It's one of the strategies that I've done my best to counteract. Whenever the Holy Spirit has caused me to make progress in setting aside a specific sin I've had my eyes peeled for that bungee cord. If I thought there was any possibility that it was still connected to my package of confession and forgiveness, I'd chop it off at the first sign that it was getting ready to spring. Some days were better than others, but for the most part I beat the bungee cord. aaaaahhh
No, wait. That's exactly what I'm talking about.
It's the Phew, I got that one - not perfectly but with a majority of successes - mode that led me into my recent deep pit.
[I had to stop and have lunch, but I'm ready to carry on now.]
So as I was traveling along The Path avoiding or at least making my way through the usual pitfalls and hurdles, threats and propaganda something came up and totally enveloped me. I think it caught me in the midst of a discussion. It didn't feel like a particularly critical topic, but perceptions hit me and sent me into a tailspin. No matter how my mind tried to process words, vocabulary, or context all I could sense was black nothingness. The blows were so severe that I could barely breathe. Obviously the cold war had taken me hostage.
My immediate reaction was to step back, try to evaluate my wounds, and tend them as best I could. I applied my standard practice of checking my position before the Father to see if I was where I was supposed to be. That seemed fine since He's sovereign over every detail of my life. Of course there was a jolt there as I realized that the impenetrable shroud must be part of His perfect and loving plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28-30
I double checked my heart too. Nope, it didn't seem to be particularly arrogant though there's always room for improvement. Yeah, the same for humility and all the other aspects of my character that the Lord is developing by the power of the Holy Spirit. None of the usual suspects appeared to help me solve my plight. The helplessness led to fear and they compounded into terror as my usual arsenal of weapons proved completely ineffective.
Asaph describes what happened next in Psalm 73:16,17. "When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood . . ."
I must report that a lightning bolt of comprehension did NOT strike me. As a matter of fact, I'm only just beginning to catch a glimpse of what's been and is happening.
Almighty God, full of tender mercies, caused me to continue in my daily times alone with Him. He must get the glory in this as on my own I would have simply stayed in bed grieving in my anguish and torment. Philippians 2:13 tells us, "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
In a gradual process He brought me through several days and many passages of Scripture. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared in Isaiah 30:15. "This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it." Israel sure paid a high price for ignoring the Holy One's directions. What was it God said?
As I meditated I knew the words repentance and rest, quietness and trust were for ME. I grabbed hold of them more tightly, out of more desperation and with more blind hope than any castaway at sea or I have ever known. I had no idea where these freshly imprinted words would take me, but I knew they'd come from the Father's hands and I needed to cling to them. Whatever happened, wherever they took me, I had to hang onto His lifeline.
I don't think I can adequately describe for you the next phase of this frightful journey. I wrestled with the meanings of my new favorite words; repentance and rest, quietness and trust. I wasn't satisfied with a dictionary definition nor even the common understanding of biblical usage. I crawled along the road to touch the hem of my Redeemer's garment that He might reveal to me what I, Sandra, needed to know about these four concepts.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Jesus has been graciously showing me the strongholds I need to tear down in my life. It was easy enough to begin with rest in the physical sense. It was as the restful days unfolded that I began to get a peek behind the busy-ness that blurred my views of the world, myself, others, who God is and the relationship He longs to have with me. "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Romans 11:33
That was only the starting point and this post is getting longer all the time. In the interest of brevity I'll bring you up to date. God has been continuing the opportunity for growth and development as presented to me in the form of a dark and dense cloud. I've been offered insights into whole new areas of my life that need a deeper application of the cleansing work of Christ. The challenges are something of a battle plan for upcoming fields of conflict.
But oh the loving kindness and intimate mercies of Jehovah-mekoddishkem, the Lord who sanctifies. In the midst of the challenges He continues to remind me that He knows my frame. Psalm 139 He confirms His authorship of every experience of my life. Matthew 10:29-31 He declares again that there is no condemnation against me for I am in Christ. Romans 8:1
This very morning God assured me through Isaiah 30:15 of His unmistakable, eternal, guiding presence even as He laid out one particular task for me to apply in my day to day journey .
[God says,] Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me."
[God says,] Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU!
Isaiah 49:13-15 [emphases mine]
It seems there are always comments or opinions or statements made by others that want to pull my mind and heart into their camp, as Zion is quoted above. Nevertheless, I must remember that God surrounds and drowns these falsehoods with His Truth even as it appears here.
The next operation God is encouraging me to undertake is to check out the source of the messages that come to me, past and present, in light of Philippians 4:8. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." I've got my telescope and my magnifying glass out and intend to scrutinize any thoughts or feelings, concepts or ideas that try to insinuate themselves into my heart and life. Only God's Truth is going to be welcomed. Anything else needs to be silenced and turned away.
May God be glorified in this testimony to the power and perfection of His sanctifying work in the world through the hearts of His people. Amen