We all encounter the enemy of our souls and his coercive attempts on our lives. We get cues from scripture about “powers and principalities” and “fiery darts”. It's powerful language but I have to admit it sometimes seems grandiose and hard to process. Quoting scripture at the enemy is certainly a worthy tool, and we are shown how to put on the full Armor of God. I am not always good at dressing myself, but lately because of some interpersonal challenges, I have been understanding all of this in a more specific way.
We all know the devil is a liar and it occurred to me that lies are most effective when they are not shouted, but instead whispered in a moment of weakness. And they are not simply random and incorrect, “sterile” theological statements (we typically fear being wrong, don’t we?), but rather they come at us in cleverly strategic moments - wrapped in relational context.
More to the point - because we are such social creatures, these malicious mistruths hit us the hardest when we are in conflict with people. Sad to say, but the devil’s exaggerations get inadvertently delivered to us by those we are closest to, and when we feel the most vulnerable. Yep, he's the jerk starting the fire, then watching us burn.
Now please don’t get me wrong here, I am not about casting relational blame, because most of the time our good-intentioned loved ones are just perhaps being a bit clumsy. Plus we're all inherently out for our own self-interest, right? I think the enemy loves hijacking a less than perfect situation and using others as unintentional pawns, to twist and to inflame. The delivery vehicle is our inherent weakness to quickly agree with fear, and apply personal shame.
Whether it’s a friendship going sour, a stressful job relationship, or a marriage in crisis, we all too often blame others instead of focusing on what the Lord might really be saying to us, and about us. He carries an alternative message that is life enriching, with important personal course correction. He then circles around and helps us better deal with these difficult situations next time.
When the quiet personal attacks come, they are powerful, because our perception is powerful. So how do we deal with them? For me, I’ve learned that things are seldom what they seem in the heat of the moment. Lies are mixed with truth and often I get too emotionally lazy and fearful to really talk things through with the person I am in conflict with. Or the other extreme - I mouth off and make things worse. Arrogance and ignorance are two lethal extremes to avoid.
I have always loved Dusty’s phrase: “Practice generous assumptions.” A wise person once said that in the absence of genuine communication, the void is filled with false assumptions. That means lies! Sounds like a perfect toxic breeding ground for the enemy’s weeds. Yuck!
I have found that God's course correction for me means:
- Take a deep breath
- View things with His broad perspective
- Stay humble
- Talk openly with people
- Realize empathy towards others (generous assumptions!)
- Practice self-acceptance (no shame)