We have an enemy.
My last post was on October 31. A month ago. I can’t believe that it’s been that long; not since I last wrote, but since the battle began.
This post was supposed to be a follow-up to the previous one, which was titled …about visions. My plan was to pick up where I’d left off and share with you the visions that I had for my life when I was younger, and why they never materialized. I was so excited about sharing this. So much so that I already pretty much knew what Part II was going to be about before I’d finished the first part, which doesn’t happen very often.
That was one day before it began.
On the very next day, November 1, 2012, the fifteen-year old daughter of some long-time friends tragically took her own life. This beautiful girl knew the Lord. Take note of what I just said. She didn’t merely know about God. She knew God, and had a relationship with Him. Huge difference. She was active in church, attended a Christian school, and was loved by all who knew her.
She was, quite simply, the least likely of candidates who would choose to end her own life. What happened?
We have an enemy.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 NLT
We dohave an enemy, and he is relentless. No one is above reproach. No one gets a free pass. No one slides though unnoticed. Not Presidents, or Pastors, or doctors, or lawyers, or husbands, or wives. And obviously, not even the young.
And here’s the kicker: The closer you get to God, and the more you live your life “walking it out” as a Christian, and the greater your sphere of influence in leading others to Christ, or leading a nation, or leading a family, the more the enemy is gonna come at you with a vengeance.
Do you really think it was a coincidence that this young lady’s life “just happened” to end in the manner that it did? Neither do I.
Monday, November 5th
My wife Jackie and I attended the funeral service that day, and while driving to church I realized that I was consumed with anger. I was livid that the enemy had succeeded in claiming another victim with his lies.
Let me add something here. We’re all victims to some degree at some point in our lives. All of us have fallen victim to the enemy’s ways, by way of fear, anger, jealousy, lust, addiction, lying, or any other act or emotion that is not of God. Quite often it’s his manipulation of others that wreaks havoc in our lives, either through their words or actions. He’s always at work. In this instance it involved a tragic loss of life, and quite honestly, my anger was intensified because I knew this family.
As we walked into church, I realized that I was being consumed by what I like to call “justified anger.” Would you agree that when we’ve been offended by someone unjustly, we believe that we have the right to be angry? Well we do, but not if that angerconsumes us. When that happens we lose control of our emotions and rage takes over, and we put our Godly ways on the shelf. And when that happens the enemy wins the day.
During the service I was praying for our friends, their three daughters, and curiously enough, for myself. I was asking God to quell the rage that was boiling up inside of me.
That night I was co-leading a LIFE (Living in Freedom Everyday) group involving a handful full of young men who are attending Highlands College, a ministry program at Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham, where Jackie and I are members.
We had just finished singing a worship song and were getting ready to dive into the curriculum when I interrupted the flow of things and told the guys that I needed to share something that was on my heart.
I recounted the events of the day, including the incomprehensible grief that I felt, not only in the hearts of the parents, but also in the hearts of everyone in the church. I told them of the war that was raging in me, and of my struggle to control the anger that was threatening to consume me.
And then I did something that many would consider to be foolish, if not insane. I waged war against the devil. I openly proclaimed that one of my purposes in life from that day forward would be to be an enemy of the enemy. I would stand against him whenever I saw oppression, or depression, or hopelessness, or anguish, or anything else that he used against an individual. I was sick and tired of his crap. I’d had it with people being robbed of their joy because of him. I called him out, and even as I was doing so I heard this little voice in the back of my mind screaming, “What are you doing? You know that you’re asking for trouble! Shut up!” Then there was another voice screaming just as loudly, “You shut up. I’m over this. I cannot just sit back and do nothing. God will protect me.” I had thrown down the gauntlet, and I wasn’t backing up.
The last month has been a bit of a blur. To be honest with you, it’s been really hard. Oh, I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities to listen to people’s hearts, and to pray with them. Of course, I ask God for those opportunities every day. It’s as if Satan said, “Okay, you want to stand in the gap for people who are hurting? Here you go. Have at it.”
In the past few weeks, in ways that I really can’t explain, I’ve come to truly realize just how many people are suffering in the world today. Economic issues, relationship problems, self-image distortions, baggage from the past, worry, fear, oppression, anger management, depression, guilt and unworthiness abounds in the minds and hearts of so many people. There have been days when the prayer room in our salon has virtually been a revolving door. The opportunities have been a bit overwhelming at times, and left me in a bit of a weakened state; so much so that there have been a couple of days when I just really didn’t want to talk to anyone at all.
To make matters worse, we had been having some computer issues and hot water problems in the hair salon that Jackie and I own. And if that wasn’t enough, I had a breakout of a rash that was preventing me from sleeping at night.
When you add all of the above to the responsibilities of being a husband, boss, mentor, small groups coach, and the challenge of walking it out as a Christian each day, you end up with a man completely drained. That was me. The tank was almost empty.
That’s exactly what the enemy was waiting for. When a lion is on the prowl, he seeks out the smallest, or the lame, or the weakest in a herd because it’s the easiest to take down. I was weak because I was drained, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I became the prey.
One definition of oppression is “a sense of being weighed down in body or mind.” I was wearing oppression like a custom fitted suit, and despite my best efforts, through prayer, and listening to worship music, and talking to my best friend, and laying around the house doing nothing to find some energy, nothing was working. I had no desire at all to write, which strangely enough, served in adding guilt to my ever-growing list of things that added to the weight that I was carrying. I recognized the oppression because I’ve been there before.
During this entire process I came to realize that my periods of oppression are marked by a very short temper. Curiously enough my biggest challenge before my spiritual awakening six years ago was anger management. I had no patience for anyone or anything, and my “fuse” was as long as the tiniest crack that you can create when bringing your index finger and thumb together.
That’s exactly what my disposition had been for the last few weeks. I had apologized to Jackie more times during that period than I had the six months preceding it. What’s worse was that I knew when I was being short-tempered and couldn’t do a thing about it. I was praying it off of me and casting of the enemy, and I was still being a hot head.
This past Monday night we were having LIFE again, and wouldn’t you just know that the curriculum topic was “Oppression and Possession.” (I love God’s sense of timing!) I wasn’t scheduled to teach that night, so I asked one of my co-leaders if I could share something that was on my heart before he began. Not really waiting for an answer, I began to speak.
Actually, it was more of a blow-up, a rant, a come-apart. I told them about what I’d been through since I had called out the devil one month earlier. I told them to take a good look at me, and they’d know exactly what oppression looked and sounded like. And I cautioned them that no one, no one, NO ONE, is exempt from the attacks of the enemy.
And I asked them to pray for me, because there are some things that we simply cannot do alone, regardless of the level of our faith. God wants us to reach out to others for help, to draw strength from one another. It’s one of the reasons that we have “church.” And then fourteen men put me in the middle of a small circle they had formed and prayed for me. As they did, I could feel the weight being lifted. And it was broken. Just like that.
The battle was over, but not the war.