Featured in SpiritualDirection.com
In the classic spiritual warfare struggle between good and evil, the Genesis account of Joseph and his brothers shows how God’s power far surpasses Satan’s. Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery, yet that’s how their tribe was able to survive the famine. When God saved the family from starvation and reunited them, Joseph told his brothers, “Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end.” (Gen 50:20).
Today, the enemy still tries to manipulate our thoughts and circumstances to harm us, while God redeems our circumstances for good. In his Manual for Spiritual Warfare, Paul Thigpen explains, “The ordinary activity of demons is subtle and occurs within our thought life. . . . . Demons may also have a role in arranging circumstances around us in a way that leads to certain thoughts.” Here’s how it worked in our home recently.
My husband Phil was ill from flu-like symptoms for several days. I asked him what he felt like eating, perhaps his standard chicken rice soup? He gave me the recipe for Tonic Soup from a doctor he trusts for advice on natural health supplements. The recipe listed exotic healing vegetables and herbs, some unfamiliar to me.
Soon I was off to Whole Foods for the ingredients that promised healing. Two hours after lots of chopping, measuring and simmering, we enjoyed bowls of this healthy, aromatic brew.
Later that day Phil took a cold medication and threw up the soup, leaving me with a sicker husband and a rejected pot of soup that I meant for healing. My immediate reaction was sympathy for Phil.
Then came disappointment that my efforts to help made things worse. Negative self-talk began to deride my good intentions and myself as a failure. But nothing we do for love is ever wasted, nor was the Tonic Soup. I put it in the back of the refrigerator rather than completely give up on the remedy I’d worked so hard to prepare.
The next day he ate his chicken rice soup, and I ate the Tonic Soup. Then I put it back in the refrigerator. On the third day, he was well and chose the Tonic Soup for lunch. “Delicious!” he declared. I felt vindicated!
Although I can’t control my circumstances, only my reactions, it seemed like the enemy orchestrated these circumstances to frustrate and anger me. It was just like Satan to manipulate the healing soup for his evil purposes to produce more sickness, frustration, confusion, disappointment and failure. In his perfect time frame, God meant the Tonic Soup for Phil’s healing. God used it to teach me patience and to remind me not to give up when bombarded with negative thoughts. He gave me the opportunity to curb my fear and anger when circumstances changed for the worse. He gave me the grace to fight and the patience to persevere in spiritual warfare.
Combat deceptive thoughts and circumstances
I forget so easily how the enemy constantly works to invade my thoughts with negativity, self- doubt and temptations to react with anger and self-defense. St Benedict gives me a good strategy, “When evil thoughts come into your heart, dash them at once on the rock of Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father.” I can expose the lies of the enemy to my husband, who is my spiritual leader, and my parish priest, my spiritual father in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Tonic Soup scenario shows how Satan takes my good deeds and tries to turn them against me. He takes advantage of circumstances — illness, exhaustion, or my over-striving — to put stumbling blocks in front of me. He can arrange circumstances to lead my thoughts into his realm, mistake his thoughts for mine, or plant thoughts to provoke me.
Circumstances can give a false illusion. I can’t trust their surface impressions, much less their outcome, as God’s final word. I needn’t look at the obvious and fear defeat; for I know that God is present in every situation — such as a near collision.
I was driving home from church and ready to turn left at a busy intersection. The turn signal was blinking yellow to allow a left turn with caution. When the on-coming lane cleared, I began my turn. A car a block away sped up. I cried out to God and my guardian angel, knowing I could only do so much. It took supernatural strength to jam on the brakes. I stopped inches from the driver’s door. I did my part, and God provided the strength to finish the job. I couldn’t believe I didn’t collide with the other car. The driver sailed by, shaking his head as if I should have known better than to try to cross him.
Renounce Satan’s lies
As a cautious driver, I don’t take chances. The enemy caught me off guard and tried to use the situation for disaster. His plan for a collision would result in serious injury or possibly death, destruction of two vehicles, devastation in two families, a traffic ticket and maybe a lawsuit.
The enemy blitzed me with accusations that I am irresponsible and a careless driver destined for a head-on collision. This time I shut Satan up with a practice St. Isaak of Syria taught,
“Do not oppose head-on thoughts that the enemy sows in your mind. Instead, cut off all conversation with them by prayer to God.”
We can pray against evil influences, always confident that the outcome God wants will happen. The prayer of St. Michael the Archangel banishes evil. I resorted to the prayers I learned in my Unbound training to help people renounce the attacks of the enemy. I renounced Satan’s accusations as lies and thanked God for staying with me always.
“In the name of Jesus I renounce as lies all thoughts that enter my mind from the Accuser. By the authority of Jesus, I command them to leave me. I consecrate my mind to God for transformation into his thoughts for my protection, salvation and his glory.”
Without my permission to harass me, the raging negative thoughts fled, proving what St. Francis de Sales wrote is true:
“Let the enemy rage at the gate, let him knock, let him push, let him cry, let him howl, let him do worse; we know for certain that he cannot enter, save by the door of our consent.”
I drove the remaining five miles home singing God’s praises for his love, faithfulness and protection in all the battles of my life.
Never give up
When collisions seem imminent with vehicles or relationships, we can trust God with all our heart, and try with all our strength to avoid disaster. I didn’t give up fighting the enemy who attacked my thoughts. I used the tools of spiritual warfare the Lord provides to smite him.
I didn’t give up fighting for my life, even knowing God could take it instantly. He showed his mercy and I escaped physical suffering and the emotional pain of injuring the man in the speeding car.
I don’t know why God spared me, and the other driver. I cannot solve the mystery of God’s will. I can only respect it, honor it and embrace it with awe and thanksgiving.
What frustrating situation or close call has brought you closer to God?
(© 2015 Nancy HC Ward)