Spiritual warfare. It was a familiar term, but I honestly knew little about it prior to an experience last winter.
I always wondered: would I know what was happening in the spiritual realm in the context of my situations? Or would I not realize it until after the fact? Over the years, many conversations came and went about spiritual warfare; I never voiced the fact that I didn’t really know what it was—or the full weight of it.
Awakened to Spiritual Warfare
It was a normal Wednesday morning in mid-January, and I had planned to sit down at my desk in the dorm to complete a couple of assignments before class. “Just a couple minutes on Instagram first,” I thought to myself as I reached for my phone. As I was scrolling through pictures from a family friend who just had a baby, I began thinking destructive and very irrational thoughts about how God had created women. While I won’t get into the details of those destructive thoughts, they quickly escalated to the point that they consumed my thinking.
I quickly set my phone down in shock, and I tried to shift my focus to my homework. After nearly forty-five minutes of fighting through the thoughts that continued to fill my mind, I gave up. My hands shook, my heart beat fast, and my mind seemed to be yelling lies to me that, though I knew deep down in my heart weren’t true, I found myself starting to believe.
Nearly twelve hours later, I gave way to the tears I had been holding in all day and shared with a trusted friend what I had been experiencing. After pouring out my soul and thoughts to him, I asked despairingly, “Why did this happen? Why am I thinking these thoughts?” Through that conversation, I realized that I had experienced spiritual warfare.
When the Devil Attacks. . .
Our minds are vulnerable places. The devil loves to sneak in and attack in any way possible. He loves to do this through bringing lies to mind at just the wrong time and causing chaos and anxiety that feel unbearable. He brings depression to the point of no longer wanting to live. It is in those moments of despair that I have found it most difficult to turn to the Lord. And yet, it is in those times that we need the Lord most.
God knew that when the Fall occurred in the Garden of Eden, our minds would be susceptible to the devil’s ploys and tactics. But in his grace, God didn’t leave us stranded. He has provided the lifeline of Scripture for us to grab onto when it seems like everything around us is falling apart.
Oftentimes, it seems easy to use God’s Word as a lifeline when it’s right in front of us. Yet realistically, it won’t always be in front of us in those times of spiritual warfare, hardship, anxiety, or depression.
Ezekiel the prophet knew this all too well. As a man called by God to prophesy to the people of Israel during their exile, he was well acquainted with the difficulties of clinging to God’s Word during trial. Thankfully, God provided for Ezekiel just as he prepares for us. To prepare him, the Lord gave Ezekiel this message:
And he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.’ Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey (vv. 1-3).
Although commentators generally agree that Ezekiel’s experience of eating a piece of paper likely occurred in a vision, it is a bizarre image, nonetheless. Who would want to eat a piece of paper?! But the idea here is that Ezekiel is to receive and digest the Word of God—so that it was literally coursing through his veins. He needed the Word of God for the battles ahead.
How To Fight Spiritual Battles
Although the devil’s attacks on my mind decreased in intensity after that day in January, I still felt the effects of it for several months. I randomly heard those lies whispered in my mind, even when I wasn’t thinking of them.
When the thoughts came, I prayed for the strength to push them away. Yet, I still felt unarmed against them. As I searched through Scripture for answers to those thoughts and ways that I could provide a counterattack, one passage was especially helpful: Psalm 139.
The only problem was that I wasn’t always able to pull my phone or Bible to look up Psalm 139 when I experienced the thoughts. So, I began to slowly but surely memorize that psalm. At first, I tried to memorize a new verse every day, but then I realized I wasn’t really digesting the words. So, I slowed down—sometimes spend two to three weeks on one verse. It took me a full year to memorize the psalm, and even though it’s been over six months since I finished memorizing it, the words still come to mind easily when unwelcome thoughts come up.
The Power of Scripture in the Spiritual Battle
A couple of years ago, I went with College Park on a Vision Trip to Peru where we shared the gospel in villages throughout the mountainous regions of the country. We got up early and went to bed late, leaving me exhausted near the end of the week. I came out of the bunkhouse one morning, barely awake to find Dale Shaw walking toward me. He was saying something, but as he got closer I realized that he was quoting Scripture.
He put his hands on my shoulders, looked into my eyes, and continued speaking with fire in his eyes. His face lit up with a huge smile, and he shared with me the verses he was memorizing in Hebrews. Although I don’t remember today what passage in Hebrews he was memorizing at the time, I left that brief interaction feeling filled with the Spirit and awakened by the joy of the Lord. Pastor Dale had digested the Word of God and was receiving it so that he could impart it upon himself and others when a Bible wasn’t nearby.
That is powerful.
It’s powerful because the Lord has provided an incredible blessing in his Word; we can learn from it and be transformed daily. The Bible is also called the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17)—a weapon to be used when the devil tries to attack and pull us away from our Savior. His Word is more powerful than any hardship, difficulty, anxiety, or depression that the devil could use against us. Thanks be to God for this marvelous gift!