Last week-end started out great as I celebrated my birthday. I enjoyed a nice run in the warm Spring air on Saturday, saw old friends at a birthday party and enjoyed dinner with Keith. But after my run I started feeling stuffy and achy and the next morning woke up with a sore throat and low grade temp. Must have picked up a bug, I thought, stayed home from church and rested all day.
I had the Book Fair going on in the Media Center, so I drug myself to school on Monday, feeling like a hypocrite for all the times I have criticized others who come to work sick and spread germs. By Tuesday my throat was so raw and I felt so exhausted that I made an appointment with the doctor, sure he would tell me I had strep. Instead he said I was suffering from seasonal allergies. My body had been attacked by the pollen floating around from all these beautiful trees blooming here in Northwest Georgia.
At the same time I was undergoing a physical attack from the trees, a friend was going through a spiritual attack from Satan. Someone close to her was growing spiritually and as a result she was getting pummeled. She was having nightmares and receiving negativity everywhere she turned. Fortunately she recognized it as spiritual warfare and fought against it, but it was a difficult week for her.
I couldn’t help but see the correlations here. We don’t always talk about spiritual attacks, but they are as real as the pollen attacking my system. Just as Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, he comes after us. Here are a few observations:
- Attacks often come when we are cruising along feeling great or after something wonderful has happened in our lives. I had just congratulated myself on getting through the winter without even a cold when these allergies brought me down. I find I’m most vulnerable to spiritual attack when I start feeling too pleased with myself and too self-sufficient – something usually happens to remind me of how human I am and of how much I need to depend on God. Jesus is sent to be tempted right after his baptism, when the heavens had opened up and the Holy Spirit had descended on Him like a dove, the high point of his life so far. (Luke 3:22) If you’ve just had a “mountain top experience” or started growing in your Christian walk – watch out! The Devil will be after you!
2. Spiritual attacks sneak up on us, often in disguise. The pollen that slid into my nostrils came hidden in the budding leaves and flowers of the colorful trees and bushes that make Spring such an anticipated season. Spiritual attacks can come from unexpected places too.
When Satan tempts Jesus in the desert, he sounds very practical – “Here Jesus, you haven’t eaten in 40 days, just turn these stones into bread.” Beware if you are stepping out in faith on a project or life change – you will have all sorts of people giving you very good advice on why you shouldn’t take the leap. Satan can use even well meaning people for His purposes.
Sometimes spiritual attacks appear in our subconscious and slide into our sleeping hours through a dream or nightmare. Have you ever woken up feeling anxious and you’re not sure why? You may be experiencing spiritual warfare.
Another sign is when you begin to ruminate over past hurts or failings, even when you have long ago forgiven yourself and others. This is a biggie for me. I always remind myself that God will never bring back an old sin to remind me how terrible I am – that is not how He operates. When I find that happening, I know I’m under spiritual attack!
God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
he has separated us from our sins.
Psalm 103:8-12, the Message
3) Recognizing the problem is the first step in defeating attacks. When the doctor told me that the strep test was negative, I immediately felt better. I could then start loading up on Zyrtec and Flonase to treat the problem and not worry about spreading sickness. Spiritual attacks are often harder to diagnose, but the more we are working on our relationship to God, the easier it is to tell when we are being attacked or when we are just tired and grumpy.
So what should you do when you think you are under spiritual warfare? It may sound old fashioned, but call on the name of Jesus to send the devil out of you. When Satan had tempted Jesus three times in the desert, Jesus finally tells him, “Away from me, Satan!” Later, Peter heals a crippled man by saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6) Saying this out loud has a tremendous effect. I’ve been in my car and screamed at the top of my lungs, “In the name of Jesus Christ, leave me!” and immediately felt at peace. Try it!
There may be situations when painful decisions have to be made to get out of warfare. With my allergies, I’m having to stay inside when I would love to be out. When my friend was stopped by people she had not seen in years who wanted to drag her back into old arguments, she told them to leave her alone and walked away. You may have friends or family members that you have to avoid, at least for a season. You may need to look at your habits – is your TV or social media or music causing you to slide into thoughts that are pulling you away from God? We worry about this with our children, but I find that even at my advanced age I have to be careful of what goes into my mind and heart.
Finally, know that you are not alone in your fight. To combat the allergens, I’ve been using a Netipot to clean my sinuses, taking medicine to help with the symptoms, drinking tons of water and herbal tea to flush it out, and getting plenty of rest. I also went to the gym to run on the treadmill to sweat it out! But we have the Lord fighting at our side against the spiritual invaders and He promises to give us the victory!
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)