There were tears yesterday. I’m not a blubbery type. I hate crying in front of people. In fact, the surest indicator that I’m hurting inside is a stony face. If I harden my composure, maybe the tears won’t come.
But I was frustrated and upset. That morning I’d learned of a death in the family. Not close family—someone I’d only met a couple of times. But my heart was heavy for those who I knew were grieving.
Later, I did some research on how to treat and prevent what I thought were medial shin splints I’d developed from running. In the process I learned that stress fractures have almost identical symptoms and are commonly caused by inadequate calcium absorption due to deficiencies in certain hormones—a medical condition I happen to have.
That not only means I can’t run again until I get expensive medical testing done, but it also means I may have already suffered from loss of bone mass.
I was sad, shaken, disappointed, and desperately trying to maintain while I shared the news with my husband over afternoon coffee. But he was savvy—he always is. And, for some reason, (this always happens) as soon as I could tell that he saw me—I fell apart.
Of course, I quickly brushed the annoying tears off my face. He offered some understanding and encouraging words and I felt better. But I never quite shook the heaviness.
Then I had trouble sleeping last night. Five hours just isn’t enough.
When I woke up this morning, I was not right. The recent loss in the family was now a reminder that God often doesn’t fix things in this world, and I should brace myself for a life of disappointment and pain. The possible health issue from yesterday was exaggerated in my mind to a chronic and irreversible condition that would likely result in wheelchair confinement within ten years. Instead of a hope and a possibility to pray about, my husband’s upcoming job interview was now a cruel tease, likely to end with us more confused than ever and completely out of prospects.
I felt overwhelmed by life.
I was irritable. Without really noticing, I rehearsed a few random past offenses against myself. While I was in the shower, I actually caught myself mentally telling off someone for an imaginary future offense. That was my wake up call.
I am not one to see a diabolical demonic scheme behind every bad attitude. I have too much respect for what my own selfish motivations can do to my perspective. However, the Bible seems to indicate that Satan aggressively plots to cripple or destroy believers by finding vulnerable, unprotected places in their thinking.
Ephesians 6:11 (NASB)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
I’ve got to constantly have in front of me the truth about who God is and who I am in Him. That is how I protect myself from the lies that Satan will certainly try to plant and grow in my mind.
In the context of quickly letting go of anger, the apostle Paul warns the believers in Ephesus:
Ephesians 4:27 (NASB)
27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
The word translated opportunity is τόπος. It literally means place. The NIV translates it foothold.
I can’t give him a place to weasel his way in. He’s looking for one and if I give it to him, he’ll take as much advantage of it as he can. Entertaining or coddling unworthy thoughts or attitudes is a bad idea. So what do I do?
Well, I need to take rogue thoughts captive as soon as I recognize them (2 Cor 10:5). I need to replace them with truth from God’s word. I need to remind myself of God’s character, power, and plans for me.
Philippians 4:8 (NASB)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
My heart still feels kinda tender and low. I’m still a little cranky and weary from lack of sleep. Bad attitudes are still too quick to surface. But when I intentionally dwell on what is right and reject unworthy or destructive thoughts, the fog of confusion and hopelessness lifts. I see clearly to recognize Satan’s schemes and put my trust in God.
And if I practice this in all circumstances, I have a promise…
1 Peter 5:8-10 (NASB)
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.