One of the most frustrating forms of attack that we’ve all seen far too often, is when our Inner Enemies use our thoughts to keep us stuck at the doorway of our potential.
When life gets tough it is giving us a nudge to want to leave our situation. Some of us even head for the door, towards a change, towards healing, towards growth. Yet that pivotal step across the threshold gets harder and harder the longer we have been stuck there.
The lack of comfort in our current circumstances becomes at least a discomfort that we know, we are familiar with its curves and edges. Sometimes we can even see around its corners and prepare ourselves for any foreseeable issues that lie in wait. But that vital step across the threshold, through the doorway into change, has nothing familiar to it, nothing to smooth out the knots of the unknown that cripple us from within.
We then become victims trapped by our own choice, and those choices are governed by our thoughts and our fear. Fear that reminds us of previous pains, and regrets, which we are now avidly on the look out for, in order to avoid repetition.
Statistics show that there are 3 common traits found in those who experience successful steps across that threshold… Steps towards recovery and wellness. Recovery from addiction, from injury, from illness both physical and psychological, from trauma and tragedy. These traits are grounded in Faith.
Trait 1 – A DESIRE to be WELL.
As previously noted, once we have become so used to our struggle, our inner enemies convince us to choose it, rather than the effort needed to pursue wellness. Our desire shifts in favour of the sympathy generated by our sad stories. We have all met that person who, no matter how many different pieces of good advice you give, to help them out of their troubles, they have talked themselves out of each suggestion before even considering it. This particular inner enemy enjoys any attention it receives, the pity, and the seductive quality of unloading emotional baggage onto anyone who will give an ear. It is a trap that so many of us fall prey to and we owe it to ourselves and also our loved ones to ask ourselves ‘whether or not we actually desire to be well? And are we willing to go make the changes needed to get it?’. We must accept that suffering is supposed to prompt that urge to head for the doorway of change. By faith we understand this process, we recognise that suffering is par for the course and was even experienced by our own Precious Saviour. Faith gives us the desire to trust this divine process.
Trait 2 – DETERMINATION to get WELL
Faith gives us access to Godly ammunition, and the weapons of Heaven. We must remember that every time we are faced with a choice that takes us to the doorway, we come under attack of fear. We fear the choice required to take that leap into the unknown, we fear the outcome. This is the intention of our inner enemies to keep us from stepping out in Trust. However when we apply and rely upon those weapons of Heaven that are available to us through God’s Word, our determination becomes empowered. We recognise the war, and refuse to allow these enemies to win out. For those unable to accept this war, they forever remain caught in that place of defeat, and a defeatist attitude is toxic to growth and blessings. God has promised to give us His tenacity, when we lean on Him and His strength, and not on ourselves.
Trait 3 – EXPECTATION to be WELL
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for; and the evidence of things unseen” Hebrews 11:1. As we make each step towards each new doorway, it is vital that we recognise where our focus is placed. If we keep our focus on the past and our disappointments, on our regrets and our shame, on our pain and betrayals, then we begin to lose sight of the abundant blessings God has promised us. Our inner enemies know that if we stay stressed, distracted and disconnected, we will never engage in the fight against them. We will expect defeat and there they have us trapped. Yet when we meditate on the Promises in God’s Word to bless us, to help us and to give us peace, our expectations change and we become hopeful, encouraged to put on our Godly armour and keep stepping towards the door to wellness, and eventually through it!
The doorway is waiting, we are well aware that it is there. Will we choose the easier option and wallow in our despair? Will we avoid that threshold into potential? Or will we make a decision today to see the war clearly, to accept the journey towards wellness and to put all our expectations on God? To give Him the power to turn our Tests into Testimonies! And our Trials into Triumphs!
Man, do I ever need this post!
Have you ever heard of the phrase “He/she’s a whinging Pom”- Well I am originally from England and I can testify this is an accurate title.
I am not completely convinced this constant “whinging” or complaining is always evidence of an unhappy heart or even an unhappy life. I would like to think it is a release of truth and way of sharing our personal experience of life’s daily frustrations and trials with others. A way of being vulnerable with our fellow man and experiencing empathy.
I tend to be a pretty open person, I share truths about my life easily, but especially with those who I trust and am closest to.
Like many of you, I have been weighed down most of my life with one trial after another. Whether it be illness, financial concerns, relationship upheavals, injury, grief, persecution and the like. It seems as soon as I get one sorted there is another one waiting in the midst to hit me from left field. Sound familiar?
I share my trials, like those listed above, and also the daily irritations of life, such as emotional instability, disappointment in others, offense at the deception of the world system, frustration and confusion of motherhood and wifedom, overwhelming workload, or just plain inconveniences.
However, there is an element of negativity to complaining that I recently became self-conscious of. That perhaps my constant sharing of all that is troubling me might actually be making those around me, those I love most, feel heavier because of it. This hit my heart hard! The last thing I want to do is drag anyone down. I have an extremely blessed life and want everyone to know how grateful I am.
Feeling convicted in my spirit by this, I was desperate to find a way to either stop complaining completely, or to change my attitude so that my complaining isn’t disheartening my loved ones and ruining my testimony. I have been praying on this, and seeking the Lord’s wisdom, and this morning I woke up with the answer!
It came to me like this…
LEARN TO FOCUS ON THE LOVE PATTERN
The pattern of life under God’s control is – Suffering leads to Growth or Change all while abounded by Blessings.
Let me explain that a little better….
Suffering softens us and exposes our weaknesses, so rather than complaining negatively about life’s trials, use the urge to complain to prompt us to “Boast in our weakness” (thanks Jefferson Bethke). By being grateful that God sees us completely and hears our cries for change, and accepting that these trials expose our weakness, we take our weakness to God which pushes us further and deeper into relationship and intimacy with Him through Christ. Whose grace and strength washes over us, giving us a new level of change or growth, plus a new level of faith and freedom. All the time He gives comforting signs He is with us, along with abundant provision and protection.
All this is done from His LOVE! Love for you and love for me. This ‘love pattern’ is designed to pull us into His loving arms, regardless of how ‘good’ we have been but rather dependant on how frail and flawed we admit that we are.
Our positive vulnerability will encourage others to be vulnerable, building true connection and empathy with those we share this earth with. All the while giving us an opportunity to share this wonderful news of redemption.
So therefore when someone asks us how our day was and we feel that familiar urge rise within us, lets shift the focus of our complaint from defeat to victory, using our trials to spread the joy of God’s LOVE PATTERN.
I need to end on a prayer here…
Dear Gracious Lord, I lift up your name in Glory as I realise this wisdom you have shared with us. Help us all to keep your love pattern the focus of our trials. Don’t let our weakness allow this wisdom to be forgotten, use us and our trials to spread your love! In the mighty name of your Son I pray! Amen!
A few years ago, I was going through the toughest time, so far, in my life. It was a time I had been called to obey God in an area of my life that was more difficult, and scary, and emotional than I have ever had to do before or since. I was directed to walk away from my God given promise, away from my blessed ‘dream come true’ and wait for it to come find me again in a new stage of God’s perfect will.
As I waited in obedience I spent a lot of time sharing my heart in the sanctuary of those trustworthy and dearest to me, this lessened my heaviness and got me through many ominous weeks.
I wonder if any of them managed to keep up with the plot of my story very well?
I remember that I spoke a lot about my fears, the sense of impending doom which hovered around me day and night, as I waited on the promised outcome of both the situation and my life. Much of the time I was floored, barely able to hold the phone to my ear as I poured my tears into the receiver. Overwhelmed with thoughts hammering me to give up, cave in, and disobey. Convincing me I was drowning in an ocean of faithless doubt.
Then the next time I reached out I felt elated, the sun shone brighter and colour reappeared in my world, as I shared some small, seemingly insignificant, event that had sparked hope in me. Often I was directed to a reminder of God’s promise, a perfect sign to confirm that all was not lost. I would let this tiny shred of positive gold uplift me to clouds of high hope. I would prattle on and on, in a excited, overjoyed way, certain that this divine piece of evidence was the turning point in my pain, proof that my promise was not far from my reach. However usually, if I held on too tight, my buoyant piece of fluff would be blown away by the days end.
Another wave would come, heavy and unexpected, it would swallow my hope whole, like unwelcome and uninvited guests, dragging their luggage of negativity and dread into my life.
My mood and focus polarised from one minute to the next, like an unpredictable swelling sea. I filled my soul with scriptures speaking of God’s strength and faithfulness, of His love and mercy. I sang songs of praise daily, determined to keep my faith strong through the trial. If I stopped this for too long I crumbled under the attack of an enemy, who slipped through the cracks in my armour, and toyed with me in the worst ways. I was simply blown in all directions by breezes from the spiritual world. It was unbearable at times, unsure if I was even sane anymore.
My Dad was a priceless ally during this stormy season, as I helplessly clung to obedience like it was a lone life jacket floating in shipwrecked waters, I recall clearly the pearls of wisdom he gave me.
“Waiting patiently on God, in a tumultuous time, is less extreme if you can learn to stay neutral. If you allow yourself to get too emotionally high then you will have farther to fall when the next blow hits. If you stay hopeless and low it will be harder to drag yourself back up to be able to cope each day. Try hard not to be pulled either side of the line into optimism or pessimism, until you have proof that the season has changed and God has completely fulfilled His promise to you.”
He went on to explain that the enemy may give me positive hope only to make his blows of destruction all the more painful and hard to bear. I was to remain in the middle, not overjoyed and not defeated.
He was absolutely right, it made all the difference to try to execute any amount of emotional self-control and trust that God was working things out in His own time and His own way. The waves began to level out.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)
We can get through these types of trials without the massive tumult of highest highs and the lowest lows, if we try to walk the neutral line between the fear and the promise. Realising that faith in an unseen God can allow all our hopes to become reality.
Somehow, with the continual support from those who poured into me with faith, compassion and scripture, I managed to hold on in obedience for a number of months until the season did change. The proof was confirmed in the most miraculous ways. And God did in fact bring my promise back into my life. Only when it came back, it was far better than the version of the promise I had let go of and trusted into His hands. He is an awesome and powerful God, only limited by our own lack of faith, our impatience and our mistaken presumption that He is unwilling to perform.
A few years ago I read this statement by Author Lysa Terkerst and have tried to refer to it ever since.
“Don’t let the compliments of others go to your head, or their criticisms to your heart”
I failed to adhere to this advise recently, and it has become the foundation of a new level of perspective.
Having had a very successful couple of months of blogging, I have become somewhat ‘hyper-enthusiastic’, it has been so wonderful to see people all over the world reading my stuff, then even ‘liking’ some and giving such wonderful compliments. Yet I have fallen into a trap set for me by my inner enemies, I confess that I have come to rely on my ‘blog stats’ to verify the success of my calling. I can hear all the horrified ‘GASPS’ of shock. (*Wink) I imagine this is pretty common.
Unfortunately it is not as trivial as it may seem, nothing ever is with me!
This is dangerous territory, treading way too close to pride than I like to get. By no means can I take any credit for any of this success, I completely acknowledge all glory goes to the Lord for any ability He has given me to write. Besides people always like His stuff much better than anything I try to come up with on my own 🙂 I suppose it is simply that I have become overly animated by the evidence that He can use me.
A big element of my personality is an addiction to WORDS. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a very busy mind, often have many thoughts, words and ideas buzzing around inside my head and I am drawn into sharing these with others. Sometimes expressing them and seeing them more clearly brings tremendous benefit to my chaotic state of mind, other times I become manic and fear that my testimony may be damaged as I ramble on in a state lacking control.
I am also compulsive by nature and harbor much nervous energy. I used to smoke irregularly when my busy mind found an empty moment to kill, when I quit smoking I took up Facebooking, filling the spaces by automatically checking for notifications using the app on my phone. On a bad or slow day this simple act can get out of hand, so I knew I needed to once again take action. When I quit Facebook, I took up blogging. You see a pattern here? I am now constantly tempted to check to see – Who has viewed? Where were they? Did they ‘Like’ it? “Does someone want to share ‘words’ with me?” All stemming from these long standing traits.
A month into blogging, this pattern began emerging (again) so as usual I went on a 3 day Fast. I didn’t go onto my blog site at all, didn’t check my ‘stats’, was determined not to read any comments or reply for 3 whole days! (Luckily God didn’t allow me to be tempted by comments during those three days, as my blog received none, He knows! Lol)
I have come to find that fasting something for 3 days, is extremely beneficial to our development of faith and victory in overcoming the habitual temptations of life. In times when either breaking a habit, or preventing one from forming, or simply going without something we enjoy for God, is a symbol of recognition that we need Him in our situation more. This is because 3 days is fairly achievable, and therefore we are less likely to break our promise and become self-condemning. 3 days is also long and difficult enough to need help to reach the promised goal. Every time the tempting thought pops up during this time, we can acknowledge the promise we made, and ask God for Help, this breaks up the automatic train of thought. It invites Him into the situation and an army of angels are dispatched to our aid.
So even though I have fasted blogging a couple of times, I must admit that due to all the new experiences it has brought me, my state of mind has become even more excitable than usual and I have allowed the compliments of others to somewhat go to my head (or perhaps rather my hands).
Compulsive nature can be easy fodder for our inner enemy to form habits, dangerous ones that try to to push us off the narrow path. It brings a whole other side to the coined phrase “Idle Hands are the Devil’s plaything”.
Next came phase two, when I received a couple of blunt criticisms which I let go straight to my heart, deeply. I reacted badly, defended, felt guilty, then that old familiar fear began to rise up from the depths of my soul, pressing hard on my heart, it began to choke me, forming a lump in my throat, and by the time this fear got to my head I was lost and consumed by it.
The main focus of these criticisms:- my unruly mouth. A negative response to the easy and common temptation to think too much and share every thought in my head, especially during a bout of psychological ‘mania’. I am aware of this, I have been all my life, it has brought me great shame, I have prayed and confessed about this more than anything else. While I have seen much improvement during the years God has been changing and developing me, this is the one area of weakness that I experience the most regular and regrettable backward slips. Old habits do die hard!
Often the desire to force being different from the reality of who I am causes severe bouts of depression.
When I get attacked with a bout of depression like this a few things commonly happen. I doubt and condemn myself and confess it all to God, I believe the words of people I care about and respect so much that I ask God to help me become what they think I should be. At the same time I try to remind myself that this is how God made me, I need to love and accept myself, and that I need to work with Him to bring about any changes He is guiding me to make. It can become quite a confusing mixture of thoughts as I try to determine which ones I should listen to.
This inner to and fro can lead to thoughts of insanity which creep to the threshold of my mind, leaving me unable to trust a thought in my own head. Battling these types of psychological conditions causes mental fatigue, I refer to this as an ‘emotional hangover’ , a few wasted days spent heavy and extremely sensitive. After this it is common to want to make up for lost time and I can become manic and go into overdrive to catch up and get ‘on top’ of things, only to fall short of my own expectations.
It is common to want to reach out to someone, needing them to help clear away some of the self-condemnation, however often human misunderstanding of spiritual or psychological systems can lead to badly timed good intentions which can clumsily handle a fragile heart. Now while I personally have found much support through professional therapists, they can not cover all the bases these situations require. Only God and His word know how to properly handle this type of vulnerability, so we need to reach out for Him in prayer.
These attacks soften the heart, making it fragile as it prepares to receive the new level of perspective and to break off old unwanted strongholds. Forcing a new level of complete submission to God, depending on Him for every thought and every action, begging Him to take the wheel and drive.
As usual I prayed for clarity and for sanity, I prayed for Him to keep a tight reign on my lips, I prayed for freedom and self-acceptance, I cried bitter tears of remorse, I asked for forgiveness, and I begged Him to meet me in my pit and rescue me.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”. Psalms 51:17 (ASV)
Within a few minutes of intense prayer at the time my heart was at it’s most fragile, I was sent comfort. First I received a pleasant surprise to distract me from my thoughts, a little later an unexpected, warm, lingering embrace and a confession of Love. The next day a special family evening, spent sharing ‘words’ with those I love and cherish most on this earth. Then a days break, a day alone to listen to soothing music and allow me to begin to collect my thoughts. Hallelujah!
Since all this has really taken it out of me I have taken some much needed R&R, which you may have read about in my recent post A Fragile Heart.
When we obey and make steps to fulfill our calling we open ourselves up to the inner enemies attacks to try and put us off track. This may come in obvious ways through physical circumstances such as a verbal attack from someone unexpected, perhaps burning your hand or cutting a finger while cooking dinner, or disturbed sleep from petty annoyances, perhaps just an unruly household with everyone in a ‘mood’, rubbing each other in the worst ways. Sometimes the enemies attacks can come through more subtle ways, through temptation, or creating a fearful mindset, through psychological weakness, or a moment of confusion at the expense of your faith. These are his scare tactics, hoping we will not follow through in obedience, and you can be sure that if we do continue on the obedient path we will see some of these attacks result afterwards as well. This is the enemies backlash in retaliation to any ground we may have made toward God.
Yet this is the war we are in, and when we are obeying the Almighty and keeping our hearts open to Him, He gives us comfort through faith by knowing He will be victorious. We are on the winning side even if the evidence all around may appear bleak. Depend on His strength when you are weak, find comfort in knowing you are Loved no matter what lies the enemy or the world tells you. And be prepared to suffer and to grow, and to rest and to fight again and to succeed, then suffer and grow, then rest and then fight and then succeed ……..and so on and so on….. Until this war and life as we know it ends, and we are finally free from this battle, changed by Him forever. When the enemy loses all influence and Righteousness Reigns into ETERNITY!