Have you ever begun a new project – particularly one that you sincerely hope will be of service or joy to others – only to be met with some sort of obstacle or negative energy?
I've actually experienced this several times throughout my life, and you would think by now that I would be tuned in to when I've let this enemy slip into my daily efforts and thoughts. I pose this problem as a person, because I firmly believe that he – "Satan," "the evil one," "the devil," "Beelzebub," "negative energy," "the dark force," (whatever you want to call it) – really exists, and in order to recognize and defend ourselves from the enemy, we must put a name to it and face it.
Surprisingly, it didn't occur to me until just this morning that my husband and I were facing this kind of “spiritual warfare” yet again. The devil has attempted numerous times to infiltrate our lives as a loving couple and tight-knit family unit. “Attacks” might seem like an extreme word to those who aren't familiar with wht the sneaky and furtive tactics of the devil can really mean, but I firmly believe that this is how he operates. Unless you are constantly on guard, feeding and nurturing the garden of your own faith, before you know it he has slipped into your life - interjecting negativity, hopelessness, anger and hatred into situations where you normally would stand strong in clear and proper judgment.
That's how he works. Personally, I don't believe the devil brings down plagues, earth-quakes, financial ruin or death. Because God has given us the gift of free will, the ability to make our own choices and decisions in dealing with what life hands us, we unfortunately have the ability to choose unwisely. And that's just what the “devil” is pushing us to do. While he probably didn't cause us to loose our job, wreck the car, or put someone else in a bad mood, he does try to “push the buttons” that cause us to react to these moments with negativity and without love. Then, he tries to keep us there – mired in the darkness of self-pity, doubt, fear, and hatred – away from the light and grace of love, peace and Joy.
I've previously written that our family has experienced some major hardships this past year. In a nutshell, over the last week our situation has continued and become worse. I admit this to you only to support and explain my recent absence from the page; it truly has become a battle for me and my family, and I apologize. While I can't read the future and still don't have all the answers, I have made additional discoveries and insight into why I've reacted to recent situations the way I have, and why my family continues to suffer.
Over the last several years, I've found that I am getting really good at directing my anger towards dirt. I'm not sure if my boys have really figured this out yet, but when I've been hit with yet another piece of bad news or situation beyond my control, I start to clean. Rather than screaming, I try very hard to just “get mad at the dirt,” and go around the house taking care of items that may not have been tidied up in a while. Not only is this kind of simple work therapeutic, I've realized it's one thing that I have “control” over. Usually after several minutes of vacuuming or dusting, my heart will start speaking to God, and I'll use that time to converse with Him about how I'm feeling.
My house is very tidy at the moment.
However, I've (we've) been bombarded with so much lately, that the cleaning hasn't totally eased the unrest and nervousness within my soul, and I let myself slip into a bit of depression. I literally haven't been able to focus, let alone write about anything “positive.”
It's become obvious to me that I've let Satan enter into these moments, and have let my “guard” down. We all used to come together pretty frequently for family prayer – particularly when we'd had disagreements or were concerned for other family members, etc. We also took time to give thanks for the joys and blessings we received.
You see, the devil doesn't want us to spend time in God's presence. When we choose to give thanks in all things, when we choose to focus on love and what's right in the world, Satan has no entry. It can be so easy to let ourselves slip into despair and apathy – we've all experienced these moments – after all, we're only human.
Upon the celebration of Ash Wednesday last week, our family signed up to participate in several activities during the Lenten season, designed to strengthen our devotion and faith during this time of preparation before Easter. Because of recent events, our desire to take part in anything has been very low, to say the least. Being very active in our faith community, we've encountered the devil's obstacles and attacks each time we've begun a service project or joined in any kind of activity meant to increase and strengthen our faith in God. I now see that Satan has tried to use this opportunity to break us, and keep us from fully experiencing God's love and mercy.
My positive message today? I'm not going to let it happen - I won't let Satan win. I'm not saying it's going to be a piece of cake, but it's possible. Life can and must continue. I can choose to continue to see God's Blessings around me each and every day.
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase."
~Martin Luther King Jr.
Even amidst great tragedy, we can continue putting one foot in front of the other, day-by-day, week-by-week, year-by-year. By doing so life brightens before us, most times without us even realizing it. I was struck by a report on the early news this morning as I got ready to head out to work. Joannie Rochette, an Olympic figure-skater for Canada (their national champion as a matter of fact), found out only 2 days ago that her mother had died of a massive heart attack after arriving in Vancouver. This young lady has made the courageous decision to compete tonight, in spite of her tragedy and loss, knowing that her mother had been her biggest fan and supporter. It's not just a matter of willpower (although it helps). We have to continually practice trusting in God – His light is there to surround each step of our difficult journeys – all we have to do is ask Him to join us. We can find Joy in the fact that he will never leave us.
Though our options might not always seem clear, we always have a choice. Sometimes it seems so much easier to take the easy way out, by not doing "anything." Letting things be while we sit and stew about what we've done wrong, or who's wronged us, or the blows that life has dealt us won't carry us forward. While a good cry, cleaning the house from top to bottom, or maybe pounding out our frustrations on a construction project will help release the tension and stress we're feeling, eventually, we must continue on.
We can always find light and love in moving forward. By allowing Satan and his negative forces to creep in, we are slated to remain in the dark.
Asking the angels, saints, and those that I love to pray for me, I will strive to continue to live as though each day were my last. Surrounded by that much love, how can I go wrong?
Oh, and something else the devil doesn't like?
Paying it forward.
Pay it forward – spread a smile!
Image courtesy of Google Images.