As soon as my sister died, the battle began. My battle is not over, not by a long shot. But in those first few hours, I endured the fiercest fighting of my life. I wasn’t ambushed, I knew that the devil would attack me at my most vulnerable. Peter told us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is cunning, and is hungry to devour the helpless.
In my horrific grief, I was absolutely vulnerable – how can I convey to you what it feels like to suddenly lose your sister? It is an indescribably desolate and shocking place. I was too troubled to speak to anyone. I couldn’t sleep because my soul refused to be comforted. My tears became my food day and night until I literally had no tears left (Psalm 42:3). In that vulnerable place, the devil pounced to turn me against God in bitterness and rage – to reduce me from a son of God into a senseless animal. The devil did this very same thing to the Psalmist in The Bible:
When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
(Psalm 73:21-22 NASB)
Knowing this, I have learned to be on guard whenever I am in a vulnerable place – whenever my heart is embittered. Satan’s attacks come even after the wounds of everyday life – after wounds of loneliness, disappointment, betrayal in the careless words of a friend, confusion and doubt when God takes you in a direction you aren’t expecting. Satan prowls around looking for those who are in that hurting place to devour them in their weakness.
So in that most vulnerable place following my sister’s death, the devil’s lies assaulted my mind like flaming arrows:
…If God is with you, why has all this happened?
…God must hate you, and this is why you are suffering – you have brought this upon yourself! This is punishment for the evil you have committed!
…And if God can do anything, why doesn’t he bring your sister back to life?
These lies should sound familiar to you – they’re in The Bible! Gideon held the same angry question in his heart, Job was accused by his ignorant friends with the same lies in his suffering and Jesus faced the same kind of accusation during his temptation in the wilderness. You can see that The Bible is our spiritual warfare manual – through it, we have insider knowledge into the devil’s plans and how the devil usually attacks.
Therefore, we should never be taken by surprise because we can recognise the devil’s schemes through our knowledge of The Bible. Paul wrote – we know very well what Satan’s plans are (2 Corinthians 2:11 NCV). When you’re able to recognise his schemes, you realise that there really is a battle around you, that your real enemy isn’t man, but the devil himself. Only when you realise these things can you fight back.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Because of previous battles we have fought together, when the battle came suddenly after my sister’s death – my family was not caught unequipped. We fought back using the battle plans that God has given his people:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:5)
What does this look like? At the very hour of my sister’s death, the lies of the enemy came. It was hard. Every day since is hard (but how hard the enemy’s assault must have been against the disciples at Jesus’ death where it seemed all was lost!). But from the first day, we would identify every lie that assaulted us and reject it, whether in our minds or with our lips. We took captive every thought and made it obedient to Christ. Sometimes my brother would be so attacked that I would shout at the top of my voice on his behalf- I reject that lie! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1). More than once, the presence of God came on me and I rebuked the enemy by screaming out at the top of my lungs- get behind me Satan! Over the next few days, we spoke out against every lying accusation and pretension and instead proclaimed God’s goodness. Praying aloud the Psalms over one another is invaluable for this!
Our lovely neighbors (who I had barely known previously) had us in their house during all this – I hope they didn’t mind us shouting and praying at the top of our voices over each other in their kitchen! But that’s what we need sometimes – to fight as a band of brothers, a fellowship. At times, we know the tormenting thoughts in our heads are coming from the devil, but we just can’t seem to reject them from our hearts. They seem too real. We start to sink into despair. It’s at that moment that a brother in Christ can lend a sword and throw the devil off your back by rebuking Satan’s lies, taking captive your thoughts and praying them out, realigned in obedience to Christ. Didn’t God himself do the very same for Joshua in The Bible?
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.
The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.
The first few days of battle were the hardest. But our joy in God is renewed each day. Thank God for our neighbours, family and friends who have fought with us. But I have greater thanks for our God who has personally fought with us! Do not be mistaken. In all of this, we do not fight alone. God is not a distant God, watching from the sidelines. My God fights for me; he trains my hands for battle and fights with me against darkness. This is what Isaiah said – that God will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies (Isaiah 42:13). Even in the suffering of death, I have learned this – The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name! (Exodus 15:3).
Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you! (Deuteronomy 3:22)
See Part 2 – How the Devil Attacks When You Lose Someone (Part 2)