It comes from seemingly nowhere, and it is most persistent. It's a thought, a fear, a nagging doubt, or a question that just won't go away. Most distressing is that it goes against everything I believe as a Christian trying to fight the good fight in this long walk towards righteousness. Even more disturbing is the avalanche that threatens to topple if the thought takes root in my psyche. Where did it come from? I might rightly recognize it as an attack from the enemy — a lie planted in my mind to throw me off course. The problem is its precision. In order for Satan to drop that particular mind bomb, wouldn't that mean that he could read my mind? Know my innermost thoughts and fears? We hear in church and read in the Bible that Satan is not as powerful as God. He does not have the ability to know all things (omniscience), be everywhere at once (omnipresence), or have all power (omnipotence) — so how did he know to hit me there?
Recently, my family has faced a mountain of changes. Our youngest is set to graduate high school and go on to college. My husband took a position out of state just over a year ago. We have lived apart, commuting on weekends to be together, all of this time so that we would not force our daughter to change high schools her senior year. Now that time is nearly over and we are selling a home in one state and purchasing a home in another, I am in a job search for the first time in a decade (and boy has that process changed!) and am preparing to live in an area with which I am barely familiar, and we are about to become empty nesters. It makes me tired just thinking about it! It feels we are in constant questioning: Where will we attend church? What grocery stores will we shop? Why are the gas pumps different in this new state? My point is — my wee little mind is fertile ground for thoughts that cause doubts and fears. My faith is tested daily as I struggle not to be overcome with all of the coming changes in our lives. The last thing I need is Satan planting thoughts in my mind that suggest God is not listening, acting, or caring. Yet...
How does he do that? Is he reading my mind? The truth is, only God has omniscience, the power required to read minds. The Bible assures us that God alone knows a person's heart including her thoughts, mind, desires, doubts, and fears (1 Kings 8:39). God's power is so great that He not only knows our thoughts as we have them, He knows the thoughts before they are formed (Psalm 139:4). Satan does not have these powers. What he has is the power of observation, a keen sense of what makes human beings tick, a strong ability to persuade, and a host of demons who can spread out to help him. He cannot be everywhere at once, so he relies upon his band of demons to help him achieve his goals of destroying God's most precious creation, people. Like carnival fortune tellers, they combine their skills of observation with their understanding of human nature and are able to make pinpoint statements that convince you and me that they know things they cannot know. Satan and his minions may not be able to read minds, but they have been studying humans for a long time.
I can do the same thing often times. I am a mother — when my children were "too" quiet for "too" long when they were little, and I had last seen them eyeing my makeup...I could guess from across the house that there was quite the makeover session going on in my bathroom! And I was usually right on the money! I might ask who broke a vase in my home, but I already knew the answer from the downcast face, the trembling lip, and the wet eyes trying not to spill over of the guilty party. My teenager can call me on the phone with a reason he is out past his curfew, and I can tell if he is lying by the tone of his voice. The point I am making is this, it really isn't very hard for people to figure out what others are thinking, feeling, or fearing without reading their minds. Satan was once a powerful angel of the Lord whose main goal now is to devour God's people (1 Peter 5:8). Predators study their prey. They learn how they move, how they react, and can know what they are going to do before they do it because of this careful scrutiny. This is precisely how Satan and his demons know exactly how to plant those seeds of doubt, condemnation, and confusion in our minds...they have been studying me, you, and people before us for a very long time.
Some doubts and fears are so common to man, and to Christians especially, that Satan probably sends his rookie demons to contend with us. "So you believe in a God you can't see, hear, or touch? Do you really think you are saved? You believe that God would ever love someone like you? You know what you have done, right? And...you...think that God would forgive that? You??? Are you kidding me? You don't even really believe in Jesus! Yeah, you say you do, but you wouldn't act the way you do if you really believed Jesus was the Son of God who died for your sins. Get real, man. You are a loser that no one, let alone God could ever love." I don't know about you, but I have heard every single one of those lies before. Every. Single. One. I am willing to hazard a guess that you have too. Every. Single. One. We all struggle with doubts, questions, and feelings of unworthiness...Satan and his demons can land these thoughts on any one of us and they will probably, at least momentarily, stick.
What is our defense against these attacks? We must fortify ourselves with God's Word and Salvation and Truth. James 4:7 instructs us: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Notice the order. We submit to God first — otherwise we wouldn't have the tools for the second part of the command, which is to resist the devil. My best advice for strengthening yourself from these attacks from Satan, is to put on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18 reveals what that armor is (truth, righteousness, readiness, peace, and faith) but it also tells us why we need it — because we will be attacked by Satan with lies, deceit, and strife. The armor of God does not merely deflect the enemy's attacks — it extinguishes them. That means, that with God's help and by wearing His armor we can silence those nasty voices telling those dreadful lies.
One of my favorite books of all time is C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, which tells the story of a lowly demon trying to raise through Hell's ranks by messing with a new Christian. I highly recommend it. Many times I recognize in the book a ploy that the devil has tried on me (and too many times succeeded). You may too. For me the book, which is also very entertaining, made me more conscious of thoughts in my head that might not be my own. It helped me to seek truth and to challenge everything I heard — even if it was a thought in my own mind. In the meantime, we must pray that God will silence those voices and point us towards the truth. We should enlist the prayers of others during particularly troublesome attacks and temptations. Remind yourself of God's promises and truths: God loves you, He has a plan for you, He knows that you believe in Jesus and forgives you when you have doubts. There is nothing Satan loves more than stealing the joy from a Christian. I am praying that God will give me and you a thirst and hunger to know Him more and that our cup of assurance and joy will continuously overflow like a beautiful fountain full of His living water.