I perched on the edge of the hot tub. Worship music played through my earbuds. My heart raced with anxiety as I anticipated sitting in the water alone. I slid to the top step and immediately had to talk sense into my imagination. The creatures I pictured lurking beneath the surface couldn’t possibly fit into a small circular pool. When my mind tried to convince me otherwise, I pictured Jesus beside me, reminding me, “I am with you.” I took deep breaths and let his presence and the music soothe me. By the time the song ended and another began, I felt calm enough to sit on the step for a couple more minutes. I don’t have a specific verse to back this up, but I felt certain that Jesus said, “If anything tries to hurt you, it will have to go through me.”
I thought I was just taking a giant leap toward overcoming my childhood phobia of the water. Months later, I realized I’d also been practicing spiritual warfare.
That Scary Phrase
Spiritual Warfare. The phrase used to make me nervous. It triggered images of rebuking Satan in a loud voice, and I wasn’t the rebuking type. I’d set aside books and considered walking out of workshops because I couldn’t bring myself to follow their prescriptions for freedom from the bondage that kept me discouraged, afraid, or unable to have a productive day—tell the devil to get lost in Jesus’ name.
But I also knew the Bible included verses like, “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” (Ephesians 6:12). Spiritual warfare is real, and if it involved a dark world and forces of evil, I felt nervous for a reason.
I’d battled intense fears since childhood, some rooted in trauma, and had bouts with depression and anxiety throughout my adult life. No one had to tell me that the devil had a hand in these often-debilitating struggles. Did overcoming them really require me to go toe-to-toe with Satan himself? I didn’t want to talk to him; I wanted to talk to God.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
While confronting some wounds from the past, I told my Bible study friends, “Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be free.” One of them looked at me and said, “That is exactly what Satan wants you to believe—the lie that you’ll never be free.” She stood and invited the rest of the group to gather around me and pray. I can still feel the peace that settled over me as, one after another, my friends lifted me before the Father and spoke truth from Scripture. Then one of them spontaneously sang Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and the rest joined in, including me.
My friend’s statement came back to me when I wanted to overcome my fear of the water but saw it as impossible: “That is exactly what Satan wants you to believe.” I went in armed with the same weapons that she and the others surrounded me with on that Saturday morning: prayer, God’s truth, and a reminder to turn my eyes upon Jesus.
It didn’t require a noisy display or even verbally telling the devil to get lost, only the courage to drown out his lies with truth and turn to my true source of power.
The Power of His Might
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10, 11).
You probably don’t need to be told that the devil is real and that we face daily spiritual battles whether we’re aware of them or not. Confronting my fears and the sources of them has provided me with numerous examples that Satan has it in for God’s children. Unlike God, he can’t be everywhere or read our minds (what a relief!), but he sure knows how to mess with us.
He plays on our weaknesses.
He fills our head with lies—that we don’t matter; that God doesn’t care; that it will always be this bad; that it’s possible for a shark to fit in a hot tub.
He zaps our soul of joy by bombarding us with discouragement.
Some might even say he wreaks havoc in our homes on Sunday mornings, so we’ll show up at church crabby and unfocused and miss the point of the sermon. I’m sure he thoroughly enjoys watching us blame him for that instead of taking responsibility for our outbursts and failure to set an alarm clock.
But we know this isn’t a losing battle, or at least doesn’t have to be. We can consider spiritual warfare an opportunity to stand strong against whatever our enemy hurls at us, whether it’s temptation, discouragement, or the lie, “You will never overcome this.” It feels less scary when we remember that Ephesians 6:10 says to be strong in the Lord and in hispower, not to go in alone and in the power of our own boldness.
What Does This Look Like for You?
Chances are you will face something this week that requires spiritual warfare, even if it’s overcoming a negative attitude. When those moments come . . .
- Remember where your strength lies.Not in how powerful you feel. Not in your loud voice or eagerness to outsmart the devil. It lies in your faith and position as God’s child.
- Fill your mind with truth.Make a daily discipline of reading at least a short passage of Scripture. Write favorite verses down to memorize or keep in your pocket. Set one as wallpaper on your phone. Start what you know will be a hard day with extra time in prayer and God’s Word. Play worship music in the car or at home. The more of his truth that you hide in your heart (Psalm 119:11), the more you’ll have to draw from when you need it. And the more time you spend doing what the enemy hates (all of the above), the faster he will—according to James 4:7—flee.
- Recognize a lie when you hear it.What do you know to be true based on what you’ve read in the Bible and learned about how God works? What do your close friends say about you? What has experience taught you about how long difficult days really last?
- Turn your eyes upon Jesus.Just start talking to him. Whisper his name. Picture him with you. Let his presence drown the darkness.
- Remember that warfare doesn’t have to be explosive.Battling the enemy’s lies will include more silent prayers and uplifting praise songs than ordering him out of the room. For you, it might mean going into a situation you’d rather avoid—one he has convinced you that you can’t handle—and pushing past your anxiety until you realize, “I did it. And I didn’t die!”
Yes, we have a very real enemy. But we have a much stronger, loving Father, who has equipped us to win those battles.
Jeanette Hanscome is the author of five books, including Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.