The Real Bible Gal's Practical Guide to Spiritual Warfare
I knew it the moment my eyes opened that morning. I woke up smack in the middle of a spiritual battle. My thoughts jumbled over each other while my emotions flared and choked my throat tight. The weight threatened to keep me in bed all day, and I groaned at the all too familiar feelings. This was the same stupid spiritual battle that had raged for days. And since my recent circumstances hadn’t changed, I wasn’t surprised that my attitude, emotions, and my general mental state hadn’t shifted much either. I know I’m supposed to wake up rejoicing in the day that the Lord made for me, grateful for His mercies made new with the dawn. But on this morning, my heart and my mind reeled in the chaos of clanging anxiety and threatening doom. Overly dramatic much? Yeah…that’s me, but that’s how I roll.
You probably know the feeling. A sense of discontent, fear, frustration, or anxiety that’s either more intense than the facts warrant, or lasts way longer than it probably should. Of course, the whole thing could just be hormones. Or something we ate. Maybe our circumstances seem to justify the terrors we entertain. Does it matter? It’s a spiritual battle just the same.
On the particular morning in question, I actually had the wherewithall to decide to fight for a change, testimony to God being my strength instead of me gathering up the gumption for myself. Instead of trying to ride out the storm on the sidelines like I often do (because doing nothing and feeling pitiful is way easier than actually expending the energy to fight), I decided enough was enough.
My friend, theological theory is so unhelpful in these moments. We can KNOW all the right stuff, but in the heat of the moment, we need to actually DO something with what we know. Intellectual recitations sound great, but they don’t mean diddly-squat to an embattled heart. The spiritual battlefield may be in our minds, but it’s our hearts that are on the line in the end, and those are usually the places where we suffer the most collateral damage. Thinking clearly may be impossibly hard, so we need a straightforward spiritual battle strategy.
And so I offer to you The Real Bible Gal’s Practical Guide to Spiritual Warfare.
Make sure you have your spiritual armor on NOW. Turn to Ephesians 6:14-18 in your Bible. Read it out loud. Act out each part of the armor listed in this passage if you have to. Remember the everlasting truth of God that you are saved, you are righteous in God’s sight, you have access to peace, and declare your faith in all of God’s promises. And don’t go into the battle alone if you don’t have to. Call on a few faithful peeps to pray for you and with you. There’s no sense in making this harder or last longer than it has to.
Play your favorite worship music LOUD. Our enemy’s just loves to get us thinking with our feelings instead of our brains. If he can ramp our emotions up high enough, we won’t be able to hear ourselves think clearly, let alone hear God’s voice or rehearse His truth. So when I notice all the feels overwhelming my mind, then it’s time to fill my mind up with something else. I need my music loud enough to drown out my enemy’s accusations and wily quips, drown out my own chaotic thoughts, and fill my ears and my brain with lyrics and rhythms that speak life into to my soul. I keep a playlist on hand for just such occasions. So, when you know the battle’s on and you can’t think straight, turn up the speakers, grab the nearest set of ear buds, do whatever it takes to drown out the battle sounds with the best worship music you can find. Pretty soon, your heart will calm down and your head will engage with the lyrics you know and love, changing the entire terrain of the battlefield to your advantage.
Name your fear or frustration. Do it out loud if at all possible. Don’t just think it, because everything looks a lot bigger and sounds far more plausible in your head. All too often I’ve said out loud the thing I’m fretting over, and when my ears actually hear the thought externally, it’s not so scary any more. Sometimes, it even sounds silly. There’s something about naming something that gives us authority over it, or if not authority, then enough familiarity to wrap our brains around it and begin to wrestle with it on our own terms.
Ask God if what you’re thinking is true. You may already know the answer, especially if you’ve been around this block with the enemy a time or two. But go ahead and talk to God about it, let Him speak His truth over you. And don’t bother being shy or coy or trying to sweeten up whatever ugly stuff you’re dealing with - He knows already. This is where we get power in the battle, through prayer and a real, authentic, raw conversation with God. The moment you’ve taken your thoughts captive and start talking to God about them, the enemy is on the ropes. Here’s a tip for you - read Philippians 4:8 as a litmus test for what you’re thinking. If your thoughts don’t measure up, they’re not from God and need to be squished and discarded as quickly as possible.
Our enemy isn’t creative, but he is persistent. Chances are, you’ve been attacked with this same fear or frustration before. So what does God have to say about it? Time to do a little Bible study. Do whatever you have to do to find out God’s truth, and then rehearse that truth until it becomes spiritual muscle memory. Write it. Memorize it. Pray it. Practice it. Stick it to your computer monitor. Tattoo it on the back of your hand if necessary. Once you pick up on the enemy’s pattern, arm yourself and be ready for the next assault. He’ll most likely come for that same vulnerable place in your heart again, and sooner rather than later.
If you don’t know and can’t discern what God says about the issue at hand, then call for backup. Get with someone who’s got some years of spiritual wisdom under their belt, someone with a good working knowledge of Scripture for sure, but more importantly, a vibrant relationship with God. Ask for input and insight, and let others help you grab hold of the real honest-to-God truth so you can wield it against your enemy.
Do the “thing” no matter what. You know, the “thing” that God designs you for, what He calls you to during this season. My “thing” is writing and teaching. Your “thing” could be playing the piano, leading a small group, serving in that ministry, or showing up for someone in need. Whatever the enemy throws at you, if it’s at all possible, keep at the “thing”. You’ve got at least three really good reasons to push through no matter how hard it gets:
Doing the “thing” will inherently bring you joy, which you desperately need in the middle of this battle;
Chances are, the enemy sprung the battle on you to get you to stop doing the “thing” in the first place; and
God calls you to the “thing” and obeying Him is always the very best idea.
The battle ends (at least for now) when your heart settles into a place of peace and rest, not when your circumstances change. Do not stop talking to God, rehearsing the truth you know, and worshiping God as often and as loudly as you can until your heart stops quaking in your chest and the tension in your soul releases. Even if the circumstances that triggered the battle change and fade, if fear remains, it will come out sideways and create some other sort of crisis in your world. More likely though, your heart will settle long before the circumstantial storm does. That, my friend, is real victory. When you and I can be at peace, trusting God and worshiping Him freely in the midst of chaotic circumstances, we have most assuredly won the day and God has won a huge amount of glory through us.
Do not panic. The spiritual battle may rage for a few minutes, a few days, or it might ebb and flow for months - even years. An even if it feels like we’re losing, and every measurable thing we can see says we’re losing, it’s still okay. The final battle is already won for us, and ultimately, our enemy stands defeated before Jesus - praise God. All we have to do is wait him out.
Still, today’s battle is worth fighting because today is at stake. If our enemy can waylay us from the joy and purposes of God, then he can keep us ineffective today. And that’s his only realistic goal, which is why he’s so persistent in the first place. He’s not stupid - he knows he can’t win in the end. But he can take as many as possible down with him and make us, God’s children, miserable in the process. If that’s all he gets, then you bet your britches he’s not going to pass up the opportunity.
As for the spiritual battle I woke up to in the beginning? I gotta say, I don’t know how much longer this particular campaign will go on. There are days when I’m winning and days when I’m pretty sure I’m losing. I even have days where I don’t have the strength to fight at all. Can I tell you something I know from personal experience? God has grace for that. He won’t berate us or turn us away for gasping exhausted on the battlefield. He won’t get angry or disappointed or disgusted with our weakest attempts. That’s not who He is.
Rather, like any one who loves us, He’ll come alongside and carry us if necessary. But then, He’ll encourage us back to our feet to take our stand once again. He wants to see us thriving and strong, sending that enemy scampering while we stand tall on the top of the hill. He wants to see us win, and He gives us everything we need. The battle is worth fighting and the victory when it comes - and it’s sure to come eventually - is so very sweet.
Is there a lot more to spiritual warfare than this? Of course. There’s plenty of skill to acquire through practice and experience, nuances and techniques and refinements we could talk about. But when it comes down to it, all we need is a straightforward and simple plan to fight back.
So fight back, my friend, and let’s set that enemy running.