The Real Enemy
January 17, 2016
I’m sitting here feeling shaky and nervous about writing this. It’s very personal, both about me and my husband. But this message feels weighty and important, and I feel compelled to tell it. I’ve been praying all week that God would give me the right words. I want to tell His story as it plays out in my life. There’s a song by Francesca Batistelli that goes, “Write Your story, write Your story, write Your story on my heart…” I just got on my knees and sang that chorus to the Lord. I am giving Him permission to say whatever He wants to as I write.
When I married Seth, I made a rule for myself. (Besides the rule my parents taught me growing up, which was: Divorce is not an option). But I also made a quiet rule in my heart: Do not ever tell yourself at any point in your marriage, “I married the wrong person,” because right now you KNOW without a doubt that Seth is the right man for you. He has every quality you hoped for, and marrying him is absolutely the best thing you could do. He’s the right person.
I still stand by that rule, and I still think my husband is a good, wonderful man. But lately I’ve lost some of the joy in my relationship with him. It’s happened very gradually, so that I almost didn’t recognize it. The last few weeks I’ve noticed I constantly feel irritated with him. I also feel disappointed. I don’t feel close to him. I’ve been trying to keep my irritation in check by praying and trying to bite my tongue. But it’s still there, and it turns out I wasn’t hiding it that well. Go figure.
But God spoke something to me that opened my eyes.
The Hunger Games. I loved all the books, and the first three movies. In preparation for seeing the last movie, which is The Mockingjay, Part 2, Seth and I watched the first three movies again over Christmas break. If you don’t know the story, let me briefly summarize it for you.
Sometime in the future, in a place called Panem, the ruling government is called The Capitol, and the cold and cruel leader is called President Snow. Each year, 24 teens are randomly chosen and forced to compete against each other in The Hunger Games. These tributes must kill each other or be killed. There will be only one survivor. The whole death match is televised so the rest of the country gets to watch their every move in the games.
Katniss is the heroine of the story. She has to compete in the Hunger Games. We (the readers/viewers), cannot help but love her and root for her all the way. Before she goes into battle, her mentor, a man named Haymitch, says to her, “Katniss, when you’re in the arena, remember who the real enemy is.” He means the Capitol. President Snow. Not the other tributes. None of them WANT to have to kill each other. They’d rather be allies. Can they figure out how to avoid killing one another and get back at the Capitol??
During the games, Katniss and a few other tributes become allies and are helping each other survive the jungle and defend each other from tributes trying to kill them. But at any point, these allies could turn on one another. There will only be one victor. Who can be trusted? During the chaos one night, Katniss gets separated from her allies, and she hears yelling and no longer knows if anyone is on her side or if they’ve decided it’s time to turn against her. She’s panicking, afraid she will be killed at any moment, and suddenly one of her “allies” appears out of the trees. She draws her bow and is about to fire her arrow at him to save her own life! But suddenly, he shouts at her, “Katniss! Remember who the real enemy is!”
It stops her in her tracks. She takes a breath. Oh, yeah. WE are against the Capitol. Together. We aren’t against each other. She doesn’t fire her arrow. Instead she fuels her anger against the Capitol.
(I’ll leave it there to prevent spoilers, but YOU SHOULD SEE THESE MOVIES!)
So why am I telling you this? Seth likes to stay up late. Which often results in him taking afternoon/evening naps. This doesn’t sit well with me. A couple of weeks ago, I woke up during the night, about 3:00 am. I looked out into the living room and saw that Seth was still awake. Watching TV. This was a weeknight. And I was so angry! I thought, “Come on, be an adult, and go to bed at a reasonable time!” I didn’t say anything to him, I just went back to bed, fuming.
And suddenly I thought, “Remember who the real enemy is.”
1 Peter 5:8 “…Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
There is an enemy of our souls. He hates God and will do whatever he can to keep us from knowing God, following God, and doing beautiful things for God.
Ephesians 6:11-12 “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
That night at 3:00 am, I realized Seth is not my enemy. We both have a mutual enemy. Satan. He wants to cause dissension. He wants us to fail one another, irritate one another, be quietly angry toward one another. When I heard God telling me, “Remember who the real enemy is,” it fueled my anger! But not at Seth. At Satan. Oh, no, you will NOT drive a wedge between my husband and me. I began praying for Seth instead. And I realized I don’t pray for him regularly. I don’t pray WITH him regularly either. Funny how I didn’t notice that for the past several months.
Satan is very clever. I read a book called “The Spirit of Python: Exposing Satan’s Plan to Squeeze the Life Out of You” by Jentezen Franklin. The author compared Satan to a python that slowly squeezes the breath out of its victim. Satan slowly and patiently creeps in and gradually works on you, in a way you don’t notice at first. Until the day you can no longer breathe and you wonder how it happened. And looking back, I think that’s what was happening in my marriage. It was so subtle that I didn’t recognize a problem for a few months.
This week I committed to pray for my husband every day. I wrote down my prayer requests for him, and one of them was that he would be protected from the enemy. I have faithfully kept my goal of praying for Seth daily. But Satan doesn’t give up easily.
John 8:44 “…He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
On Tuesday evening Seth and I had a minor disagreement, seriously unimportant stuff like it takes me too long to pick out my clothes for the next day while Seth is working more efficiently doing several things like packing their lunches and taking out the trash. Yeah, it doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense as I repeat it to you. Satan can feed us lies, and in my head this situation didn’t feel minor. I felt very hurt and very angry, and my spirit just felt wiped out. Like, “How long are we going to struggle over these kinds of stupid things? My patience has worn thin.” So I was quietly frustrated the rest of the evening, and Seth was mad that I couldn’t get over it. And neither one of us wanted to apologize and make it right. We still watched TV together, which we do every night, while in my head there were thoughts like, “He doesn’t even like you very much. And you don’t like him either.”
On the show we were watching a woman was crying, and her sweet husband came in and asked her, “Why are you in here crying alone? You’re married now, so you never have to cry alone.” And in my head I heard this, “Christi, you always cry alone. Seth never holds you while you cry anymore. He must not love you that much.”
Yeah, so looking back I know that was the voice of the enemy. He does that really well. Our best defense is to know the TRUTH of God’s word so that we can better recognize the lies. If we don’t immerse our minds in the truth of the Bible, and in time spent alone with God, we can fall for these lies Satan whispers at us.
So when I went to bed, Seth and I both basically said we weren’t apologizing for the little situation that happened earlier. And I went away angry. I went to my room and cried. Bawled. Seriously ugly-cry sobbing. And I knew Satan was attacking us and wanting to cause division. And it fueled my anger at the devil and his stupid demons. I cried and punched my mattress. I said aloud, “I am sick of this!! You will not discourage me! You will not have my marriage! In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave me alone! The Bible says you HAVE TO FLEE at the name of Jesus! GET. OUT.” And I prayed for my marriage and my husband and I claimed victory in the name of Jesus. And then I cried myself to sleep.
During the night, I had two blankets on myself, and they were somewhat tangled. I kept almost waking up because my foot felt cold. But I thought it was covered. Finally, I realized there was a little exposed place where cold air was getting to my foot. I covered it, and as I drifted off to sleep I had this thought, which I think was from the Lord, “There’s a weak spot in your armor…”
I got up in the morning to have a Quiet Time while my family was asleep. I realized I haven’t been putting on the armor of God in the mornings like I used to, because I’ve felt strong against temptation. Once again, the voice of the enemy had told me, “You’re so strong now. You don’t need to cling to the armor of God for protection like you used to.” But Wednesday morning, I resolved to read the armor of God every morning and arm myself for battle. Clearly, when Satan tries to ruin us one way and fails, he comes up with another tactic. I cannot leave weak spots in my armor!
I asked God for another scripture to cling to in order to set my heart right with Seth. And I turned to that familiar passage of 1 Corinthians 13.
I cried as I read it. I prayed that these beautiful things would be true of Seth and of myself. I placed my hand over the passage in the Bible and cried more and resolved to have that kind of love again.
And I still felt so sad. I told God, “I need a hug,” and I pictured leaning into His arms to cry. I felt in my spirit that He said, “See? You never have to cry alone.”
All day I felt sad. But STRONGER. I knew what was going on. I knew I had a defense against the enemy. I knew that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love. Never. Fails.
Wednesday evening was my Women’s Bible study. I was feeling like I could use some prayer support, but I was debating whether there was time for me to share my struggles, and debating whether I felt brave enough. I knew there would be tears if I opened up.
But I decided to do it. I stood up and told them what I was feeling. I cried. I felt embarrassed. I told them I knew Satan doesn’t want any of us to do good works for the Lord, and he especially doesn’t want husbands and wives to be a united team, working together for the cause of bringing Him glory. I told them it was hard for me to admit I need help, because I’m usually the strong one. People come to ME for help, advice, encouragement, and prayer. And I think Satan would’ve preferred that I had been too afraid to ask these women for help. I would have been weaker if I had continued my battle alone. That’s another one of his lies. “Don’t tell anyone you’re struggling. They’ll think less of you. They’ll be shocked. Just smile and pretend you’re OK. It’s better if people think you’re perfect. Maybe they’ll be jealous of how you always have it all together.”
God has taught me it is more important to be real and truthful than to impress people by seeming perfect. God has taught me that when I open up and share my struggles, it gives others the chance to admit they are struggling too! Suddenly we realize we are not alone. When I ask for help, it gives others the beautiful opportunity to care for me and encourage me.
To my precious Bible study sisters who were there Wednesday, thank you. Every one of you reached out to me to speak to me and/or text me that you are praying for me and that you love me and that you’re there for me. You spoke God’s truths to me, strengthening my heart. It was truly powerful the way you surrounded me with encouragement. You reminded me that the enemy does not have power over us! We just have to fight him and remember that God has the victory. Thank you so much. We are WARRIORS, and we are in this together!
At home Wednesday night, I had a good talk with Seth. I told him I feel like our marriage is under spiritual attack because Satan wants to make us weak and ineffective for the Lord. I told him I don’t feel like we get to talk enough about our dreams for the future and about what God is speaking to us. He said that for my birthday in a couple weeks, he was thinking we could spend a day together and really talk about our hopes and dreams and plans. That sounds perfect. There is nothing I’d want more for my birthday than to start feeling more connected to my husband, to feel like a united team again.
Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
So, now that I know I have to “Remember who the real enemy is,” what are my plans for defeating him in this area? Here are my goals:
1. Pray for Seth every day. His faith. His ministry. Our marriage. Protection from the enemy.
2. Put on the armor of God every day. Ephesians 6:10-18.
3. Read 1 Corinthians 13 every day. I clearly have forgotten what love looks like. I need to relearn it. I remember to show godly love to other people in my life, and I’ve somehow forgotten that my husband should get my best.
4. Make sure Seth and I make time every week to talk about what’s going on BEHIND the daily activities we do every day, meaning God’s story. How is He leading us? What is He speaking? What are we dreaming? How have we seen Him at work this week?
5. Laugh together. I’ve been working on this. Do you know the very first thing I loved about Seth? How he made me laugh. So much. All the time. I wanted to spend the rest of our lives laughing together like that. But these days I get caught up in all my responsibilities and To-Do Lists, and I forget to laugh. At myself, even. I need to lighten up! I think Seth is still just as funny and witty as when we met, but I discourage it. Maybe that’s Satan too, telling me, “It’s more important to be responsible. There’s no time to have fun.” I’m not going to listen to that voice anymore.
6. Cuddle more. I think once I had kids, all my cuddle time started going to them. And my sleep became SO PRECIOUS that I didn’t want Seth anywhere close to me while we were sleeping. I pretty much thought that if he were to disturb me or wake me up, I might just die. I want to change that. Sit closer. Sleep closer. Take a break from chores and just cuddle up.
7. And maybe, the reason I always cry alone is because I never go to Seth. I feel kind of embarrassed by how emotional I am. God is so much safer. I can be a complete blubbering idiot before God and yet His love never changes. He understands my emotions better than I do. Which is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. Friendship with God. But if I NEVER share my heartaches and fears with my husband, I don’t feel close to him. So, I’m going to try to sometimes go to Seth when I need to cry and be held.
So, I know this was long. My goal in sharing this was to help other people REMEMBER WHO THE REAL ENEMY IS. It’s not your spouse. It’s not your kids, or your co-workers, or people at church who irritate you or let you down. It’s Satan. And if you can keep that in mind, you can spend more energy fighting against HIM than you do fighting against the people in your life.
Also, Seth and I could use some prayer. I know God has amazing plans for our future, to use us together to bring glory to Him. And Satan doesn’t like it. Please pray for protection from our enemy, and please pray that we would stay united in love.
You have no idea how much I treasure every one of you who has told me that what I’ve written has meant something to you. I began writing a blog because I felt God asking me to. When you tell me that it has blessed you, I feel God showing me that I was right to obey Him in this. Whoever you are reading this, I am praying for God to be encouraging your heart right now. He loves you so.