When I was thirteen, I was terrified of Satan.
The fear started when I watched a television special on The Exorcist, the seventies movie about a girl who is possessed by Satan. In this special, the commentators explained how the film was based on a real story, and then showed clips of the film to demonstrate what happened to the real-live girl.
I couldn’t sleep for days. I preemptively told Satan “In the name of Jesus, leave!” over and over, semi-compulsively, until I fell asleep. I went to my church with a list of questions. I needed answers. The only consolation, I decided, would come with answers.
In actuality, the answers led to more questions and the anxiety persisted every night. I kept repeating my warding-off-Satan mantra until eventually I forgot to give Satan much thought before bed. And then, I forgot to give Satan much thought at all. When I was reminded of Satan, the fear would return, but most of the time, I lived casually unhindered by his nasty presence and untouched by the fear it would bring.
For six years, I remained consciously unhindered. I buried my fear of Satan under other things- less disturbing things. I was tired of being scared of him.
That sixth year, when I was 19, I decided to go on a sex trafficking mission trip. Towards the beginning of the trip, I started to experience what people on my team referred to as “spiritual warfare.” After they described “spiritual warfare” a little bit, I determined that this ‘stuff’ resembled The Exorcist television special from years ago. Some of it was less intense than head-spinning, but nonetheless, my fear returned.
Then, one night, I felt the spiritual attack that I had been dreading for six years. I felt my arms numb on the bed, itching and pushed down. I heard little laughing voices and then one ominous, dark, deep voice saying “End it now.” How could this be happening? I had convinced myself not to be scared of this! I cried, I woke up my leader, I paced through the halls, dousing water on my face to feel the cold. I repeated the mantra, “In the name of Jesus, leave!” I knew the mantra all too well from older days. Finally, with some worship music in my ears, the pressure went away, the voices went away, and I fell asleep.
The next morning, I didn’t want to talk to God. I didn’t want to do anything for Him. He let my worst nightmare happen to me. He abandoned me. He let Satan come close to my skin and talk in my ear…after everything I did for Him! I debated completely turning away from God because obviously He couldn’t protect me.
BUT there was nothing in me that doubted that Satan had been the one to visit me the night before. ‘Nothing in me that doubted‘… that was a new thought. I had always been a doubter and a questioner. I had been a Christian, but would very often hear a little voice in my head that said, “What if this whole thing is a joke? What if everything you serve and obey is made up? What a fool you are!”
Even though I was angry with God, I could no longer doubt that He existed. When I told God that I didn’t want anything to do with him, I realized that even if I didn’t want anything to do with Him, He still existed. I knew that now. I KNEW Satan existed…which led to the hard fact that if Satan existed, God existed.
After talking (well, crying) to some teammates, I was assured that God was protecting me. They affirmed, ‘If Satan did what he wanted with you, you would probably be dead.’ … so He DID protect me?
I thought about this whole new world I was seeing. For so long, I had been terrified of this ‘stuff’. Now, somehow, it was increasing my faith in God. I soon realized that what Satan meant to destroy me, God used to increase my faith and help me past the doubtful walls in my life. There was no more denying God. To this day, I thank God for that night more than almost any other event in my life.
So, if that event…which I had feared for six years… wasn’t as horrible as I had imagined, what IS the saddest form of spiritual warfare? Lately, I have realized that there is no act of spiritual warfare that God cannot beat, defeat, and use for His and our good.
I believe spiritual warfare becomes the saddest when we fail to recognize it as spiritual warfare.We often fail to realize that Satan wants us to feel worthless and far from God. Anything that is convincing you that you are unloved, unworthy, or unable to be close to God is spiritual warfare. The saddest part about unrecognized spiritual warfare is we fail to fight against the warfare because we think it is “nothing.” In the more Exorcist- like attacks, we understand the need to have God and to fight, but what about when we hear an inner voice calling us “ugly”? Do we feel the same need to fight against that?
We have nothing to fear, but plenty to recognize. Though I was scared of Satan showing up in the way he did, I have realized that God can defeat and protect. To my surprise, ignoring the idea of spiritual warfare caused me more fear and harm than the physical spiritual attack did. Now, having experienced what I dreaded, I realize that my conscious unhindered state was the saddest because I was not fighting against the spiritual warfare that I was experiencing.
The sooner we recognize spiritual warfare, the sooner we get to fight against it and know that God has more for us. We realize how much of our insecurities have been rooted in the spiritual world, and we stop the pattern.
In that way, recognizing spiritual warfare is not “sci-fi weirdness.” Realizing spiritual warfare is beneficial to us.
Published for Grafted Magazine