The house was empty. My husband had taken our daughter for a walk, and I had a moment to myself and enjoyed a nice hot shower, uninterrupted: a motherhood miracle. I was a couple months postpartum, squishy and stretched in all the places I wasn’t used to being. My mind was like an overly soaked sponge, but instead of with water, it was with exhaustion filling up every crack and hole. My heart was tight with worry and second guessing, and yet sore from trying to expand to hold all this new love I had for my daughter without bursting.
I stepped into the shower and the pounding water quieted everything else. In the quiet I started to hear a voice. As I washed my hair, the whisper turned into a pounding I couldn’t ignore: “You aren’t good enough,” “You are more of a burden than a help,” “They would be better off without you,” “You are a failure,” “Why can’t you figure this out?” I trembled as I tried to fight the voices in my head. These were all the fears that quaked in my heart. I was afraid that other people would see that I was in fact a failure and that I was a burden. I felt the weight of it all the time. The shattered remnants of all the balls I had dropped surrounded me, and I couldn’t step in any direction without feeling the cut of failure.
The Devil’s MO
The weight of these words crushed me. For a moment I believed that this voice was right, that it was only saying what I had known all along. The pain of letting my family down, my husband, and my precious daughter was unbearable.
The devil plays dirty. He kicks us when we are already down. This is why it is so important for us to be ready. Before we can respond to the devil’s tactics, we need to be able to identify his voice to prevent him from gaining any ground within our minds and hearts.
We can expect the devil to play dirty, but the Bible reveals more consistencies in how the devil chooses to operate. Below are three examples, although these examples are not all encompassing of the devil’s repertoire:
1. Vulnerable Attacks (Matthew 4:1-11):
When Jesus was in the wilderness, after 40 days of fasting, the devil appears and tempts Jesus. There are many important details to take from this story, but one of the key highlights is that Jesus was at his most vulnerable.
And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ // Matthew 4:2-3
When Jesus’ stomach ached with the pangs of hunger, the devil came to remind him of how easy it would be to satisfy that hunger. Another notable point is that Jesus was completely alone. There was no one there to witness if he turned the stones into bread. “Why would it matter?” the devil seemed to imply. Even though nothing is hidden from God, when we are alone it can often feel like we are hidden and that the repercussions of our actions are lessened in secret.
2. Trusted Friends (Matthew 16:21-23):
In this story, Jesus is predicting his death and resurrection. Peter, a trusted and close friend of Jesus, takes him aside and voices his concerns, which is followed by the famous line from Jesus: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23). I can’t imagine how Peter would have felt at that moment. Isn’t that just one of the worst things your Lord could say to you?
The devil can and will use the various voices that we open ourselves up to to plant lies and destruction. He will even use the voices of those closest to us, those we trust the most, those who we go to for advice and wisdom, and those that have the best intentions when they share with you. Because we are broken people, our views, opinions and advice can often lack the full perspective of God’s plan. It is so easy to get distracted with our worldly view. Wisdom can be found in seeking the advice and wisdom of others (Proverbs 12:15), but it is important to lean primarily on God’s Word and wisdom and be discerning of the voices that you take to heart.
3. Cunning Ways (Genesis 3:1-7):
We are all familiar with the story of Eve being deceived in the garden. The serpent is described as “crafty,” “cunning,” and “clever”. He asks Eve, “Did God actually say…”. Eve is put on the spot questioning whether she really understood God’s command. The serpent contorts God’s words. He twists them so that they appear negative as if God is holding goodness back from Eve. Instead of asking, “Did God actually say you couldn’t eat from that one specific tree?” he asks, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” The serpent knows the true repercussions of Eve eating from that tree, but carefully chooses his words to make it desirable: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” First he denies the truth of God’s words and replaces it with his own modified version, but fails to mention the high cost of having their eyes opened.
The serpent has Eve questioning the goodness of God, and with that question looming over her he then gets her to question God himself. “Is that the kind of God you want lording over you? Wouldn’t you rather be your own master, knowing good from evil like God?” And isn’t that the same story the devil sells us everyday? Wouldn’t you be a better master for yourself, don’t you know better? Is God really that good? Can he really be trusted? Even though Eve walked with God in the cool of the day, she still in this moment questions these foundational truths.
Equipped to Defend
How can we choose differently than Eve and Peter? How can we respond like Jesus in the face of temptation? We need to be able to first identify that voice and then know how to respond to it. When the devil tempts Jesus, he quotes scripture to justify himself (Psalm 91:11-12), but Jesus responds in kind quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ The devil can twist scripture and pull it out of context in order to fit what he wants to say. Sometimes we are guilty of the same thing, but it feels right because it is encouraging and from the Bible. It’s difficult to know the difference if we don’t actually read our bibles and take the truth in them to heart.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” // Hebrews 4:12
When we read our bibles, we are not just checking off a box on our “good” Christian checklist. Reading our bibles is no meager thing. We are engaging with God’s living and breathing word. We are preparing our hearts and minds, and we are equipping ourselves with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are engaging with a spiritual war for our souls and this world.
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. // Ephesians 6:10-12
Truth Silences Lies
In my case, looking back on this moment, I can see how in my most vulnerable moments as a young mother, the devil had been planting little lies, slowly walking me up to this precipice with the goal of pushing me over the edge at my weakest. I had also allowed several voices to get inside my head. I had allowed the devil to use other people I trusted, social media, and blogs I loved to plant lies and doubts about the kind of mother I was and should be.
However, I had also been really trying to dive into my bible despite all the distractions. I found online devotionals I could read on my phone while nursing. I joined online bible studies and I dove into The Well Practice. I desperately tried to find ways to be with God in my new normal.
This didn’t happen every day and I was far from perfect, but when it felt like I was drowning in exhaustion, diapers, and isolation, the only thing that kept me afloat was my deeper desperation for Jesus.
I knew that he had been through long nights, too.
I knew he had found himself on his knees asking desperately for help from God.
I knew that God worked everything out for good.
I held onto those truths because they were the only steady, concrete things in my life at that point. God was and is so gracious in meeting me where I am and how I am. Because of those gracious meetings at 3:00 am and interrupted morning devotions, I was able to whisper back to that voice in the shower, “ I am God’s beloved daughter. I am God’s beloved daughter.”
And I repeated that over and over until the voice was silent.
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