I know that we Christians in the West like to act as though the devil doesn't exist. It's Halloween this weekend and with so many little kids playing dress up, it seems just too comical to think of a red-faced, horned creature being even remotely scary. Many of us in the West assume focus on what we see as the solid stuff and dismiss "scaremonger" tales as being the fear of the backwards and uneducated.
When good things happen we attribute them to God, easily. He's a good God; a loving father so of course
He wants and creates good outcomes for us. But when the bad sh*t takes place - and this I find, is often where non-believers can't take us seriously - we explain it away as a product of our sinfulness or "just life". And while I do concur that we live in a broken and fallen world, the thing is though, where there is good, just like we're taught in every super hero film ever made; the opposing force is bad.
"...we...like to act as though the devil doesn't exist"
I've been to many
different churches and while I have thought that the predominantly African churches can err on the side of giving the devil way too much airtime, I do think that the Church of England could do with acknowledging that not everything can be explained by what we see. In Ephesians 6:12 it says this: "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."
"we see Christian men in relationships where we think they are seriously punching"
Whether we want to call this force the enemy, the devil or whatever - it exists and is unfortunately, alive and well. There has been much research on singleness in the Church and commentary on the fact that there are often more single women than men. In less kind moments my friends and I have noted that because Christian women seem to take more seriously the biblical view on not being "unequally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6:14), we see Christian men in relationships where we think they are seriously punching. I know, it's a terrible thing to say/think. But so is the behaviour of some of these guys as they act like hyper kids in a candy shop. I've seen intentions blurred, emotions toyed with and hearts broken, and it's a mess.
Some of the research done attributes this to there being not enough men in the Church or that churches are too "feminine", with the talk of loving Jesus being off-putting to the tough, masculine otherwise-Christian men. *Insert eye-roll here*. But I felt God speak to me about this recently and I wonder if the enemy is at work in this area in a very subtle way. After all, God said it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18) so why would He not make sure that there are enough men to go round?
"why would He not make sure there are enough men to go round?"
What I have noticed is that there are lots of women in Church who are filled with the Spirit of God. They are dedicated to serving; openly giving their hearts and hands to those who need it. They are true disciples of God (I'm not saying that men are not - stay with me). They are often smart, resourceful, attractive and sociable women. And yet they are single. And since the Church and indeed the world, teaches us that to be single is to be incomplete, it's not long before these women of God turn their eyes to the search of a soulmate. And before long this becomes a mission; dedicated and desired. Where the eyes have been turned selflessly to God and His purpose for our lives, we lose sight of that in the blind sighted chase for our "soulmate". And it is here
that we open ourselves up to the wiles of the enemy.
With our eyes on a hope other than God, we begin to feel defeat and desperation. Why are we single? What's wrong with us? What's going to happen to our eggs?? Married people can seem the enemy as we long for what they
have and seem to take for granted. And we become bitter, allowing jealousy to creep in. And I'm sure we all know the benefit of jealousy in our lives (not). No longer are we seeking God for all our needs, focusing our eyes on Jesus as we so often blithely sing. And so those stirs of dissatisfaction, pain and disappointment rise up within us, clouding anything else. Sometimes things take longer than we think/expect. Actually let's face it, most
things take longer than we want/think/expect. And this isn't new. Remember Noah? Abraham? Joseph? Those themes of waiting for what seems like forever? We make idols of the search for a soulmate and we stop seeing that God is seeking to take us on a unique journey as part of His divine purpose for our lives. Our prince will come. But when we focus on the prince (lower case prince not Jesus who is the Prince of Peace) and not our King (God), the enemy has won.
"God is the source of our hope"
Now this might sound super simplistic but I do often find that the slippery slope to, dare I say it, ungodliness, is an easy one to fall down on. In my opinion, the scripture "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12) is a reference to the one in whom we hope
. As Christians, God alone is the source of our hope. If we stop hoping in God, we will feel all of the pain I've listed above. The dissatisfaction, the desperation, the distress and the rejection all leading to those lovely companions in misery - bitterness and jealousy. And none of these traits are attractive to onlookers or the elusive "prince" we so earnestly long for.
For those just coming across this blog, I've been single since I broke up with someone after an incredibly fun but incredibly shallow two-year situationship
. So I'm not preaching from high up on a hill of coupled up smugness, I'm speaking the words I am learning for myself. Years ago when I was fighting against the divorce my ex-husband was pushing for, I lost sight of God and started looking to my then husband for signs of the reconciliation I sought.
"I'm not preaching, I'm speaking the words I am learning for myself."
I remember clearly reading the story of Abraham and Sarah - the couple who were promised a son despite seeming impossibility. As they waited, it seemed so unlikely to happen in the way they had been told that they got another woman involved to give them a child instead. Read Genesis 16 to find out about all the fun that
caused. (Or just look at present day Israel tbh). After reading that, my prayer was specifically that I would not "birth an Ishamel while waiting for my Isaac". This was a powerful prayer and I believe God heard and honoured it. And this
is how God showed me that I needed to keep my eyes fixed on Him. So I did. In the last four years since the separation and divorce, I have travelled all over the world, VIP'd my way through two incredible live music festivals, met some amazing people, thrown hugely memorable parties, dinner parties and events, learned to ski during a ski season, learned to surf on a "surfday party" weekend, raised money doing a sky dive, attended the Queen's Garden Party, bought and worn some amazing clothes, developed my seriously expensive lingerie habit and laughed: a lot
I believe my wait is coming to an end now but looking back, even though there were plenty of "down days", I don't see it as a "wait". I see how much I have grown and enjoyed life during this season. After losing my husband through divorce and my daughter through early death, I was truly broken so it never fails to amaze me that I continue to live and laugh so much when those life experiences are part of my recent past. But honestly, I attribute it all to God. To the Father who called me to Himself and taught me to call Him by that name: Father, Jehovah Jireh (Provider), God.
"my prayer was specifically that I would not birth an Ishamel while waiting for my Isaac"
There have been many times where I didn't understand why what I was seeing was not what I felt God tell/show me. I would hear His words whispered to my heart and look around for the "evidence" but I would see nothing to suggest that I had heard correctly. This was hard and I am still navigating this today but the lack of "evidence" is the lie of the enemy. It is the lie that what you see is all that there is. But my prayer for anyone reading is that you don't fall for it. Keep moving and keep your eyes on Him!
"I pray that God, the source of all hope, will fill me completely with joy and peace because I trust in Him. Then I will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.