My good friend, Vicki, spoke one morning. She has been a dear friend of mine for nine years and has always been a constant source of encouragement. Vicki was speaking about going to battle as a warrior woman for Christ. She gave some very simple ways that we can put on our armor, fight for Him and defeat our enemy. The thing that got me was when she asked the question, "Who is our enemy?" Being in the church since I was little, of course I knew the answer was Satan. But she proposed something that I wasn't prepared for.
My entire life, I have cared way too much about what others have thought about me. I have always had a great desire to please everyone and disappoint no one. This desire has been one of my main causes of stress, anxiety and poor-decision making in the past. It is something that has held me in "chains" for a long time.
Several years ago, God began to do a good work in me and He really convicted me of how sinful I was in putting other people's desires before His. Slowly but surely, others' opinions of me and the things I felt God was calling me to do, faded to the background and I started caring only about what my Creator thought. It was very liberating. And it was easier to obey and make the hard decisions God was asking me to make.
I thought all of that was behind me until we decided to start Hope House. Then, there were a lot more people who disapproved of me and the decisions our family was making. There were people who were kind and supportive to our faces and then spoke harsh words behind our back. There were people who expressed their excitement for this next chapter and then gossiped about our inabilities to others. ALL of my insecurities came rushing back. Were we making the right decision? Were we prepared to take this on? Were we capable of doing this? Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever been knocked over and blind-sided by something that you thought was gone and healed?
As I sat there in Vicki's talk, I started to cry. Not because I was doubting the road God called us on or our abilities to accomplish this task but because God revealed exactly what "chain" had been weighing me down.
God was faithful in healing my sinful desire of putting other people's opinion above His own but in the process I allowed myself to become bitter toward those people. I hadn't forgiven them. I hadn't loved them unconditionally. I was essentially doing the same type of hurtful stuff by being kind to their faces and being bitter toward them when I was alone.
Vicki said something that changed everything. When she asked the question, "Who is our enemy?" The correct answer is Satan but she proposed that we, in reality, make each other our enemies. And that is Satan's most powerful weapon for us (especially women) in this war...distract us from our real enemy by fighting with each other.
When I was mulling all of this over, Jesus brought a passage to my attention.
"Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.' And he broke down and wept." -Mark 14:72Peter was one of Jesus' best friends. Peter would have laid down his life for Jesus. He loved Jesus with every fiber of his being. So much so, that he left every thing and everyone he had ever known to follow Him. But in Jesus' hour of need, Peter didn't stand by Him. He didn't fight for Him. He didn't even try and stop what was happening to Him. He denied even knowing Him. Not once, not twice, but three times.
But here is the real kicker: just because Peter denied Jesus and abandoned Him didn't mean he loved Jesus any less. In a tough situation, Peter's flesh won. He was in self-preservation mode. He wasn't thinking about the end game or the real battle. He made a selfish decision in the heat of the moment. You bet, if he had it to do all over again he would have done it differently.
And what's really important is how Jesus responded. Jesus didn't disown Peter. He didn't give him the silent treatment. He didn't bash Peter to the other disciples. He simply loved him. And kept on loving Him. And it was because he loved Him that He hung on a cross.
I am certainly not Jesus. But I do have friends, family and supporters that I love (and who love me), that have hurt me very deeply in the past. And instead of following Jesus' example and recognizing that the Enemy often uses those closest to us to try and distract us from the real battle - I chose bitterness.
Friends, we are not each others' enemy.
"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." -Ephesians 6:12If you have been hurt by someone you love, always remember that they are human and fighting their own battles of jealousy, envy, discouragement, grief and disappointment. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Listen closer to His voice than to the distracting ones around you. So that when the rooster crows and your loved ones deny you and run - rather than strapping on armor to fight the battle with you - your focus can be on the real Enemy and the victory will be yours.