“Mommy, I’m hearing voices,” my youngest daughter told us when we lived overseas. “They’re telling me to do bad things like kick my brother and disobey you. They’re waking me up at night and scaring me.”
We’d recognized her belligerence, but we chalked it up to culture shock and navigating a foreign school system. My husband, Patrick, had been under spiritual attack since the moment we moved to France, so in some ways we weren’t surprised. But we didn’t expect voices.
So we prayed for our daughter. She was the only one in our family who didn’t yet know Jesus. We told her about Him again, how He’s bigger than those voices, but she wasn’t ready to surrender to Him. Though you may not face such an overt attack on your family, the truth is that spiritual warfare exists. We have a very real enemy, Satan, who wants nothing more than to destroy our lives, our thoughts, our walks with Jesus (John 10:10). He, along with his hoard of demons, roams the earth, seeking ways to wreak havoc on God’s kingdom (1 Peter 5:8). Unfortunately, we tend to live in two extremes: as though Satan doesn’t exist or as though he’s bigger than God. Neither is correct. Satan does exist. He’s a created being who used to experience the paradise of God. For one defining moment, he averted his eyes from God’s glory and rejoiced in his own (Ezekiel 28:12-15). In that, he rebelled, deceiving a third of the angels in heaven (Revelation 12:4). And he’s waged war ever since. God sent His Son for a specific purpose. Consider: “The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works” (1 John 3:8). And destroy, He did. Every encounter Jesus had with demons ended in a victory for God. And on the cross, He dealt the final blow – Jesus died for the very sin Satan incited in the Garden of Eden. With that as a backdrop, we don’t need to fear. We serve a conquering, powerful God who has destroyed Satan’s work. Because of the cross and the amazing resurrection, we have power to defeat the enemy’s ploys.
But how? What are some practical things we can do right now when we feel attacked?
Our first response to spiritual attack shouldn’t be panic, but prayer. In our own strength, we can’t fight. But when we ask God for help and seek His power, then we experience victory. After our daughter heard voices, Patrick and I prayed – for her, with her, about her. We sent a mass email to our prayer team, asking them to intercede for our daughter. During the middle of this ordeal, Patrick and I had to leave to go to a leadership summit. Two moms and a daughter from our church in Texas graciously came to watch our children. We let them know what was going on with our youngest, and they also prayed for her.
Speak and believe truth
Jesus personifies truth. “I am the truth,” He said (John 14:6). But Satan is a big, fat liar. Jesus said this about him: “He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars” (John 8:44). Satan’s native tongue is deceit. So one of the best ways to combat his untruth is to surround ourselves, our families, and our minds with truth.
Patrick and I shared the truth about Jesus with our daughter. Others did, too. And we reminded ourselves that our battle wasn’t against her behavior, but against the evil forces in the world. Paul reminds us, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12). When our daughter struggled, we assured her that Jesus would defeat those voices if she gave her heart to Him.
Choose not to fear
The natural reaction to a spiritual attack is first fear, then worry. If we stay in that place of panic, we forget to do the first two actions: pray and speak the truth. And if we camp in fear’s tent, we shrink back from the joy and power Jesus wants to give us in the midst of the battle. Ultimately, this comes down to a question of God’s bigness. Do we believe God is bigger than our worry? Than Satan’s attack? Than the fears that keep us up at night? We have a choice to give into fearful thinking or surrender it to God. Of course, we initially feared and freaked out a bit when our daughter confessed her battle to us. It took moxie to choose to lay that fear at Jesus’ feet. A VeggieTales song has it right: God is bigger than the boogey man. If you’re facing a battle where fear rages, consider this exercise in relinquishment:
Jesus, I’m afraid. Please help me to hand my fear over to You. Give me Your perspective in this situation. Forgive me for running first to fear and not to You. Please rescue us from this situation. Enlarge my faith. I choose to rest my fear in Your capable arms, and I promise, with the strength You provide, not to snatch it back.
Let go of control
When we encounter a spiritual battle, we tend to want to make everything right in our own strength. We want the battle to stop, so we try to fix the situation or make a person behave a certain way. Unfortunately, we can’t control others. We can’t micromanage difficult situations. We can’t orchestrate outcomes. We are not God.
And that’s the crux. God is bigger than the situation. He’s the Sovereign One who runs the universe without our help. The fact that we sleep every night, and the world keeps running sans us, testifies to this.
When our daughter heard voices, we realized how little control we had. We couldn’t make her become a Christian, though we shared Jesus with her. Patrick and I had to entrust her to Jesus, knowing that He loves her more than we do, and He was quite aware of the situation. Giving up control isn’t something that comes naturally to us, but it was the only thing we could do to find peace.
Watch God work
God is always at work, something author Henry Blackaby reminds us in his book Experiencing God. The amazing thing about God is that He’s creative and doesn’t always achieve His ends in ways we would anticipate. His ways are mysterious. If we live in light of this, we’ll live with holy expectation of the adventure He will bring. We must have faith enough to believe in God’s unpredictable creativity.
When Patrick and I left our children and attended the leadership summit, we received a phone call from our daughter. She left this message: “Daddy, Mommy, I just wanted to let you know that I became a Christian.”
At home, we heard the story. The 12-year-old daughter of one of the moms shared the gospel again with our daughter and asked if she wanted to follow Jesus. This time, our daughter did. Still worried about those voices when I later talked to her, I asked, “Are you still hearing those voices?”
“No, I’m hearing one voice, and He’s telling me to make wise choices,” she replied.
I sighed in relief. “That’s the Holy Spirit,” I told her, marveling at the way God worked. He brought a preteen halfway around the world to France to share Jesus with my daughter, who had been tormented by evil voices. And He delivered her without Patrick and me being there. Spiritual warfare exists. Just look around this crazy world for evidence. But we don’t need to fret and wring our hands, even if it’s our loved ones in the middle of the mire. Remember, we can pray. Remind ourselves of the truth. Refuse to let fear have its way. Relinquish control and rest in God’s creative work. Our daughter gave me permission to share her story. By God’s grace, she doesn’t remember hearing those voices. But she does remember her baptism – which her daddy had the privilege of performing in the Mediterranean Sea.
Who God Is
If Satan can get you to believe God is punishing, demanding, harsh, and altogether an abusive grump, he wins. Sure, you still believe statements that God is love, that He created everything, and that He sent His Son to die because of His love for us. But when hard times come, do you see Him as sad for your pain in the struggle, tenderly holding you in His arms, weeping with you as He wept for Lazarus’ siblings, red up over the poison sin leaks over the world? Or do you see Him as a distant observer, telling you that this horrible ordeal is making you more Christlike, so toughen up?
You may have the right theology in your head (God is good and loving), but your heart may dread His notice in your life. If so, ood your mind and heart with truth:
“Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion.” – Isaiah 30:18
“He protects His ock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.” – Isaiah 40:11
“So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was lled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20
“The LORD is good to everyone; His compassion rests on all He has made.” – Psalm 145:9