There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. –C.S. Lewis, scholar and author
Remember what the Amalekites did to you on the journey after you left Egypt. They met you along the way and attacked all your stragglers from behind when you were tired and weary. They did not fear God. Deuteronomy 25:17-18 (HCSB)
God is not the author of all wilderness experiences. Yes, He frequently calls us away from the crowds to spend one-on-one time with Him, but those aren’t intended to be periods of loneliness and isolation. Other people may give us grief, but no one created in the image of God is truly a foe. Understanding such things is critical because, just as the Amalekites attacked the vulnerable Israelite stragglers, our spiritual enemies habitually use the wilderness to separate and destroy the people of God.
The Dangers of Isolation
The natural world provides us with some clear illustrations of this principle. How does the lion kill the wildebeest? Isolation! African wildebeest are dangerous in a herd, working closely together for safety and strength. Rather than risk personal injury, lions will painstakingly separate a lone individual from the safety of its herd. Most of us have seen the wildlife documentaries in which an unfortunate creature is pulled to the ground and ravenously devoured.
Isn’t it interesting that when we are struggling, our natural tendency is to run from God, separate ourselves from His people, and wallow in isolation? Our hearts fill with a sense of inadequacy, often resulting in bitter judgments toward those who fellow servants of Christ. The last thing we want is for other people to catch even a glimpse of our struggles, making us especially vulnerable to deceptive tactics. Do we really think that such feelings and thoughts are without demonic influence?
C.S. Lewis knew what he was talking about. To focus on Satan and other demonic spirits is downright dangerous, but to completely ignore them is nothing short of foolish. Winning a war is next to impossible when one’s enemies are not clearly defined.
The powers of darkness will use whatever means possible to bring people down. In what some call “primitive cultures,” they tend to rule by force and intimidation, controlling people through the power of fear. In more “civilized” environments, deceptive stealth becomes the primary tactic; those demons (our spiritual enemies) will do everything possible to conceal their existence. Either approach generally involves trying to isolate us.
I find it sad and ironic that many of us are so adversely affected by Satan’s deceitful schemes. Possessing no real power over the people of God, he instead employs clever tactics and mind games to compel us to destroy ourselves—and one another. Those mind games work best when meaningful communication is lacking. Victory, however, is ours if only we will reach out and lay hold of it. The ability to recognize and disarm demonic tactics is vital for both healthy spiritual living and effective ministry.
Always, always, always, we must learn to run to God and never away, regardless of how many times we fail or how intense our struggles feel. Just as Jesus utilized the Scriptures during His forty-day fast to defeat the devil’s tactics, so we too must learn to rightly understand and employ the Word of God. Also vital are deliberate and persistent efforts to emotionally connect with others whenever possible. Lovingly supporting, strengthening, and even challenging one another have always been integral to God’s plan for the well-being of His people.
Don’t marvel that our spiritual enemies (demons) are so angry and cruel. They’re frustrated and fearful, fully aware of the impending doom ever looming over their heads (Matthew 8:29). In the wilderness, we will never fail to encounter these wild beasts who seek to rob and destroy all that is good. Still, there is no balance of power between good and evil. By pursuing truth, abiding in grace, and connecting with God’s people we can—and will—defeat their every dark scheme!
This post is drawn from Chapter Thirty-Four of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers