We are told to resist and withstand this enemy with a firm faith. The Amplified Bible explains the qualities we need to be firm in faith: rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined (verse 9 of I Peter 5).
Now remember when you read that grand list of fine qualities that you are not expected to be this person without God. When reading this verse, pray with me, “God, I ask you to make me a woman of faith. I cannot do this for myself. Please help me to become rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined in you.”
Yes and amen. Here we are, determined to guard our hearts but fully aware that we live in a fallen world that attacks us all day long. The enemy has designed unique wounding for each of us since we were conceived, and unfortunately these wounds create sources of pain in our lives that seem to fight against the promises of God.
We want a strong faith emboldened by the Word of God to become a rock under our feet, but there are broken, painful conditions of the heart that directly diminish our faith and make it difficult to hope for confidence and freedom.
In my video at the beginning of the week we looked at a common trap for our hearts — when we experience pain, we are driven to seek pleasure to soothe that pain. God created us to desire intimacy and comfort from Him (John 14:26), but unfortunately it can seem more immediately comforting to seek counterfeit affections to soothe our pain.
A counterfeit affection is basically anything besides God that we run to for relief which can include eating, drinking, shopping, entertainment, intimacy, daydreaming, working, playing, you name it!
None of these activities in itself is inherently flawed, but when we turn to them instead of to God and use them as a way to cope with pain, they entrap us. For some of us, they can become addictions.
What does this look like in real life? A few years ago, I was fasting from some luxuries during the season of Lent, and on the first day, I had a surprising encounter with a counterfeit affection. It was afternoon and my young children were driving me crazy. The desperate thought popped into my head, “All I need is a cup of tea.” And then I realized with horror that I was fasting from tea.
“Oh, my goodness, what am I going to do without a cup of tea?!”
Enter a new and revolutionary idea, “I guess if I cannot soothe my rattled nerves and exhausted body with a cup of tea, I’m going to have to ask God to comfort and energize me.” So I did. And it worked. Better than expected.
Day after day, I could have turned to that cup of tea, never realizing that what I truly needed was Holy Spirit. I wish that I could tell you that I was free of counterfeit affections, that I turn willingly and completely to God every time I feel a twinge of pain, exhaustion, fear, despair, self-pity, or sorrow. I do not. I still struggle.
One of the hidden traps of counterfeit affections is that they always have strings attached; they erode our self-control. The first step toward freedom is to recognize them, to know where to go for relief, and to discover that Father is a faithful comforter who relieves our pain with unconditional love.
I would be remiss if I did not touch on one other common trap that lowers the guard gates of our hearts. When I was reading the passage in I Peter about the enemy seeking to devour us, I noticed that if you jump back one verse, Peter recommends an important pre-condition that must exist in our hearts in order to stand firm in faith: “Cast the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” I Peter 5:7 (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition, AMCE)
Anxiety and fear are huge topics that I will not be able to delve into fully here. Instead, I wish simply to acknowledge that fear drives a wedge between us and our faith.
It sabotages our confidence in God. How can we trust in Father when we are afraid that He may not come through for us? Anxiety is rampant in our society today, and it grieves me to see how it robs us of life and freedom.
If you are suffering from debilitating fears of any kind, I pray that God will reveal to you how much he affectionately and watchfully cares for you and your family. I pray that his love will fill up your whole heart, leaving no room for fear to occupy the deepest parts of your being (I John 4:18). I cover you with God’s shield of faith so that you are buffered from the arrows of condemnation and shame as you pursue your healing (Ephesians 6:16). It may take time and many sources of help, but God does have an abundant life in store for you.