Curate Philippa Cook explains that the struggles we face in the day-to-day are often not just earthly.
Have you ever had that experience when you’re heading into a really important or busy season, and all of a sudden everything just seems to go ever so slightly (or sometimes catastrophically) wrong? The autumn term is an important time for lots of us. It’s often a time of renewed routines, new uniforms, and along with it a new sense of resolve. Perhaps you’re excited to have a little more time to read your Bible and to pray, to start that healthy eating program after a summer of BBQs, or to get organised at work.
There’s very little that excites me more than the prospect of a new notebook and a chance to shake up the routine a bit, so this autumn was no different. Sadly, all of my determination was brought crashing down due to an outbreak of impetigo in our household. With the arrival of every painful skin sore, on both of my children and myself (thankfully not my husband who is already suffering with a broken finger), I felt the energy and enthusiasm for a new academic year ebbing away.
The battles we face in our lives, big and small, are not simply earthly.
As people who aim to have our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, it’s incredible how easily they can instead become downcast into our own situations, distracted by not only the practical tasks (in my case endless GP trips, applying creams and administering disgusting-tasting antibiotics) but also the mental drain that comes with these unexpected challenges.
In Ephesians, Paul reminds the Church that: "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 6:12. The battles we face in our lives, big and small, are not simply earthly. There is a spiritual element too, and wouldn’t it be just like the enemy to try to discourage and distract us with situations that cause us irritation, tiredness and negativity.
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When challenges in our lives arise- especially these small ones which seem to have a big impact, it is also easy to believe the lie we tell ourselves that it’s probably too insignificant to bother asking for prayer or support from others. Paul warns the Church that we must expect these attacks, and learn to protect ourselves from them. Later in Ephesians 6 he uses the image of armour - clothing ourselves in Christ that we might both protect ourselves from attack (with the shield of faith!) and also strike out with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.
I don’t want to give the enemy space to distract me from learning each day to be a little bit more like Christ.
I have been spending these last few weeks trying my best to dig my heels in and insist on asking others to pray for us, making time to be in the word and private prayer, and still making use of my new notebook! I have failed lots, but I don’t want to give the enemy space in my life to distract me from the main thing which is to learn each day to be a little bit more like Christ.
Spiritual attack is certainly not something to fear or to get superstitious about, but at the same time when we acknowledge the reality of an enemy in our lives it can help us to remember to keep turning back to Jesus, who has already won the victory over evil and death, the one who came not to steal and destroy as the enemy does, but to give us abundant life (John 10:1).