Satan has a few favorite lies he likes to tell me, because he knows they will work. They are especially successful at grabbing hold of my mind when I am physically diminished. And they are frustratingly hard for me to fight, particularly because they are so familiar. They start out as quiet little whispers inside my thoughts and grow until they are louder than most of the reality around me:
You are small. You are worthless. You are ugly. You are damaged. Your losses are too great for you to recover. Who are you now that they've chipped away more of your body and your identity?
My frustration over these lies is multi-faceted. I hate how self-focused they are. I despise the inward direction, because they distract me from the wonderful people right in front of me. They create in me a sort-of twisted vanity, because I am thinking of myself (albeit unkindly) more than I am thinking of others, therefore making it much less likely that I will reach out to someone when they need it. I also hate that their familiarity doesn't immediately help me recognize their falsehood. Shouldn't I be able to disregard them immediately since I've battled them so many times before? There are times when I am better at the fight. When I am reading scripture, communing with other believers, and spending my time in service to others and God, I truly am less likely to even hear the lies much less believe them. But when I am, say, recovering from surgery and my contribution to society consists of taking pain meds and resting a lot, the lies find their home in my heart rather easily.
Fortunately, I am not alone in this battle. While I wish I was quicker to remember this each time, the Holy Spirit's presence in my soul does help me to recognize these lies for what they are. In fact, over the past two years, I believe he has given me some reliable weapons against them.
I use the weapon of gratitude to combat self-pity. When I feel broken or crushed by my losses, I count my blessings. This sounds cliche', but it is vital to not slipping into despair. My husband, my boys, my family, my friends, my students, my salvation, my health, my passions, my love of nature and books and food and movies all far outweigh any of my complaints. And even if all of my list disappeared (which I cannot even fathom), I know that my salvation from eternal death and promise of eternal life would still be enough to cause me to praise God. For even after Paul lost EVERYTHING, he said, "to live is Christ, to die is gain" (Phil. 1.21).
I use the weapons of joy and truth to combat insecurity and self-doubt. The truth is that even on my darkest days, God gives me at least one moment when my heart overflows with joy. When I woke up from this last surgery, I was in intense pain. The nurses were working hard to find the right combo of pain meds to give me relief, and Ryan was holding my hand and trying to distract me. It wasn't until around 2:00am the next morning that I started to feel a break from the pain, but during those long hours, I had to keep telling Ryan to stop making me laugh because it hurt. My sweet husband's sense of humor has given every trial we've been through a level of light-heartedness that has often baffled the medical professionals around us. In those hours before I felt relief, this filled me with joy and reminded me that joy is God's gift to me because he loves me. How can I doubt myself when the God of the universe gives me such beautiful gifts during storms of pain?
And the truth I have been using to fight my insecurity is fairly new. As I stand in front of the mirror and examine my new and very intense scars, I have stopped seeing my body as mangled. Instead, I see the map of survival. My body has made it through NINE surgeries these last two years! That is so impressive. God has brought me back to health NINE times! So even though I have been discouraged by how slow this new recovery has gone, I can see the proof in my older scars that I will heal. And how can I not see the beauty in my body, when every gash is a testimony to God's healing? Even my not-flat-enough stomach is evidence that God has blessed me with the ability to carry three boys into this world. I have started to see the strength represented in each stitch and stretch instead of the "damage."
Finally, I use the weapon of what the Bible says about who God is to combat all the other lies. The truth is, the first lie is not a lie at all. I really am small. When Job finally gives into his friends and asks God why all of this turmoil has befallen him, God doesn't really answer his question. Instead, God gives Job a glimpse of His power and workings in the universe (Job 39-41 are a truly awe-inpsiring read). Job answers, "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted...Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42:2-3). I am really small in the big picture of God's power and his plan for the universe, but I have gotten to benefit from the most beautiful part of his plan: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). While I am small, I am not worthless. In fact, God deemed that I was worth Jesus' life.
In light of Satan's most recent attack on my heart, I have realized a new weapon: preparedness. I know that Satan is going to come for me when I am weak and tired, and so I can prepare myself with scripture, communing with fellow believers, and spending my time in service to others and God. I can ask forgiveness for not clinging to gratitude, joy, truth, and what the Bible says about God at the first hint of these lies and move forward in the light of those gifts from the God who loves me and would never lie to me.
May God protect you from the lies that easily find their way in your heart. May you cling to gratitude, joy, truth, and scripture. And may you see yourselves as beautiful, vitally important children of God.