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Resisting the Devil

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Question:  Shortly after accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I experienced Satan pulling me into depression and thoughts of suicide. On the other hand, it seems that for most every other believer I know, there was a smooth transition. Why would I be such a target for the devil so soon after salvation, especially since I posed no threat to the evil one?

Response: It's hard for me to answer this question specifically. The Bible doesn't have much specific to say about this subject for obvious reasons (please see the link:  "Satan's World System"). You knew, no doubt from the Spirit, that making the decision to "go home early" was not an option, and you hung in there in spite of the pressure. This is not the first time I have had such a question posed (see the links: "Despairing of life" and "Suicide, Good Works, and Salvation"). Rather than being unique, my suspicion is that very many Christians likewise come to the place at least at some point in their lives when they have absolutely "had it" and so contemplate such things. Paul did (2Cor.1:8). Job did (esp. Job 3). Jeremiah did (Jer.15:10). Elijah did (1Ki.19:4). I suppose that puts all of us who have every "had enough" into some pretty fine company. And I am not at all certain that the realization that this life is meaningless and we are better off dead is a completely terrible place to be - as long as one comes to the next realization as well, namely, that we are here for Jesus Christ. We serve at our Master's pleasure and we have our marching orders to take up our cross and follow Him to whatever Calvary He has in store for us, to fight and struggle and bleed and, if so be that the will of God wills it, to lose everything for Him - possibly even our lives. So the pressure and the despair and the external assault of which you speak is not, I believe, an uncommon Christian experience. Indeed, I would think that for those of us who are truly committed to Jesus and the calling He has for us that it is a hard thing to avoid. For those who are advancing are the ones on whom the devil picks. God allows this, to a degree, for His own glory, for our growth, and to demonstrate to all that some do choose to stay faithful to Him even in the midst of uncommon pressure.

It is a phenomenon that I would imagine all experienced Christians know to be true that just on the other side of despair and depression is joy and exaltation - the moment we seek encouragement in the Lord and remember that this is not about us but about Him, and that He has not abandoned us but is with us even more presently in trouble than in peace. The devil tries to get us to evaluate desperate circumstances by what we see with our eyes, and that is precisely the time we are forced to either give in to such a false perspective or instead begin to see with our faith instead. In my experience and observation, the Lord always helps us out with a "hint" or two if we are in danger of failing such tests, like the way He encouraged Paul with the Galatians' responsiveness (Gal.4:13-15), personally rebuked then blessed Job (Job 41-43), gave Elijah one-on-one instruction (1Ki.19:9-18), and led Jeremiah to repentance (Jer.15:19-21).

So to my view, being hammered by the world and the ruler of this world to the point where we despair of life is a natural thing for those of us who have chosen to look at the world through the lens of truth and see that there is nothing here worthwhile apart from God. When we experience severe pressure on top of this correct mind-set, it is very easy for us, perhaps the most natural thing, to want to be free of this world entirely. It is at such times, when we are emotionally at our weakest, that the strength and power of God takes over: it is only when we are truly weak that we can fully experience God's strength (2Cor.12:7-10). In the early going of the Christian life, He may need to give us more "hints" on how to respond (e.g., through the intervention of fellow Christians, to name but one possibility), but with the coming of maturity, "battle experience" in this conflict in which we are engaged, we learn to encourage ourselves in Him right from the start of such assaults, remembering why we are here and whom we are here for. When we do, the fact that this world is nothing apart from the role we play in the Lord's plan is actually an incredible source of strength into which we learn to tap. We have learned not to love the world but to hate it and to hate our lives in it, for we have been crucified to it and it to us. That is the point at which we begin to experience the joy of Him and His truth to the full.

Unlike the rest of the world which is entirely engaged in pointless vanity (cf. Eccl.2:20), we believers know of a certainty that everything we do for Jesus Christ will live forever, that He is keeping our deposit secure for us in heaven, and that the day of reunion with Him will come soon enough, when and how He wills it. For all of us who have already lost our lives and so gained them, for us, living is Jesus Christ, and dying is gain. Therefore we have the courage and the grace and the confidence to soldier on, even and especially when we are at our weakest point, because we have learned to trust in Him.

Therefore let all those who are suffering according to the will of God entrust their lives (while doing what is good) to a Creator who is faithful. 1st Peter 4:19

And to get to the gist of your question after all this - speculatively of course - perhaps the reason you experienced this so early in your Christian life is that you were really serious about getting close to and serving Jesus Christ - making you a true threat to the devil indeed, but at the same time putting you on the fast track to spiritual growth and a closer relationship to our Lord. I am happy to see and to say that the Lord helped you through. He was and is preparing you. I am also pleased to see you continue to respond to His work, and hope to continue to follow your example.

In our all-wise, all-knowing, and all-merciful Lord Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

 


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