Paul, in Ephesians, talks about not giving the devil a foothold by going to bed angry. True, of course, but the idea of a foothold goes beyond that. I’ve noticed in recent months how easy it is for negativity to snowball in my mind or heart when I give the devil a foothold, so to speak.
Anytime I take my focus off of Christ and put it on myself, the world, or others, I start to slip like Peter in the ocean. Each sin not only injures my relationship with God at that moment, but also manages to give Satan a foothold with regards to the time after the sin. The devil uses it to tell me that if I sinned once in a certain area, I’m bound to do it again. I might as well just face it and give in, acknowledge my sin and give up. He uses it to cause guilt and condemnation and shame, none of which are in any way godly. I beat myself up over things for days, weeks, even years knowing how my disobedience to God has hurt him, unable in my human mind to forget the sins Christ has already forgotten and Satan has just begun to use against me.
My biggest struggle is anxiety. I once heard a powerful sermon that anxiety and fear are doubt in God that he’s capable of working things out. Henry Blackaby would say that my anxiety says more about my faith in God than about myself. If I was to be completely honest, I’d say it’s a pride issue. It’s faith in my own ability to get things done or work things out. God routinely checks me on this, and I’m thankful for the humility but only after I’m through the lesson. In fact, this is not at all my point in this post, but he’s used sickness and other unforeseen circumstances to show me again and again that our church is God’s church and not Rebecca’s church; our small group is God’s small group and not Rebecca’s small group; my life is now the life of someone with Christ living inside her, not Rebecca’s life. The church still functions even when I’m not around, the small group still functions when I’m not around, and as for my own life? It’s so much better when I focus a lot less on myself and a lot more on Christ.
But I digress.
Example time. Last week, I hadn’t done my quiet time first thing in the morning like I usually do because I had so many other things that I “needed” to get done first. Focus on the I. I realized it was just over a month until our wedding, and instead of being excited, I was overwhelmed. Like I mentioned in the previous post, I flat-out hate this mono crap because I spend a lot of time lying down, thinking about everything that needs to be done. So getting stuff done for the wedding, getting stuff moved in and settled and cleaned in our new house, and getting stuff done for work were all these foreboding clouds of doom I couldn’t get out from under. And it was the foothold issue again. As soon as I let anxiety about one very small thing–in this case trying to afford groceries for both the house I live in and the house I will live in next month–sneak into my mind, the devil shoved his foot in there, pried open the door of my mind, and took off running into my head. I ran one more errand and drove home, already in tears and only half-praying because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.
I sat down, pulled out my Bible and journal, and said, “Okay, God, let’s start this over. I can’t do all this.” And, without missing a beat, the Holy Spirit instantly brought to mind one of my recent memory verses, John 15:5: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
All of these things–wedding/marriage, house, work–are things God has given to me as gifts, as blessings. But when I took him out of the picture, or at least let him blur into the background, they were quickly becoming curses.
I often thank God repeatedly for my fiancé, knowing that (next to that whole free gift of salvation thing) he’s the greatest gift God has ever entrusted me with. We have kept God a prime focus since before the start of our relationship, both individually and as a couple, and his blessing is all over our relationship and our upcoming marriage. Same thing for our house. God blessed us with a house that is perfect for us, a house we love, and a house that worked out so flawlessly for us from the beginning that it could only be a supernatural gift. My job has always been, since Day One, God’s very specific plan for me at the moment, to both use me and grow me, to minister to me and through me. Each of these things, these huge blessings in my life, are all intended to glorify God AND to work together for MY good.
And of course I can’t do everything or anything to make these things thrive, to make weddings and houses and churches run successfully. Of course I can’t be effective for them, not apart from him.
I’d like to say that the past two weeks since the nice Holy Spirit wake-up call have been smooth, anxiety-free sailing. They haven’t, of course, but there’s always improvement. Gradual, baby steps, but improvement all the same. And when I do screw up, and I do allow the devil that foothold into my thoughts, I at least have ammo to respond to the lies he tells me and the lies I tell myself. Apart from Christ, I can do nothing. And to be honest, after knowing Christ the way I do, I don’t want to do anything apart from him.