Life challenges or attacks by the enemy?

Just looking for input from others on how to discern between regular challenges (that result from the fact that we are broken people living in a broken world) and wrenches thrown by the enemy. Is it even necessary to know when we are being attacked as opposed to simply experiencing life in this fallen world? I suspect it is not necessarily one or the other and can probably be both at the same time.

I’m curious whether anyone else out there has had this same query from time to time and what you may have learned as a result.

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I am commenting in part because I, too, am interested in what others have to say on this topic. This is certainly an area in which I need to grow.

One metric I typically use to rule out spiritual warfare is the normalcy of the occurrence. Is it a logical consequence of the actions I have taken? That would usually mean it is simply the results of something which I have done. If it is unusual, in timing or intensity, that is when I begin to wonder if it might be something more.

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@tpauls8 My view on this question has changed over time. When I was younger in my spiritual walk, I tried to connect the dots of my life to create a cohesive picture and understand the agency in each event I experienced. As I got older, I realized that I was not very good at connecting the dots :slight_smile:

Now, I don’t focus as much on understanding why a particular event happen or what caused it - unless of course it was directly my fault or another individual’s - I don’t try to explain good coincidences (which statistically are more common than we think) by appealing to God or bad coincidences (strings of unfortunate events) by pointing to evil forces.

Instead, I focus on my nearness to God Himself. Do I have the joy of the Spirit in my heart? Am I walking with songs to God on my lips? If not - why not? While I have discovered there to be multiple causes - occasional dry seasons that might be classified as times of testing (though in my experience these are not long if I seek God actively), possibly a wrong attitude on my part or some other hindrance of my own creation, maybe physical suffering that can make it hard to sense God’s presence - if there is just a wall of darkness there - an emotional barrier to God - then I consider myself under oppression. And I worship and pray and seek God until that lifts.

Does any of that resonate with your own experience???

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Thank you both for your responses. There is wisdom in what you say. @Joshua_Hansen, normalcy of the occurrence is a good metric. Thank you for pointing this out. @SeanO, much of what you wrote resonates with me. I, too, find myself changing in the way I view things as I mature in my spiritual walk. But, what you wrote about the heart posture towards God is what really spoke to me:

I know that being right with God is really what matters (this assumes being right with our neighbor as well :slight_smile:) Part of me felt guilty even posting this question. What does it matter whether it is the enemy or simply circumstance - the answer will be the same: worship and praise God! However, another part of me thinks that it may be wise to know when the enemy is attacking us so that we are not surprised and thrown off our game. Knowing agency can also act as a warning and prompt us to pray for protection as well as to verbally cast out the enemy as the need arises.

The circumstances prompting these musings involved 3 incidents where I felt personally attacked by individuals within my church. I can never recall this happening before. I generally have great relationships with most people within my church. These incidents happened over a span of 2 -3 weeks and were unrelated to each other. I have been making an effort to manage myself in a way that is a good reflection of Jesus in my daily interactions (e.g. accepting my share of responsibility for misunderstandings, being present for the youth I mentor, seeking God’s guidance in leading the youth and most importantly spending more consistent time with God). The first two instances I felt that I was able to handle lovingly and I had no qualms about being right with God. The 3rd instance left me feeling battered and bruised. After reflection, time in the Word and prayer, I started to realize that, although I may have made an honest mistake, I was not actually at fault for much of what this person had accused me of and that I needed to lay my relationship with this person before the Lord and seek to forgive them. The timing and nature of these incidents just made me wonder.

Thanks for listening to my musings and offering these thoughtful responses. They are helping me to process. :slight_smile:

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@tpauls8. I continue to remind myself to not fight battles the Lord has already won. I believe that occurred at Calvary. What that assures me; is that the difficulty of living is foremost an attack upon my physical body. It is the connection to this world.

My physical comfort can distract me from the true battle. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high places. So this world is itself a distraction in my journey to the next one.

However, the sacrifice on the cross mandates victory in all circumstances. And the walk with JESUS guarantees that even the discomfort works together for my good. Only GOD takes attacks and renders beauty from ashes. When I trust Him, that’s a win-win situation. A battle already won.

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@tpauls8 May the Lord grant you wisdom in engaging with these folks and protect you from the spiritual forces of evil :slight_smile: You have always shown tremendous graciousness on Connect, so I trust you are doing the same in real life. Regardless of agency, I think it always makes sense to spend time in prayer before the Lord when we find ourselves in a difficult situation and to pray for protection, provision and wisdom.

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Hi Tara @tpauls8, Just dropping in to agree with @SeanO about the gracious posture you take here on Connect and really encourage you to hold that ground as you relate within these deeply challenging relational challenges.

I think you are right to suspect that the agency issue doesn’t parcel up neatly. I think an attentive reading of Romans 8:33-39 bears this out:

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is supernatural agency and powers listed here, as well as human agency… but also elements of creation, various natural circumstances, personal situations, etc. In short, whatever we encounter as an obstacle to our intimacy with (or devotion to) the Lord and to believing / receiving/ living into his love, truth, etc. is in for the same treatment: it is to be brought under the Lordship of the risen and victorious Christ.

So I think you have helped us get at some of the lived-out reality of these things through this thread. That is, we can pray for discernment about where our challenges are coming from, but at the end of the day, whatever confronts us, this this is where we make our stand: the everlasting love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Thanks for initiating this conversation and sharing your situation, Tara. I will be praying for you—that the security of being known and loved by Christ will undergird you as you persevere.

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I think that we both, have an Enemy (the Devil) and life presents us with challenges. One of my main points of focus over the years (in addition to staying in the Word) has been to keep my thoughts, words, decisions and actions as correct as possible. I like to view almost EVERYTHING as “seed”. In this context, I want to minimize to whatever extent that I can, “self-inflicted problems”. Most of the people that I encounter who feel overwhelmed or stressed out in life are not the people who have “bombs go off” in their life, it is those who make poor decisions that increase their circumstances to an unreasonable and unnecessary level. (I.E. Too much debt, too many lies, too much pointless arguing, etc, etc). If I am not planting bad seed then, when bad things happen, even though I don’t like it…at the very least I don’t end up adding condemnation to the mess because I am the cause of it. I am aware that I can never make 100% correct decisions but, doing the most and the best that I can to see that I do, increases my confidence when I pray for a solution or for help from God as well because I have a clear conscience. I have always felt more comfortable praying for “Help” when I don’t also have to pray for “forgiveness” first.

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Thank you both @SeanO and @Lizibeth for your encouraging words. I sincerely appreciate them.

And thank you all for your responses to my question. I have learned through this discussion the valuable truth that regardless of agency, circumstances, etc., the real question is “Am I submitting my entire life to Christ?” Thank you for the reminders :slight_smile: .

@SeanO, this is an important reminder:

@Lizibeth, I take great comfort and strength in what you wrote here:

Thank you for your prayers. I really felt the love of God through Christ, especially after that last encounter. In hindsight, after the wound has been allowed to heal, I really believe that these “incidents” were opportunities for me to grow closer to God. The first two, I felt like I was just managing the relationship challenges on my own, in obedience to Christ. It was the last incident which really woke me up, so to speak, and reminded me that I don’t have the ability, nor should I be trying to manage these challenges on my own - that it is Jesus who has the broad shoulders and that by yoking myself to Him, He will take the brunt of my burden. He is the one who knows and loves each of these individuals deeply, and only by taking these challenges to Him will I truly be able to love and forgive them.

It is certainly humbling to realize, yet again, that I have so much to learn :slight_smile:. Thanks all for helping me along in this particular learning experience, and God bless each and every one of you.

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