With Christ as my horizon and hope, my perspective has changed. With my eyes fixed on Him I gain the perspective and hope I need to live a life marked by joy and purpose. As I look to Him I began to see the big picture, to know where I am headed and to be drawn inexorably in that direction. Each step toward that goal reinforces my hope and increases my joy. As I've raised my horizons my day-to-day emotional life has stabilized. My soul is quieted and peace now plays a dominant role in my heart and in my relationships. Nevertheless, all this hope and joy is not a guarantee against future emotional trauma.
The steps I've taken in this series have been the steps of toddlers just learning to walk. They are groundbreaking and essential to further progress, but they are baby steps. Like the parent of a child who has just learned to walk, God is happy with this progress, but He is not pleased to see His children toddle forever. We must learn to walk, to run, and to plant our feet firmly enough to withstand violent attacks against our souls.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Eph. 6:10-12In my earlier years I traveled in circles which gave the devil too much credit, almost as if he were on the par with God - the dark side of "the Force". In later years, perhaps in reaction to that, I found myself traveling in circles which closeted the devil behind the doors of God's providence and sovereignty and thus, in essence, disregarded him altogether. This, too, is a mistake. It is with good reason that the apostle Peter warns us to:
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." 1 Peter 5:8-9Since I've lifted up my eyes and begun following hard after Christ, I've found my faith tested and violently shaken in ways I could have never expected or predicted. I've learned the hard truth that when you look up and out, when you set your sights on the horizon of God's glorious kingdom, Satan looks up as well and takes notice.
Our soul has an adversary looking for any opportunity to destroy us. He will use any weapon at his disposal against us and will seek to exploit our every weakness. He will use our thoughts to beat us down and make us useless in the battle, and he will use our actions so that we discredit ourselves in the eyes of others. And so we cannot afford to forget, even for a moment, that we are not here on our own business. We must be vigilant and sober-minded, (this means exercising control over our minds, which are the battlefields of our souls) ambassadors for Christ, his emissaries carrying a message of peace in an enemy territory.
"Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints..." Eph. 6:14-18The bad news is, the battle for emotional stability, though it ebbs and flows, will never end in this life. The good news is that God, by His grace, has given us all the equipment we need to persevere to the end. It is, however, up to us to engage in the fight.
* This is a heavily re-written version of an entry I posted a few months ago. After a serious and unexpected spiritual battle (an episode of acute anxiety) I revisited it and did not care for it's tone. It seemed to imply that if you have your sights set on Christ your emotional battles are over, when the truth is we have only just begun to fight.