Spiritual Warfare

I have been working on a number of large projects in recent months and none have gone smoothly.  Projects that, at the outset, seemed anointed by God were mired in personal and professional quagmires.  At the height of one of these instances, a brother-in-Christ revealed that he had just been feeling that he wasn’t much of a challenge for satan because satan had been leaving him alone for quite some time.  And the fact that present circumstances were filled with drama and upheaval seemed to indicate to this brother-in-Christ that NOW he was working well for God.  This man was jubilant at the difficulties because he longed to know he was a tool for God. 

The reason he shared was simple.

 If we are going about our business, not really working for God’s kingdom and not really being an instrument for God, we aren’t cause for satan’s attention.  He (satan) leaves us alone.  Like any good army commander, why would satan use his energies or forces upon us if we aren’t a threat.  Satan’s going to go after real threats to his evil work which would be those people working for God.  I can’t say I joined my brother-in-Christ in his elation for the problems we were experiencing but I can say that it made me take the notion of spiritual warfare much more seriously. 

His way of thinking also made me see the opposite as true, too.  Couldn’t spiritual warfare be those times in which we are not making conscious choices for God and thus become tools susceptible to satan’s handiwork?  As Catholics we acknowledge that our walk with Christ is a daily re-commitment.  We may have been blessed, at some point in time, with a “fall to our knees” experience, and while this event may have provided an impetus for us to regain footing in our walk and revitalize our efforts, we must, nonetheless, awaken every morning and make a conscious effort to give the day to God.  We ought to intentionally walk with Christ in all we say and do. 

So, couldn’t spiritual warfare be those times in our lives when we fall prey to the trappings of secularism?  These are the times when the ultimate liar feeds upon our weaknesses and we begin to believe that there are a limited number of blessings available from God or that a humble spirit will only make the strong take advantage of us.  We forget the absolute humility in which the Christ child was born into this world and quickly overlook the value of such truly noble traits.

Concupiscence is the teaching of the Catholic Church that the result of original sin, even while washed away in the waters of baptism, is an inclination towards sin or sinful behavior.  It is only with, and through, the graces of God that we, as fallen beings, are able to rally against the consequences of our own inherent natures and proclaim victory.  We were not created weak and imperfect but with a free will that allowed for our first parents to make their own decisions. It is with that same free will that we are now called to live in accordance with God and His teachings.  But in exercising our free will we tend to constantly find ourselves “wrestling” with issues, probably on a daily basis.  This is our spiritual warfare.

Thus, when we aren’t doing much wrestling, chances are we aren’t really working all that diligently for God’s kingdom.  Maybe we are passing on God-given opportunities to extend help to others or are too quick to engage in unkind conversations.  It might be in forgoing daily offerings of prayer and supplication in lieu of 25 minutes at the gym.  Whatever it is, it is easy for us to fall into a lull in our lives and eventually be of no threat at all to satan.  So, he forgets about us but, and much more importantly, we forget about him. 

If we don’t recognize the reality of sin we can’t claim the victory of the cross.  If we don’t recognize the different ways in which satan can take hold of us, we experience spiritual warfare.  Indeed, as our Church teaches, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or give this dark reality other names would be futile.  To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.  CCC #386

At this point, both interpretations of spiritual warfare are valid.  First, we are not a threat, and so satan ignores us. But when we become a threat, satan’s attention is focused on us and we experience problems.  Our plans are disrupted and our goals are challenged.  We aren’t able to achieve those things we felt God had called us to accomplish. 

Then, on the other hand, not actively living for God also makes us vulnerable to behaviors that build up evil in the world.  When we live as abject Catholics, embracing the truths of the world over the Truths of the Church, we are ripe for spiritual warfare.  To remedy this, when our eyes first open each morning, we ought to be making a conscious affirmation of our lives belonging to Christ and covered in His blood.  When we live consciously, we are able to see God’s graces more clearly and find the protection and strength we need, in them.  We aren’t fodder for evil.

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About the Author

Ms. Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic publisher, author, columnist, and speaker. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, contact her by email (link below) or call her at 248-917-3865. She is the author of the exciting new book Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide which focuses on the joy found in connecting with our past. Our Jewish Roots, along with other excellent Catholic books, is available through her website (link below). Cheryl has a Master’s Degree in Education and lives in the beautiful state of Michigan with her husband and three sons. Cheryl is a contributing writer to the "Today's Catholic - Women in Faith" category at the Integrated Catholic Life.

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  1. Cheryl,

    Great insight. Thank you. I am reminded of the words of our Savior, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

    If we are not personally persecuted or insulted because of our witness of Christ and pursuit of righteousness, we must not be trying hard enough!

    Deacon Mike

  2. Cheryl,

    Great article! It is for the very reasons you cite that we are provided with a complete suit of spiritual armor…which we must put on. The Armor of God isn’t just a metaphor – it is protection and weaponry given to us because we will encounter spiritual warfare. Each implement of the armor is the equivalent of specific Christ-like character traits that we must work to develop in our lives in order to successfully overcome the spiritual weapons used against us by satan and his minions.

    Recently, while feeling out-of-focus and lacking in direction, I asked a friend to help me examine my armor to see where the most apparent chinks are, because the chinks provide places for satan to make inroads through which he can most easily succeed in his attacks. After evaluating what was going on with me, we decided my most vulnerable points were in my head and foot gear…and my shield had begun to slip as a result.

    The Helmet of Salvation is designed to protect our control center – it is through our Salvation (Jesus Christ) that our world view is to be formed; our helmet filters what we take into our innermost being through our eye-gates and ear-gates; it provides a quite place where we can close out the clutter throws at us so we can more clearly hear the Still Small Voice of the Holy Spirit; and it guards our mouth so that the words we speak are also filtered through our Salvation.

    The foot gear – the Preparation to spread the Gospel of Peace, (who is Jesus Christ) gives us a sure foundation, traction where the rubber of our interior life meets the asphalt of our exterior world. This is the piece of armor that gives us our grip on life and propels us forward to meet the onslaught of satan and his minons.

    Being distracted (unfocused) and without direction (wandering) takes us to a place where our trust wavers and our Shield of Faith (of which Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher) begins to weaken – it is not our Catholic faith that weakens…but our personal faith within our relationship with our Savior. We focus on the battle instead of on Our Lord and the problems mount higher, blocking our vision of Him.

    Your analogy of the occasions that we fall to our knees is very appropriate – because it is only from our knees that we can again rise to meet our enemy head on; being on our knees in prayer represents our act of contrition; our recognition that the battle is not ours – it is Our Lords. It is only in His Strength (Sacred Scripture calls it the “power of His Might) that we can ever win the skirmishes of life. When one who is in full armor gets knocked down, the only way to get back up onto their feet is to rise to their knees first. For me…that points up my need for regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a means of repairing my armor, and staying fit for battle.

    As my friend reminded me: it doesn’t matter how many times we get knocked down – the key to winning is in getting back up, again, and again, and again, and yet again.

    Thank you for bring this subject back to the forefront of my consciousness!

    Victoria Walters

  3. Victoria,

    Your insights and application of this article are incredible!

    My dear friend Teresa Tomeo always talks about how important it is for us to “connect the dots” and you’ve done this in an amazing and profound way.

    My gratitude!

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