BY MELISSA NOVAK
When I was in my early twenties, I was actively involved in youth ministry as a college leader, and I agreed to help with a weekend retreat for teens. It sounded great: It was in the woods; I’d be helping teens grow in their faith; There would be good food, good music, and I would be around people who share my faith.
But a few days before the retreat, some doubts crept into my mind. Don’t go. You have better things to do. They don’t really need you there. You’re too busy. You’d have more fun with your friends. I almost gave into the doubts and excuses, but I made a commitment, and I needed to honor it no matter what.
On that retreat I experienced the Holy Spirit in ways I never knew possible. I grew deeply in my relationship with God, and I know that God used me as an instrument to bring teens closer to Him that weekend. I was so thankful that I went. Upon reflection, I realized that the doubts and excuses that had gone through my mind in the previous days had been a spiritual attack.
The Reality of Evil
The devil and hell are real. One of the biggest lies you could believe is that they aren’t. I’m not saying this to scare you into religious practices. I’m sharing this because I care. Because I want you to grow in your relationship with God, and the devil is always going to try and stop you. Because I want you to be aware of the spiritual battle that is taking place and call upon Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Terror of demons-how cool of a title is that?) to help you.
Think about it-if Satan is not real, then there is no consequence for our sin, and sin does not exist! There would have been no need for Jesus to come down from Heaven to redeem us if our actions didn’t matter. What’s important to keep in mind is that God and the devil are not equal. Lucifer (aka Satan or the devil) was created by God. God is bigger, stronger, and nothing, not even the devil, can separate us from the love of God (See Psalms 139:7-12).
Anytime we try to grow closer to God whether it is through prayer, attending Sunday or daily Mass more regularly, or by learning about our faith, the devil will try to stop us by attacking us. An attack by the devil is different from possession (very rare) or demonic obsession (for example, when our TV or lights turn on by themselves). Attacks can take many forms. The devil will twist the truth, mock the faith and try to deceive us in any way possible. Here are some examples so that you can be aware:
-Doubting your decision (as it relates to making a commitment in your faith)
-Negative thoughts about being unworthy or undeserving
-Increased feelings of tension or anger
-Physical illness or fatigue
-Temptation to sin (Not every temptation is a direct attack. Learn more about concupiscence).
*Please note that some of these examples could be psychological or have a logical explanation for occurring.
What should you do if you think you’re being attacked?
-Bless yourself with Holy water.
-Sleep with a rosary under your pillow.
-Read Ephesians 6:11-20 and, “Put on the armor of God.”
-Go to confession. Seriously, this is the most powerful thing you can do. When we sin, we distance ourselves from God and are bound by that sin. The sacrament of reconciliation will free us from sin, restore our relationship with God, and the devil will have no hold over us.
-Ask others to pray for you.
If you’re still reading this, I hope I’m not scaring you (that’s not the goal). In scripture Jesus says some version of “Do not be afraid” about sixteen times, and often says, “Peace be with you.” Know that you are not alone in your faith journey; God is always with you. The devil even attacked Jesus after he fasted for forty days and forty nights in the desert (See Matthew 4:1-11). Right after Jesus was attacked, he began his spiritual ministry.
The best thing we can do, especially when feeling attacked, is to pray more. The devil wants to scare you into ceasing your prayer. He is always trying to convince us that we have more important things to do than spend time with God.
God desires a deeper relationship with you so much so that he will forgive any sin, as long as you are contrite. He is always seeking us no matter how far we run or where we hide. He loves each one of us with a jealous love. God doesn’t need us to love him, but we need him. We need the peace of Christ in our lives. We need to feel the hope, strength and joy of the Holy Spirit, especially when life gets tough. God will protect you and help you get through any and every spiritual attack and overcome any obstacle so long as you ask him for help and draw near to him. You are his beloved son/daughter, and He is always with you (See Isaiah 41:10 and 1 John 3:1).
Melissa Novak is the Director of Faith Formation at Saint Mary Parish in Mokena.