I’ve begun studying spiritual warfare in preparation for teaching The Screwtape Letters. Even as I read Scriptures and page through books about the topic, I am surprised by spiritual warfare in my personal life. I continually forget that I am in a daily battle.

While I seek to cover my family in prayer, I find myself throwing up my hands in despair and frustration whenever spiritual crises arise in their lives. How can these problems keep happening? I am praying against this stuff! Why am I not seeing sustainable improvement? I’m praying. I’m fighting. Isn’t that what spiritual warfare is about? I’m doing my part, I argue. Why don’t I feel like we are winning against our spiritual enemy?

Because it’s war. And in real war, in some sense, everybody loses. Even the winner loses something, because no war is fought without casualties on both sides. Nobody emerges without emotional or physical scars. Even the champion will come back home haunted by images of the war that he fought in.

Growing up in middle-class America, I don’t have a realistic reference point for warfare. War has been a history book topic and a political talking point, so I tend to minimize the scope of its significance.

But the spiritual symbolism is still accurate. I am engaged in a spiritual battle, just as my country is continually at war. Just because I am unaware of a Seal team engaged in a stealth mission for national security, that does not mean U.S. wartime activity is not taking place. On the contrary, my freedoms are continually either being supported or undermined by the individuals engaged in warfare on behalf of our freedoms. My knowledge doesn’t affect anything.

The same is true in my spiritual walk. The war is raging. I may be unaware of its existence or determined not to engage in conflict, but both perspectives are irrelevant to the reality of this war. These crisis moments when I feel the jarring fallout of this war–that’s my wake-up call. I either need to pick up my weapon and fight or hunker down deeper, pretending the battle is not raging, and prepare myself for some collateral damage.

I’m pretty confident the first choice is the only one advocated by God in the Bible. Since He’s given me the training, the arsenal, the comrades-in-arms–even the metaphor of war itself–I can bet He wants me to engage in this conflict. In fact, He even wants me to win!

I merely need to prepare myself for injury. (That’s the point of armor, right?) I will sustain some injury. Better to be injured and winning than dead and defeated.

Eph. 6:10-118  “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (The Message)

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