My Pastor cracked a joke about the devil when I was a youngster. He said, one day, he went for a stroll in the evening. He met the devil under a tree, sobbing hysterically as the sun set. He said, “Mr Devil, what’s wrong with you? Why are you crying?” The old fiend responded, “It’s those Christians. They’re blaming me for everything. Every little challenge or catastrophe they face, they lay at my doorstep. If they have a headache, they blame me. If their marriage breaks down, I’m the one they hold responsible. If they are short on resources, they say I’m keeping them broke. Everything is me. It’s not fair! Why do I have to carry the can for everything?”
To be frank, I can’t remember the title of the sermon. But he drive home the fact that the devil wasn’t responsible for everything that goes wrong in our lives. Sometimes we need to look ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility for some of the chaotic aspects of our lives.
Now, it would be disingenuous of me to say the devil doesn't exist. Scripture has a lot to say about his activities (Ephesians 2:2). He is a liar (John 8:44; Revelations 12:9). He is the enemy of our souls. He is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8). However, nowhere does it state that he can just run amuck and destroy any life he wants, when he wants, just like that. He isn’t the ultimate authority. He doesn't have the final say.
I spent a large part of my childhood in an environment where nothing just happens. If a person dies suddenly, particularly if they are young, with a bright future, the cultural assumption was, an evil eye was cast on them and their light was snuffed out. This position is usually held despite medical evidence to the contrary.
Witchcraft took the brunt for most misfortunes. Relatives became suspects. Even children weren’t exempt from aspersions of the craft, which can be traumatising for anyone, let alone kids. I could go on, but I’ll leave that for another blog post.
Our view of who the devil is, and what he can do, is usually coloured by the culture around us, rather than Scripture. Segments of the church have unwittingly presented the devil as omnipotent and omniscient. When you listen to what is conveyed from the pulpit, you would think he is on equal footing with Almighty God, which isn't the case at all. Some seem to see the devil everywhere.
Satan is not our Heavenly Father's equal. He's a created being. In Christ we are delivered from the dominion of his kingdom (Colossians 1:13). Our redeemer, is by far, more superior than our adversary. He is far above him (Ephesians 1:19-21) and so are we in Christ. God the Father raised and seated us with the Messiah in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). There is no need for us to fear him or his associates.
To constantly blame the devil, is to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for our actions. It also means, we learn nothing. Consequently, we are bound to repeat what brought us crashing down, over and over again. After all, if the devil is solely responsible, it’s not our fault. We are not culpable. We are powerless to act.
There is a time to pray. There is nothing wrong with prayer. In fact, Scripture admonishes us to do so when we're in trouble (James 5:13). So, if you are going through a marriage crisis, pray. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer (James 5:16). But just don't stop there. If things have become unmanageable, go and get help. Don't keep your struggles to yourself. Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t be too arrogant to go for counselling, if it becomes necessary.
Guys, are typically the last ones to admit need. Before the advent of satnavs, most of us would rather drive around in circles, chasing our tails, looking for directions, before we concede we don’t know where we are. I like something the late Edwin Louis Cole said during one of his men’s meetings back in the day, “It takes courage to admit need.”
Let's be honest, some of us got married without fully comprehending what we were getting ourselves into. Our backgrounds were dysfunctional at best. Getting saved does not automatically clear this dysfunction. But it does give us new opportunities. It does present a chance to move in a different direction, as we make Christ the centre of our lives.
We have to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We have to unlearn some of the things modelled to us by parents and the atmosphere we grew up in. This will take effort on our part. It would take being vulnerable and opening up about our shortfalls. May God give us grace.
So, is the devil attacking marriages? Yes, but it’s not that simple. Paul told the Ephesians in his letter, “Be angry and do not sin. Don't let the sun go down on your anger, and don't give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26-27 CSB).”
He does attack. He will attack. But we give him a lot of material to work with. We give him openings to destroy our homes. This isn’t a put down. It’s a fact. Our bad attitudes, lack of understanding, selfishness, unforgiveness, bitterness, betrayal, selfish ambition and unloving behaviour, gives him leverage.
So as I sign off, in football speak, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, let’s close the enemy and his buddies down. Don’t give darkness a yard in your marriages, homes and lives.
Remain strong in His grace.
Originally published 28 February 2016