How the Devil Works
It exploded everywhere!
We were finally getting back to a more regular, less scattered routine of family prayers. It was our evening prayer, which includes asking each person in the family to forgive the other person for anything wrong we might have done that day. Pretty important part of the day in our family. We're getting the family altar set up, which includes lighting the charcoal for the incense.
Sometimes they pop a little bit, but tonight, after a great struggle to get to this point, the whole piece exploded. Amelia went to retrieve a piece of red hot charcoal that had fallen behind the altar. In the process she burned her hand on another piece that was embedded in the carpet.
As she was quickly trying to remove the rest so they didn't melt into the carpet (which was unsuccessful...) Evangelia walked over and found another piece with her foot. They were everywhere. After many tears and as we struggled to keep Kyriaki present as her tired little self wilted, we persevered and made it through. But it sure seemed like someone didn't want us to finish our day in prayer and forgiveness.
The devil's goal is to disable spiritual warriors. The only way to stop the assault and temptations would be to .... make an alliance with him! In other words, it isn't going to stop. As long as we are struggling there will be temptations and difficulties. The more we try to avoid temptations the more contrary the devil becomes with us.
It is easy to get bogged down in unimportant things and then have no energy to struggle for something more spiritual. These unimportant distractions are the devil's attempts to disable us as warriors, like mines planted by an enemy to paralyze the army. When a big, frontal attack fails, the devil tries again through unimportant matters.
A little devil might come to mess up something trivial about your day. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten annoyed and upset about going to grab a fork from the drawer and dropping it. TOTALLY UNIMPORTANT! But a little thing going wrong. One that I should be able to completely control, like picking up a fork, sometimes makes me really upset. I'm sure you too, dear reader, have little things that annoy you that no one else cares about.
As soon as we approach the spiritual life with intention and seriousness the devil flips a switch because he is unable to get us bogged down in something big. We set our mind to our prayer rule, reading scripture, talking to others with an intentionally kind tone, whatever it may be and soon we find ourselves bogged down in something that will carry on for days if we are inattentive.
This is where the blessing of a spiritual father comes in and is so important. We need the guidance of another, someone outside of ourselves, to help diagnose our state and redirect us. We need someone with the gift of discernment to help us understand our temptations and how to struggle against them.
Satan doesn't usually waste his time with a person who isn't a fighter. Why work out cunning temptations for a person who is already where he wants him to be?
The more you struggle, the more sensitive your conscience is to your own sin. The devil tries to wager even this against us to bring us sadness and make us more and more sensitive. His ultimate goal is destruction of our hope in God and our very life.
To the ones who are careless and neglectful of spiritual things he tempts us to continue in that way by planting thoughts that our struggles don't matter. To those who are pious he would like to puff us up with pride or to push us beyond our limits so that we grow weary and abandon our spiritual fight. In that way those who were once fighters become prisoners of war.
To those who are hard-hearted he seeks to make them that way even more. To the sensitive to make them hypersensitive.
This is how the devil works. He wants to disable and isolate us. We need the community of the Church, prayers from others and the saints, we need our disciplines and a spiritual father to keep us on the right path. We need daily repentance so that we stay out of our past where the demons are and out of the future where our anxieties live. The Church has every tool to keep us in the present where Christ is.
Don't be surprised at the way the devil works. He's a trickster but he is no match for Christ our God.
Don't be afraid of the struggle. We know how the devil works, but he is already defeated. Christ conquered him in His death on the cross and glorious resurrection. Satan is already dead, and our struggle against his vain attempts to defeat us are another shot in his heart.
"A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemies heart." ~ Dorotheus of Gaza