At first glance this Scripture passage did not appeal to me. All the battle imagery is too aggressive and masculine for my usual approach to faith. I tend to focus more on love and gentleness, peace and happiness. All feel-good, all the time. This talk of armor, shields, flaming arrows, and “spiritual wickedness in high places” is almost like a foreign language to me.
But the truth is there is tremendous darkness in the world. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with goodness, we will confront the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It’s easy to see, on a more global scale, what those spiritual forces might be. War, oppression, poverty, violence. But where does this “present darkness” exhibit itself in my every day life?
For me, it’s through negativity. Gossip. Judgmental thinking. Unkind thoughts. Narrow, self-righteous opinions. Negativity is a gradual, seductive evil. Let’s face it… passing judgment on others feels good! And it convinces us of our own superiority. Negativity doesn’t march in with flaming arrows, announcing its arrival. It gains strength through practice and habit. It slithers in, like the snake of ancient tales, and wraps itself around us, until it chokes off our attempts to live the light. Until there is only darkness. And it happens so gradually that we don’t even realize that we have become the snake.
If I’m being honest, there are times when I feel more snake than lamb. I find it so easy to sink into negative conversations, complaints, and criticism of others. I know just who to call to begin my tirade: “You are NOT not going to believe this—” There are time when this kind of attitude seems to be woven into the very fabric of my being. I look at myself and I see hard edges where there used to be softness.
How can I prevent myself from falling into the negativity trap?
If we’re to avoid the tempting charms of darkness, perhaps gentleness—delicate and fragile—is not the answer. In this passage from Ephesians we are called to “stand firm.” As I renew my attempts to move toward the light, I find it takes a tremendous amount of strength and fight to turn away from negativity and embrace the positive. You’d think it would be easy but it isn’t.
Are there people in your life who tap into your negative energy and bring out the worst in you? Think long and hard about how you choose to interact with those people. Perhaps you need to arm yourself with the “shield of faith” and the “helmet of salvation.” Fight them off with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
They will try to pull you back, but you are being called to stand firm in faith. And you are not alone in your effort.
I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me
In what areas are you being called to stand firm? I’d love to hear from you! Post your thoughts in the comments section below.