Breaking In … and Breaking Free

Posted on September 9, 2011

Breaking In … and Breaking Free

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).

When most people think of evil and its presence, they think of The Exorcist, or some horrible, frightening figure. They expect evil to come in some painfully obvious way. However, we should never forget that the enemy often uses craftiness (Gen 3:1) and even perversions of God’s own Word (Gen 3:1-4; Matt 4:6) in order to bring about our downfall.  Remember, Satan is a both liar and a murderer (John 8:44).

If you knew that today a murderer planned to break into your home, to rob you of all your possessions, and to leave no one left alive in the house, then you would do everything you could to protect your family and yourself, correct? You would perform a careful check of your home; you would keep your doors and windows locked; you would make sure that there was no way for your enemy to sneak into your home and to destroy what you love.[1] In short, you would be vigilant: you would be prepared and grant your enemy no method of entry because carelessness would not be an option.[2] Well, we do not battle against an enemy made of flesh and blood (Eph 6:12), so we must trust in the Spirit, put on our armor every day (Eph 6:13-18), and fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12). We must be prepared to defend our homes, our loved ones, and our own souls from an enemy whose sole purpose is to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10).

In Genesis 3:1-7, we see Satan approach Eve with very specific plan. He sought to steal the intimacy and joy that men and women had with one another and with God. He sought to kill those who were made in God’s image (knowing that by rebellion, people would die). He sought to destroy the goodness of God’s created order. Satan is a patient, perceptive planner, and under no circumstances should he be underestimated as an adversary. Please do not think that he does not have plans for you. We must have a wartime mentality when it comes to this enemy.

Have you ever read The Screwtape Letters? In this work, author C.S. Lewis presents a series of letters that Screwtape, a chief demon in the Satan’s army, writes to his nephew, Wormwood. Now, Wormwood is a young demon, and Screwtape is always giving him advice on how to bring about the destruction of their “patient,” an unsuspecting Christian.

One day, I asked myself the question: “Okay, let’s be honest. What demons are plaguing me right now? What are very specific ways that the enemy could be plotting my downfall? What Screwtape Letter would I write?” Well, back in 2002 (while I was still in seminary), I wrote this letter:

To my fellow cohort, Despair – I send greetings. You are the apprentice that keeps the patient weary most often. Your job on her, Despair, is undeniably effective. You plague her mind and her spirit with thoughts of things that she will never have. You, more than anything else, shake her faith – she is well aware of this. She looks at a family smiling together, and she knows in her heart that she’ll never have that. She ponders what it must be like to truly have peace, then she accuses God of keeping it from her. She does not believe that she will ever find true happiness. And here, Despair, here is where you have your reward. For then these feelings make her question her God and His goodness towards her. She thinks that He will never allow her to have things that may bring her joy. Or if He does give them to her, He’ll take them away quickly so that she can know the true meaning of loss. After all, He gave His own Son a cross, so she asks: “What will He do to me?” She thinks that about her God. She says she wants to teach, but she’s not really so sure. She believes that she will find absolutely no contentment there. She hates the way her life is now, yet she wears a false smile every day. She’s a Janus! That should really be her name – she’s like that two-faced god of Roman myth. If only those who admire her so could see her two faces. She goes to class, but she really is not concerned with what she is learning. She goes to church and daydreams. The only place where she feels comfortable is in that bed of hers. Good – keep her there. Keep her locked in that prison which she has made for herself. And then she wonders why she is so lonely – why she is so misunderstood. She feels out of place wherever she goes. She constantly feels “in the way.” She feels so in the way, in fact, that in those secret, dark places of that mind of hers, she wants out of this life. Sometimes, she is sickened by her own existence. She stood ready to take it once – to destroy herself and leave this world behind – until our enemy came and you ran for cover. Coward! You must stay on her; fill her with this dread. Convince her that this life is not worth living; convince her that joy will not be had; assure her that her loneliness is all that she will ever know. That is one of her biggest fears you know: she is afraid that the loneliness, the isolation, the nausea will persist for the rest of her life. Wherever she goes, whomever she’s with – she’ll never truly feel comfortable. So what does she do? She plays the hypocrite. She praises a God only to question Him. She talks of His goodness while pondering His injustice to her. She’s a Janus! And she lies even to herself! But this is good. Keep her that way. There has been no progress in this area for years according to my calculation. If you keep this up, she will undoubtedly wither away, or so she often thinks. Work with Pride carefully in this regard. Keep her tired; keep her downtrodden; keep her vulnerable. It will leave her listless, ungrateful, melancholy and bitter.

This was my struggle. Just like Eve, the enemy approached me with a tailor-made plan. He’ll do the same for you. So here’s the question, and think and pray about this carefully. Ask the Lord to search you, to know you, and to strengthen you: How does the enemy approach you? Where are you open and vulnerable to an attack from the enemy? Is it with work, sex, drugs, pills, pain, despair, heaviness, the mirror, lust for men, women, pride, envy, power, money, success, failure, inadequacy, passivity … the list goes on and on.

  • Name the most unprotected area of your life.
  • Where are you inclined to stumble and sin rather than submit and obey?
  • Where are you tempted to give in because you just can’t fight anymore?

Remember that the Lord is a warrior (Ex 15:3), and He fights for those who are His (Ex 14:14). So ask Jesus Christ to take authority in these named areas, to free you from bondage, and to give you a renewed spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).

By Brittany Burnette with Shabby Chic Ministries


[1] Taken from Dr. Michael W. Youssef, “Who is Your Enemy,” Knowing Your Real Enemy Series: Part One, Leading the Way Ministries, 20 June 2011.

[2] Ibid.

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