Often in our walk with God, especially in the earlier stages, we often struggle to discern the source of our struggles. I remember many years ago asking God one time, “Is this trial coming from me, from You, or from the devil?” In other words, did I do something stupid that brought this on myself? Is the devil attacking me, and if so, why? Is this Your discipline, Lord? Actually, in those early years, I seldom thought of God disciplining me, I rather believed the lie that He was angry and punishing me, because that’s how most parents “disciplined” their children.
For too many years, it seems, I struggled every time I faced a trial or difficult situation. I felt I had to figure out where it was coming from, so I would know what to do, to hopefully, make it stop. I don’t remember now how it happened, if it was a sudden revelation I received, or a gradual dawning of understanding, but God finally made it clear to me that it really didn’t matter. That threw me for a loop! All this time I had been striving and straining to understand the reason for my problems, and He says the reason or the source doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is how I choose to respond to it.
I heard Graham Cooke describe how he learned this lesson. He had a problem and so he proceeded to do what I’ve done, what many of us have done, (and maybe still do) he rebuked the devil, believing he was the source of this difficulty. He did this for some time when the Lord interrupted him and asked, “Graham, what are you doing?” Graham replied, “I’m rebuking the devil for this problem I’m having.” The Lord said, “That isn’t the devil, it’s Me.” Incredulous, Graham retorted, “That’s YOU?” “Yes,” the Lord said, “and you can’t rebuke Me, so stop it!” I guess he learned his lesson that day!
When God allows troubles to touch us, whether they are the result of spiritual attack, our own stupidity, or His discipline, He does it to further conform us into His image. He is looking for us to respond in a way that embraces (not necessarily likes) the process by allowing that part of our carnal, soulish nature to die, and His nature to take over. As I get older, I’m learning it takes LOTS of troubles to get our souls to submit to His ways. The “bad” news is, this process of transformation He is after takes a lifetime. The “good” news is, pain with a purpose is somewhat easier to endure, and absolutely nothing is wasted in God’s economy. He uses it ALL to accomplish His purposes, and He WILL complete the good work He began, so long as we remain willing.
Of course, at times, we have to use the weapons God has given us if we are under attack. But I believe we spend far more time trying to rebuke the devil, or come up with some strategic warfare tactic to deal with him than we do searching our own hearts to see what God is after in us. After all, the devil may be a fallen angel, but he still serves God’s purposes on the earth until judgment day. So next time you’re tempted to ask, “Is this the devil, is it me, or is it You, God? start with a great prayer that King David wrote — “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any evil (or offensive) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24)