Rainer Schimpf, is a scuba diving guide in Elizabeth Harbor, South Africa. Last week he was photographing a school of sardines which some predator fish and porpoises had corralled into a “bait ball.”
A Present Jonah
As well as taking pictures of the feeding frenzy that was about to unfold, Rainer was keeping a careful lookout for sharks. That’s when everything went black.
Yes. Rainer was immediately engulfed in darkness. It made no sense. Was he blind or unconscious? No. Then why was he surrounded by darkness and his body squeezed from all around? Then he realized exactly what had happened. He’d been swallowed head-first by a whale!
Fortunately, Rainer knew something about his giant host. It was a baleen whale, probably a Bryde’s, whose throat was far too narrow to swallow anything as big a human. Rainer knew he’d be regurgitated shortly. But the whale might also dive deeply. So he held his breath, waited and hoped.
The whale didn’t keep him waiting long. Suddenly, the 45,000-pound whale spewed him out. Rainer recovered his wits—and his equipment–and decided to cut his excursion short. A few minutes of playing Jonah was more than enough excitement for one day.
A Fear that Consumes
Can you imagine such an experience? To be suddenly swallowed, not having any idea what’s happening to you?
Yet, many Christian believers will suffer something akin to this. They may have that experience of suddenly being enveloped in darkness and confusion. Not physical darkness, of course. It’s a sense of anxiety, fear, condemnation, and confusion that sweeps over them.
It’s possible that this confusion and darkness may follow some disappointment or adversity. But the fear and confusion that floods the believer’s soul is far beyond anything their circumstances warrant. This isn’t a normal reaction to this measure of adversity. Something else is going on. What is it?
It is a demonic or satanic attack. The enemy of the believer’s soul has come in like a flood. And part of his strategy is to keep the believer from knowing what’s going on.
“How could I have such terrible, ugly thoughts? How could I doubt such basic truths of Christianity?”
But the ugly thoughts and doubts are not his, but the devil’s. To increase the power of the attack, the devil will apply his usual tool of condemnation.
“What a miserable excuse of a Christian you are! You try to pass yourself off as a victorious believer, but you’re plagued with doubts, fears, and confusion. You’re no Christian!”
It is critical at this moment for the believer to recognize what’s happening, that he or she is under attack. Just as it helped the scuba diver to understand what was happening to him—and what his attacker’s vulnerabilities were. Rainer knew that the whale couldn’t keep the diver in his throat for long. He’d have to give up his catch.
In the same way, we need to realize that Satan’s power is limited. He cannot fight for long. This is especially true when the believer wields the Holy Scripture against the devil, as Jesus did in the desert (Matthew 4:1–11).
Quoting the word of God, praying, and worshipping God will turn the believer into a spiny blowfish within the tender throat of Satan. He’ll gladly give up the fight and flee (James 4:7).
And God will prove Himself faithful, only allowing the test for a limited time (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will answer the believer’s prayers. God will resolve the outward problem in the believer’s life and pacify his inner conflict.
So the next time it seems the hordes of hell have engulfed you, recognize what’s happening—and fight your way through it. Pick up the sword of the Spirit—the word of God and use it against your attacker (Ephesians 6:17). Arm yourself with God’s attributes and gifts, rather than depending on your own (Ephesians 6:10–18). And the devil will give up the attack.
Dear Father in heaven, make me a spiritual warrior who’ll never take temptation and trial lying down, but who’ll put on the whole armor of God and resist all the schemes of the devil. Amen.