Two weeks. Two runs. Two emotional breakdowns. The first episode occurred on a Sunday in the late afternoon. About a mile and a half into my very slow novice jog, I had to stop. Heaving sobs welled up inside me that I couldn’t hold back. Irrational thoughts assailed me. Emotions rattled me that I couldn’t assign a source. After a good ten minutes, I ducked out from the woods where God graciously allowed my odd encounter to occur and managed another two and half puzzling miles.
This was new ground for me. As a jogger, but I also don’t usually exhibit unfounded fits of crying. I am pushing forty, are these the dreaded hormonal changes? The whole week I tried to analyze my situation and come up with an answer for my weepiness. Was I carrying stress below the surface and didn’t realize it? This brought me to the next question. Could this be spiritual warfare? I knew God was calling me to write a Bible study about His armor. Was He calling me to use it in a very practical way?
As women, we face emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual battles – how can we sort out which front we are fighting on? At the end of the day, definitive answers aren’t always clear. For almost a week I felt like I wasn’t myself. I shared my struggles with my sister and a close friend. After praying and listening to their counsel, I did several things. I called my doctor and made an appointment to be thorough on the physical side. I began paying closer attention to my nutrition and exercise. I journaled prayers asking God to reveal any emotional stress I might not realize was bugging me. To cover all the bases, I also prayed the armor of God piece by piece over my life throughout the week.
Now I can’t tell you exactly what was happening to throw my mind, heart, and body off kilter two weeks ago. However, I can tell you that nothing has changed in my circumstances – my marriage, children, finances, and friendships took no sharp turns. Yet as I went for a run last night listening to the same set of worship music on the first run, I felt God’s peace and lightness overwhelm me. I did have tears, but they were pure joy over the sense of God’s mercy and presence in my life. I marveled at the difference and asked God what had changed. How could I now see all His blessings and once again realize the greatness of His gospel yet two weeks prior I felt nothing but unexplained despair?
Though I believe we need to be cautious and seek physical, emotional, and mental help often when we feel attacked, we must also consider that we are at war spiritually. God gave us armor to protect us from spiritual attacks. He says in Ephesians 6:11-13, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”
A battle wages all around us as well as inside of us. We have a real enemy who wants much more than cause us an unexplained emotional breakdown for a few days. He comes to kill, steal, and destroy. I see His work in tearing down marriages, stealing faith, and destroying God’s children through addictions. His activity is not limited to the world, He is after God’s church. He accuses, deceives, and condemns us. He will stop at nothing to get us off track in our pursuit to follow Christ. This is why God provides protection for us in the battle.
As I study and write, I am cautious of two extremes. We must be careful not to overemphasize Satan and give him too much credit. However, we also must not underestimate his schemes and ability to attack us. He does wield some power, but at the end of the day – He is a dog on a leash.
For whatever battle you are facing today, I pray you would see beyond just the flesh and blood enemies and stand firm against the enemy of your soul. The encouraging part is – we know how the war ends, no matter the status of our current battlefront. “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4