The devil isn’t responsible for everything that goes wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong: I believe there’s a devil. Not the horned dude in red tights or the diabolical joker from Far Side hell, but a personal, powerful being who has set himself against all that is good and God’s in the world, destroying and deceiving wherever and whomever he can.
That said, I think we sometimes give him way too much credit.
A marriage starts to blow up, and the devil gets the blame for destroying it. Maybe . . . or maybe selfishness did that without any help from him.
Health problems surface, and somehow it’s an attack from the evil one. Possibly, or perhaps our bodies really are broken and waiting for resurrection?
Division sets into a local church, and it’s deemed a sign of spiritual oppression. It could be. But what if the division was created by poor leadership? Or hard hearts? I’m sure the devil’s cheering us on, but causing it? Maybe not.
A child is killed in an accident. Listen. The devil loves that stuff; he cheers on death because he’s deluded by it’s power. But he didn’t necessarily, or even likely, cause the tragedy. Accidents happen, forces collide, people fall asleep at the wheel, roads get slippery, mistakes are made, vehicles break down. We live in a broken world, and in the midst of brokenness we long toward the time when all will finally be well, in the resurrection and new creation. But we aren’t there yet.
Next time you hear someone say “Satan’s working overtime in our family, in our church, in our town,” question it. Is that true? Or has the devil become an easy scapegoat, keeping us from actually confessing and repenting for ways we have contributed to the problem. (And by the way, the devil’s more than happy to take the blame if that keeps us from dealing with reality so we repent and change.)
So what should you do when you suspect this might be happening? Two things:
First, do pray against the work of the evil one. Jesus taught us to pray “deliver us from evil” or “from the evil one.” We are in a war with the evil one, and we must be attentive and aware of his schemes. All that is true. As James 4:7 commands us, when we “submit ourselves to the Lord” and then “resist the devil”, he flees from us.
But pray the whole prayer: before we ask for deliverance from evil, we ask that we not be lead into temptation, remember? And for the purposes of this post, I’d like to suggest that one of our temptations is to assume the devil’s handiwork when it well might be our own.
Then, secondly, ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight, so that you can know what is really going on. If it’s Satanic, then fight it appropriately. If it’s sin, confess it and change. If it’s the harsh reality of a broken and not yet redeemed world, then lean into God’s goodness and continue to trust his leadership through the difficulty. But let the Spirit guide you toward wisdom, so that we can live and respond from faith and not from delusion.
Does the devil attack us? Yes. “For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe,” as Martin Luther wrote generations ago. But let’s not give him more credit than he’s due. We’ve got plenty of responsibility to take, and by doing so, we will see God’s goodness flow into broken situations, bringing healing and restoration where there had previously been only pain and denial.