Don’t Take the Bait

‘Don’t take the bait.’ God’s inner whisper cut through the music and singing that was rising around me. Right away, I knew what He meant.

I was annoyed. Angry. In a huff. My husband had done some things that morning that upset me. Now a torrent of emotions was swirling inside me—festering, gnawing and setting my whole body aflame.

We were at church—my happy place, where I hugged my friends, soaked up life-giving truths and sang with all my heart.

Not today.

Today I had crawled inside my pain, closed the shutters and posted a ‘Don’t Come Near Me’ sign.

It wasn’t that my husband did anything particularly bad. He just did things differently to what I thought he should. And because of that, I concluded he didn’t value me. It was a crazy mental leap, considering his devotion—through thick and thin—over twenty-six years. But I was offended—and that offence had dragged me to a place of mental turmoil.   

Offence is one of our enemy’s most cunning ways to lure us off-track. He often blindsides us, striking when and where we least expect it. In this world full of fallible people, we have many opportunities to be hurt. If we choose to hold on to the hurt and carry it around, our peace quickly evaporates, our view of people is distorted, our hearts turn sour and our words become fiery darts, doing damage wherever they land. Worst of all, offence puts a wall between us and God. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you,’ Jesus said.

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu on Pexels

I know this. I’ve seen the damage offence has done in other people’s lives. I’ve told them how important it is to deal with offences quickly. Yet there I was, stewing, and the fact that I knew the danger and was still rehashing my husband’s ‘crimes’ only intensified the burn.

The music built to a climax and I realised the time of singing was almost over. Closing my eyes, I mouthed the lyrics, trying to silence the voice of pain, let go of my anger and forgive. Red hot, the lava inside me kept bubbling. I peeped sideways at my husband. His face was upturned as he sang—eyes closed, his body rocking in time.

How can he sing like nothing’s wrong? I seethed. He mustn’t even realise I’m upset. Doesn’t he care?

When the song ended, we sat down. Folding my arms, I pursed my lips and focused on the guy on the platform—our pastor. His expression was joyful and his speech animated but his words washed over me without registering. My mind was thick in fog.

After a while, some listeners started voicing their agreement. ‘Amen.’ ‘So good.’ A few people even broke into applause at one point.

He must be saying something important. I should listen. I shifted in my seat and squinted my eyes, trying again to concentrate. It was no use. I’d dug myself into a hole so deep I couldn’t even figure out which way was up. I exhaled sharply through my nose. God, please help me.

I knew we needed to talk. On my own, I wasn’t getting anywhere. But we couldn’t resolve this issue here—there was too much to say, too many eyes and ears all around us. I leaned forward and pressed my fingers against my forehead, starkly aware that the hand that usually reached over to rub my back was absent. God, please. I’m stuck.

The preacher finished speaking and bread and juice were handed out ready for communion. Through my mind ran the words of Paul, ‘Anyone who eats or drinks in an unworthy manner . . .’

That was me.

I wasn’t ready.

Before taking communion, we’re told to stop and examine ourselves, check our attitudes and see if there’s anything blocking our oneness with Jesus. The Son of God gave His everything for us, enduring accusation, rejection and the most brutal of deaths—purely because of love. How could I insult Him by coming to this sacred time full of anger and resentment?

People around us closed their eyes in prayer and I saw my opportunity. Leaning close to my husband I whispered, ‘Please forgive me for being harsh and angry.’ I still felt upset. But I knew I needed to humble myself and admit my fault. That pride and bitterness was too big a burden to carry.  

His response was immediate. ‘I forgive you.’

I flinched. Is that all? Doesn’t he see his own fault in the situation? Doesn’t he want my forgiveness too? Like a spiked barb, offence started pricking me, trying to get a fresh grip on my heart.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

This time I breathed deep and refused to be snared. I’d already missed out on so much. It just wasn’t worth it. If I continued to hold on to offence, it would only cause more heartache.

Like a lion lying down to sleep, I felt my soul settle as the anger began draining away. I was still shaken and sad, shocked by my own intensity and wearied from the battle. But I could breathe. I knew we’d talk later and work through the issues.

It ended up taking a few conversations over the next week for my husband and I to fully understand each other’s perspectives and motives from that morning. Even after so many years together, we sometimes read each other wrong. This reminds us how much we need God’s help to walk with humility, honesty and compassion. God is the ultimate healer and restorer, able to build and strengthen our relationships when our emotions would tear them down.

How are you going in this area of offence? Have you taken the enemy’s bait?   

‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .’   1 Peter 5:8-9

Author and speaker, John Bevere, has written an excellent book on this topic, “The Bait of Satan”. Find it here.

A Holy Encounter

The lights were low, the room warm and full of people. I closed my eyes while music and voices swirled around me, my heart swelling with emotion. We were back—together at last—singing carols in anticipation of Christmas. We’d just begun one of my favourites. This year, after many months of restrictions and isolation, its words seemed especially poignant.

‘Long lay the world in sin and error pining . . .’

Photo by Valentin Petkov on Unsplash

Didn’t that describe the journey we’d been on? Regardless of our viewpoints, we’d all suffered loss and heartache—so much waiting, disconnection and wondering.

‘ . . . Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’

This testing had brought for each of us a fresh awareness of our flaws and need of rescue.

‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices . . .’

Goose bumps tingled over my skin as I lifted a silent prayer. Oh, yes, Lord! Our world is weary. We desperately need Your hope.

On through the verses we caroled, our voices rising in measure with our passion, till we neared the crescendo. ‘Fall on your knees . . .’

And there it was again – that tug on my spirit. Every time we sang, ‘Fall on your knees,’ I sensed God’s whisper, Don’t just sing the words. Do what they say. Kneel.

I opened my eyes, scanning the room. People in our church didn’t often kneel. Everyone was caught up in the joy of worshipping together—did I really want to distract them? Wouldn’t they think I was weird?

The pull grew stronger. I breathed deep. Okay, God. I will.

As the words came around again, I lowered myself to the carpet. Closing my eyes once more, I rested my hands on the back of the chair in front of me and continued singing, ‘O night divine, O night when Christ was born.’

My surroundings seemed to fade and I saw myself in a starlit stable, kneeling on a bed of straw. The scene reminded me of a Christmas card I’d seen many years earlier, where Santa knelt at the foot of a manger, his hat in his hands, head bowed before the sleeping baby. That card made such an impression on me, the image was still vivid in my mind.

This time, though, it wasn’t Santa lowered in reverence. It was me. If I opened my eyes, I knew everything around me would look the same as before. So, I didn’t. God was showing me something and I didn’t want to miss a moment.

From my position on the stable floor, I leaned forward and peered into the manger. There He was—Jesus—tightly wrapped, his head covered with dark hair, his tan face glowing with the sheen of new birth. This object of our worship, Who came to offer hope to a world in crisis, was the Son of God—co-creator of the universe, more powerful than any earthly or spiritual ruler. Yet here He was—a baby?

I knew the story. We all knew the Christmas story. Jesus came as a baby. But on this day, I felt it. It became real to me. And I wept.

Jesus looked exactly like any other newborn. So tiny. So fragile.

This mighty one had given up all His splendour, all His elevation above earthly concerns, to become the most vulnerable of humans. Easily crushed. Completely dependent on others to sustain Him.

How could that be? What love must have compelled Him to be reduced to such a state?

In that moment, something shifted inside me. All the hardships of my year—all the challenges I’d been wrestling with—suddenly looked very small. If Jesus could humble Himself in this way, and later lay down His life to rescue me, how could I offer Him anything less?

I wiped my eyes as the song came to an end and stood once more, my heart at peace.

Lord, I’m yours. Whatever you want, I’m willing. You are worthy. Help me to follow you.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I don’t feel any stronger than I did before. But I am comforted. Because I know that whatever comes, Jesus gets it. He’s already walked the hardest of roads—and He knows the way through.    

‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Photo by Cliford Mervil on Pexels

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!’

  Philippians 2:5-8

Victory in Defeat

My plan was to pray over the long list of verses and thoughts in my diary ready to create an author post. But I found my eyes drawn to the last topic in my short list of blog ideas, ‘Overcoming in Defeat’. I stared at the words, acutely aware of their relevance for the season we’re in. Pulling out my journal from July— where the original ideas were recorded—I read and was stirred once again.

I had been mulling over Paul’s instruction in Romans 12:21 ‘Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.’ The idea sounded inspiring—but how did it work?

As I mused, I had written, ‘Lord, doing good when we’re treated badly doesn’t feel like overcoming. It feels like defeat, like bowing to the evildoer.‘ I was thinking of some painful conflicts I’d faced in the preceding week.

Almost immediately, I sensed God’s response. ‘So it was with the cross. My son’s death had every appearance of defeat and injustice. He was condemned via an unfair trial, placed in the hands of prideful, demon-driven zealots, treated with utmost brutality, betrayed and abandoned by most of His dearest friends. He even felt forsaken by Me—His Father, who sent Him.

It was true. I could see Jesus in my mind—accused, betrayed, dragged away like a criminal, ridiculed and beaten by supposedly God-fearing people, then enduring a slow, agonizing death in front of a jeering crowd. He had the power to crush those who attacked Him, yet He forgave them, yielding to His Father’s will. To any onlooker—even Jesus’ closest friends—it appeared the enemy had soundly defeated Him.

That morning God reminded me of an important truth—what we perceive isn’t always reality.

The gruelling process Jesus endured had a purpose far beyond what anyone could see at that time. What looked like defeat was, in reality, stupendous victory. Through His suffering and death, Jesus disarmed the very powers that were trying to destroy Him, making a public spectacle of them. And He opened up the way for us to be forgiven, set free and welcomed into the family of God. Victory indeed! None of those breakthroughs could have come without Jesus’ humble willingness to walk in obedience.

My notes from God’s revelation continued,

Every time you choose good, there is a victory in your spirit and your character. Each time you submit to Me and lay down your desire to do things your own way, I build muscle into your character and grow you in authority for greater victories.

Photo by sharonjoy17 on Pixabay

Eating the best of the land (as promised in Isaiah 1:19) isn’t just about material, tangible experiences. It’s about the heart, the spirit and the spiritual realm. So be willing and obedient. Follow the way of the cross. It will be worth it.

God’s route to victory is rarely the high road. More often it is a path of servanthood, humiliation and frail dependence. In God’s economy the last are first, servants are declared the greatest, the proud are opposed and the humble are lavished with grace. Those events that have all the appearance of failure are forward steps on the path to triumph.

This concept is foreign to our success-oriented world. Our bibles are laden with living examples. Think of Joseph—a slave and a prisoner—made second in charge under Pharaoh; of Gideon—the least of the least—who led God’s people into conquest; of David—the shepherd boy with a sling and a stone—who defeated a terrifying giant; of Rahab—a prostitute—who had her pagan family rescued from certain destruction and was welcomed into the lineage of Jesus.* Then there was Jesus—the Son of God—who made Himself nothing, taking on the role of servant to His subjects and surrendering His life in the most gruesome of deaths. His humble obedience led to ultimate exaltation, higher than any other—forever .

There’s always more to the story than what we see. Always.

If we’re seeking to walk with God and doing good as He directs, His victory will come. We may not always see the full result of our obedience, but we can be confident of this—God will fulfil His purpose, in our hearts and in our world. So, let’s press on, choosing willing, trusting obedience. Jesus is with us—and He knows the way.

Triumph comes via the low road.

Photo by Peregrine Photography on Unsplash

‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’

Hebrews 12:2-3

*You can read more about these overcomers in the following passages.

Joseph: Gen 37-41

Gideon: Judges 6-8

David: 1 Samuel 16-17

Rahab: Joshua 2 and 6