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.

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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.

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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 Way Through the Valley

I sat on the couch and stared blankly out the window, my eyes blind to tiny green shoots sprouting everywhere in the garden—usually a cause for joy. Depression loomed over me like a black-robed villain, pressing down on my soul, while despair tightened its grasp. I was sinking—I could feel it. I leaned forward and put my face in my hands, keenly aware that the divide between me standing firm or falling was so fragile, there was almost no barrier to stop me plummeting.

For a moment, I teetered on the edge, wondering what would happen if I let depression take hold. I was justified, wasn’t I? Wouldn’t anyone be low in my position?

Three years ago, our family uprooted and left our home state of twenty-five years to move north. While we relished being closer to my family and living near the coast, the process of establishing our career paths and forming new friendships was slow, hampered further by the 2020 lockdown.

Once COVID restrictions eased, we dusted ourselves off and ventured forward again, keen to build on the small foundations we’d already laid. Doors of opportunity began to open and our sense of belonging was growing when, wham! Our second lockdown hit. This one lasted much longer and its impact reverberated all the way to the laws of our nation. This time, along with rules and restrictions a clear message was proclaimed, challenging our ideas about what matters most and dictating the way we should view and treat people. Like the ripples of an earthquake, we felt its effects as key aspects of who we were as Australians began to shake.

Normally, I’m an upbeat girl, ready to believe the best of people and hold hope of better days beyond a trial. It’s rare for me to find myself in a place so deep and dark, I can’t see any way out. Lately, though . . . well, it’s been tough. I won’t go into detail beyond saying there are significant changes happening in my sphere and I’m facing heartbreaking loss in several areas, particularly relationships. When I see the people around me also struggling, my grief is multiplied.

We didn’t see this upheaval coming, nor can we see where it will take us. Almost every day the information seems to change. If ever there was a time to be confronted with our powerlessness, it’s now. We cry out to God and use the strength He gives to make the best of our situation and support others. Sometimes, though, the constancy of the battle wears us down and its length stretches us far beyond what we think we can bear. Hope fades and the gloom becomes so heavy, it immobilizes us. That’s where I found myself on the couch that day—staring into a darkness so thick, it seemed as if it could swallow me whole. Oh, God.

Then, softly, like a light shining through the fog, I sensed an echo of my own words from a couple of months back:

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‘The hardest of times became the high points in my life because of what God did through them.’

Those were words of hindsight, reflections on the darkest seasons in my journey. Through trauma, anorexia, relationship strains, burnout, life-threatening illness and tragic loss I’d felt God’s loving presence so close, known the wisdom of His counsel and seen His goodness poured out, even in the littlest details.

The hardest of times can become the best of times? Could that really be true in this situation?

Surely not this time, God. This is too big, too hard.

His response? You have a choice.

I paused, breathing deep. I did, didn’t I? I could let myself be pulled into the vortex of despair, or I could choose to put my hope in God and believe He would turn all of this—somehow—for good. Sitting up, I rubbed my hands against my legs and released a slow breath. I knew my emotions were shaky, far too weak to leap all the way from hopelessness to instant joy. I had a journey ahead—and from my former times of struggle I knew the steps I needed to take:

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  1. I asked for help

I picked up my phone and sent messages to my connect group leader, my church prayer team and a bunch of close friends, telling them how low I was and asking them to pray.

God puts us in community for our good. When we feel like we’re drowning, He urges us to confide in others, allowing them to lift us with their encouragement and prayers.  

‘Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.’ James 5:16 TLB

2. I switched off the noise

Some words I’d been listening to offered hope. Others gave interesting information but stirred up anxiety and despair. I chose to switch off the second set.

When our emotions are too frail to deal objectively with negativity, we need to be vigilant, setting limits to protect our mind and heart.

‘Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’ Philippians 4:8 NLT

3. I simplified

I took a step back and chose to simplify what I could—clearing out clutter, putting aside big projects, giving myself time and space to rest.

Weary hearts and minds are easily overloaded. Sometimes we need to slow the pace for a while and just do the basics.

‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.’ Ecclesiastes 3:1

4. I fixed my eyes

Once some of the mental and physical clutter had been cleared out, it was easier for me to define my focus. Again and again, I felt God urging me, ‘Fix your eyes on Me.’ So, again and again, I did. And every time I looked to Him, He brought new perspective to everything else.

No circumstance, person, disease or government determines the course of our lives. Above all, God is in control—and He is a good, loving Father.

‘Be still and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.’ Psalm 46:10

5. I nourished my spirit

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I spent extra time in God’s presence each morning, journaling and sitting quietly, chewing over portions of scripture and writing down verses He seemed to highlight. Like a starving child desperate for good food, I devoured every word that brought truth and perspective. Through the day I fed on the wisdom of others, listening to sermons and reading articles that built my faith.

God’s word is our food, His Spirit our life-giving water. To gain the strength we need for the path He’s marked out for us, we need to eat and drink daily from His provision.

‘When your words came, I ate them;

They were my joy and my heart’s delight . . .’ Jeremiah 15:16

6. I remembered God’s faithfulness

One day I listed in my journal the many trials of my past, each one so difficult I’d wondered if they would ever end. I remembered what God did, the profound truths He taught me and the way He led me all the way through—making me richer and wiser through the process.

The trials we face don’t last forever. They have a beginning and an endpoint. How we come out of them depends on how we go through them. If we’re willing to yield to God’s refining and receive His guidance on the way, He’ll work it all for good in our lives.

‘Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.’ James 1:3

7. I let go

Finally, after dealing with all the other issues, I realised how entangled I’d become in all my imaginings of what might or might not happen. My attempts to figure and plan had woven a tight web around my soul, pinching me with disappointment and despair whenever circumstances didn’t work out as I’d hoped.

God alone could see the future.

Just as He was with me now, He would be with me in the days to come, supplying all I needed at every point along the way. To try to do His job was a waste of time and energy.

So, I surrendered.

I laid down my need to know how God was going to work everything out.

I chose to trust Him, believing He would bring me through and take care of me on the way.

I chose to take one day at a time, fixing my eyes on His face, following His nudges and giving my best to the people around me.

Scrawling that prayer of surrender in my journal brought great release, lightening the burden I’d been carrying and giving me freedom to focus on each day as a gift. It didn’t fix everything—our world is still in turmoil. But I find I’m more able to manage the fluctuations between anxiety and confidence, sadness and thankfulness by choosing to stay anchored in the truth that is stronger than my feelings:

This season won’t last forever.

God’s promises are true.

He is with us and, if we keep our eyes on Him, He’ll show us the way through—choice by choice—for however long it takes to come out the other side.

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And when we emerge from this battle,

we’ll be closer to God,

stronger in His truth and

more confident in His sufficiency

than we were at the beginning.

‘And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’ Romans 8:28