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.

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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.

In Desperate Times . . .

The air was fragrant with the scent of peppermint oil and eucalyptus. I lay under a thick, warm towel, face down. Soft music soothed my frazzled nerves. The therapist’s hands moved along my neck and shoulders, kneading tension from my aching muscles.  

Two weeks earlier, my husband and I had trudged through a bout of COVID. While our illness was mostly mild, the fatigue it brought lingered. Six days along, when we were still weak and vague, an email informed us we needed to move—in just five weeks’ time. Though we barely had energy or headspace to keep our household running, house-hunting and packing were added to our lengthy to-do list.  

After one week of searching with little reward, I was so full of fear and anxiety, I thought my head would burst. If only someone could come and fix everything for me, like mum so often had when I was young. I noticed my mind running to desperate places, secretly wishing I could run away or go to sleep for a month—anything to escape the battle that lay ahead. The fear that gripped me wasn’t based so much on the chance we might not find a house, though that simmered under the surface. It was more that I didn’t think I had what it would take to survive the journey.  

I’ve been through upheavals like this before. Bigger ones, even—like our move 1400 kilometres north from Tasmania three years ago. At that time I saw God lead us so clearly—at every stage I sensed His counsel, encouragement and comfort. This time my mind was so foggy I could barely focus to read my bible, let alone hear His whisper. Even when I did sense what God was saying, I couldn’t grasp hold of the hope He offered.

My body was still unwell. So were my emotions—deep in the slump that sometimes comes with illness. Paranoia, powerlessness, depression and middle of the night panic all had their moments of attack. The littlest trigger set my stomach churning and pain running through my body. I felt like a wreck—a shell of the woman I’d been—completely wrung out. I kept reading, kept praying and journaling, but couldn’t seem to shake off the fear.

On the morning of massage day, I realised I needed to push through and fight. There was no way I could carry on as I was. Mustering all the strength I had, I began speaking aloud God’s promises.

Photo by Michael Block on Pexels

‘God, thank you that you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Thank you that you make a way in the wilderness and provide streams in the desert. You open doors no man can shut. You are my shepherd and you go ahead of me to prepare the way. Thank you that when we acknowledge You in all our ways You make our path straight . As we seek first your kingdom, you will add to us everything we need. You know the end from the beginning and you will work all this together for our good.’

With each declaration, a tiny chink was cut in the fear that had imprisoned my mind. This was progress. But it took so much energy I couldn’t sustain it for long.   

‘God,’ I whispered. ‘I can’t do this alone. Please speak. I’m listening.’

Later I lay on the massage table, soaking up every hope-filled lyric in the Christian music I heard. The therapist, a friend from church, started working on my arms, her touch gentle yet firm, her thumbs pressing soothingly on sore spots. 

‘God loves you so much,’ she said, her voice gentle. ‘He has a good plan for you.’

‘Thank you,’ I whispered, her words settling in my heart. ‘I need that reminder.’

She went on massaging, silent for a minute before adding, ‘I believe He’s going to give you a new perspective.’

My heart sighed. Oh, yes, Lord. That’s what I need.

She massaged one of my hands then the other, rubbing in small circles along the muscles between my fingers, relieving tension I hadn’t realised was there. ‘He’s going to help you see your situation from His perspective.’

I felt my spirit lift. Let it be, Lord.

That evening a friend checked in to see how I was via messenger. She wrote, ‘It seems like God is stripping away all the control from you so He has total control—a great thing but a very painful thing.’

Photo by Ran Berkovich on Unsplash

I pondered her words after our conversation ended. She was right. After spending years seeking to rest in God’s goodness, I’d slipped into worrying, imagining all the possible scenarios of how things could play out—mostly what could go wrong. The reality was, no matter how much thought or worry I put in, I couldn’t control the outcome. Only God could give us favour with a home-owner among the sea of applicants. Only He could open up a way for us.

When I went to bed that night, I prayed, Lord, please give me a dream—something so vivid it brings lasting change to the way I think. Early the next morning I woke many times, not with a dream but with a sentence I’d once heard running through my head.

‘Do what you can do and let God do what only He can do.’

Do what I can do. What could I do? I could pray. I could ask others for input, look for suitable houses and get our application documents ready. That was all. Suddenly a burden lifted. All I had to do was fulfil my role.  

The rest was up to God.

That day I started working on a rental application. It was detailed, tedious and took a very long time. When I lowered myself into bed that evening, I opened my current read to see the next chapter’s title. Perseverance.

Ha ha, God. Perfect timing. Okay, I’m listening.

The pages that followed told the story of a man who always quit when things got difficult. He went through a string of failed relationships and lived a restless, miserable life—until he learned to endure the tough patches.   

The next morning as I opened my eyes, another revelation came.

‘This process will be uncomfortable,

but it won’t destroy me.

God will see me through.’

I was struck by a realization as I jotted the words in my journal. My thinking was faulty.

Discomfort would not destroy me, no matter how much it felt like it would.

I had subconsciously agreed with an inner voice that whined, ‘I can’t bear this’. Several times before, that phrase had tripped me up. But I’d never acknowledged its deceptive nature. Only God knew what I could bear, and He would set the limits on how far this journey stretched me. I didn’t need to run or hide or go to sleep for a month. I needed to face and accept this season of discomfort and walk with Him all the way through. He would bring me out the other side. I could endure—if I relied on Him one day at a time.  

A few days later, after a long time studying Proverbs, I sat quietly with my journal and felt God speak these words to my heart.

Enjoy this process (of house-hunting), knowing there will be a good outcome. Choose to enter fully into what I am doing—even when it doesn’t make sense—and know I’ll work good in your heart (and mind) through it.

When you choose to offer your best to a process you’d rather not be in, I do My best work in you.’  

God knew I didn’t want to be in this process. And He was asking me to give my best anyway. He saw the bigger picture and His focus was as much on what He was doing in me as what He was doing for me.

Isn’t that what Romans 8:28-29 tells us? It doesn’t say God works all things together to make our lives comfortable. It says He uses all things—even the really hard things—to mould us into the likeness of Jesus. God’s greatest desire is that we grow into the unique individuals He destined us to be, each walking in His plan—the truly good life. The outcome of the process (though He does provide for our needs, often in amazing ways) isn’t nearly as important as the work He does in us through it.  

There’s only one week now till moving day and our house-hunt isn’t complete. It’s been difficult to stay in that place of quiet trust the last few days. What ifs have started creeping in, whispering fear to my soul. Working through the final edits of this post has been helpful. It’s put the truth before my eyes once more. Though this process feels torturous, God is doing something very good.  

What battle are you facing right now? And how is God working in you through it? Though this patch you’re in may not seem to hold anything you can view as good, if you seek to walk with Him through it, there will be a time where you can.

PS. Two days after completing this, our rental application for a lovely home was approved. Though it’s too long a story to go into now, we know this is the home of God’s choice for us. And we are oh-so-thankful.

‘The righteous cry out and the LORD hears them;

He delivers them from all their troubles.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted

And saves those who are crushed in spirit.’

Psalm 34:17-18

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