Before I ended up in quarantine, my life was extremely busy. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t have time to draw a breath. Since I was going a thousand directions at once, all I could think about was my “to do” list. Then I became ill, and my busy life slowed to a stop.
Quarantine—what a horrible word. Seven years of separation from society.
I used some of my quarantine quiet time to reflect about my personality flaws. I knew I had weak areas, and I intended to tackle them. Feeling very serious, I took a notebook and divided it into sections. I assigned each of my character flaws a section, and then I began my research. I dived into the Word of God and found Scripture verses dealing with my weak areas. I wrote the Scriptures in my notebook and memorized them. Along with prayer, I used the Scriptures as spiritual ammunition to try to conquer my flaws. This wasn’t a little project; it lasted for years—and in many instances—is still going on.
Around my second year into this project, something interesting began happening. I began understanding temptation on a deeper level. Not only was I becoming aware of my weak areas, I was becoming aware of a pattern to the temptations I faced. As I continued battling my flaws, I discovered that the devil was using a temptation train.
I know that sounds strange, so let me explain. In Luke 4:1-13, the devil presented Jesus with a series of temptations. Each time, Jesus quoted a Scripture and didn’t fall into sin. The devil presented his temptations all in a row, and Luke 4:13 says that “when the devil had ended ALL temptation, he departed from [Jesus] FOR A SEASON.”
When I was in quarantine, I thought a lot about Luke’s words. I began to realize that they not only provided a guide on how to handle temptation, but they also contained information about the enemy’s tactics. You see, the devil didn’t just hit Jesus with one temptation. He hit Him with several in a row. And after Jesus met each challenge, the devil departed for a season—inferring that the devil was planning on coming back again. As I continued battling my flaws, I realized the devil’s pattern of temptation wasn’t unique to Jesus—the devil was using that same pattern in my own life.
You know from reading my blog that I have problems with worry, anger, resentment, and fear. (I have problems in lots more areas than that, but those will suffice for examples.) When a season of temptation would hit, it was as if the devil was starting down my list of weaknesses. First, something would happen, and I’d start worrying about my health. Once I realized what was going on, I’d quote Scriptures and stand in faith against worry. Almost like clockwork, the devil would move on to my anger issues. Something would happen, and I’d find myself getting mad. Instead of flying off the handle, I’d rein myself in and quote my anger Scriptures. Next, the devil would try to bring up a memory of an old hurt. I’d be tempted to rehash the painful incident in my mind, but I’d quote Scripture and refuse to go there. Then the devil would hit me with fear. I’d hear a weird noise at night, and I’d start to feel afraid. Again, I’d grab my Scriptural ammunition and go to war. Once I’d battled fear, the devil would move on to another of area of weaknesses. It was as if the devil was going down a checklist and testing each side of my character to see if there was any way he could make me miserable.
I’m a very visual person, and in my mind, I began picturing the devil driving a temptation train into my life. Each train car would contain one of my weaknesses, and I would have to fight—and win—a battle in each car before the locomotive left. Usually this process took about one or two weeks. During those weeks, I faced an intensive battle against my flaws. Once the temptation train left, I’d have a time of peace—but after a while, the devil would drive his temptation train back into my life and the testing would start again.
After a while, I found the process almost fascinating. You see, before quarantine, I was too busy to make the connection between times when my life was more difficult, and times when the devil was tossing temptation my way. I literally didn’t realize that the devil was chugging his temptation train right through my brain, and that the temptation train was THE REASON my life seemed more difficult. When things slowed down during quarantine, I was able to see a definite pattern—one that had the devil’s fingerprints all over it.
Ephesians 6:12 says that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:13 tells us to take “the whole armor of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.” 1 Peter 5:8-9a tells us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” And 2 Corinthians 2:11 tells us that we don’t have to give Satan an “advantage” for we are “not ignorant of his devises.”
As I continued battling my flaws, I found that the devil’s temptation train usually came when I was tired or sick. I had to be vigilant at all times, but especially when I felt physically weak. I learned how to be smart and arm myself before the battle began. During the peaceful times, I stored up Scriptural ammunition and kept close to God in prayer. I opened my eyes and acknowledged my areas of weakness. I recognized triggers that could lead me into problems. When I did all of those things, and the devil brought his temptation train around, I was able to stand up and battle in the engine, and the coal car, and the passenger cars, and the caboose. One after another, I was able to stand up to the enemy, and many times, I’d come out victorious after his swings. I didn’t always get it right, but I was at least learning and trying.
Quarantine was a horrible thing, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it gave me the time I needed to slow down and think things through. It helped me understand certain truths. It made me realize that I’m in a non-ending spiritual battle whether I like it or not. It made me aware that the devil knows my weaknesses, and he’s trying to use those weaknesses to destroy me. I’m aware now that the devil picks certain times to come against me. And I’m aware that through prayer and by applying Scripture, I don’t have to be slaughtered by the temptation train—I can stand on the side of the tracks, face each car, and then wave it on its way. I’ve learned that I DON’T HAVE TO BE DEFEATED. I can be aware of the devil’s devices, I can take up the armor of God, I can be vigilant, I can resist steadfast in the faith, and I can WITHSTAND in the evil day!!! I CAN HAVE VICTORY!!!!
I know that there’s nothing easy about spiritual warfare. I also know that when a person thinks they have it all figured out—that’s when they need to watch out. I’m still learning each and every day, and I fail more times than I’d like to admit. But I do believe that the key to winning spiritual battles is being aware of what’s happening, and then coupling that knowledge with prayer and Scripture. Life is confusing. Life is hard. But God has given us Jesus’s example, prayer, and Scripture to help see us through. With God on our side, we can be victorious over everything—even the temptation train!