For the past two years, this passage has haunted me. "Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat." What cold words out of the mouth of my Savior.
I imagine the disciples around the table of the Last Supper, together with their beloved Jesus, feasting and enjoying a beautiful meal – being stupid and arguing about who was the greatest (don't we all pick dinner with our most intimate family to have those kinds of conversation?) – and Jesus offering them a promise that they had only dreamed of so far...
The promise has been revealed... God's kingdom will be established! And the disciples get to rule with Jesus... talk about a spiritual high. What a glorious promise given, especially after all they'd been through, all the suffering and shame they had experienced. All they had lost in walking away from their jobs, families, comfort. But it's verses 31 and 34 that follow this promise. Jesus reveals to them the glory to come, but chases it with a heavy dose of sobering reality. The disciples had no idea the suffering that was to come.
Only a few hours after being told he would be a ruler in Christ's kingdom, Peter is going to fail. From the heights of blissful anticipation and confidence in who he is and who his God is... to crash and burn and bitterly weep, all in one night.
When this happens to you, do not think it's strange.
When this happens to you, take heart. Jesus prays for His own and will never let Satan destroy our faith and hope.
So here I am. Knowing that Jesus does not stand on the sidelines after He permits Satan to pummel me nearly to death. Jesus permits Satan's demons to come for my life, knowing that the hounds of Heaven will always sniff me out, have teeth that are stronger than Satan's claws, a howling bay that chases out the darkness, and will gently pick me up and carry me to the safety of my Father, who is always with me, praying fervently over me, providing me the Spirit within me to anchor me with hope. Satan can tempt me to despair, but my God will always have the victory within me, every time. I turn to Job...
Satan has demanded all of Job's earthly possessions and his family and God has granted them to be removed. The only thing left Satan could take is Job's body, and that is granted too, but God instructs him not to take Job's life. Satan is looking not to break Job, he's looking to destroy Job's faith. That is always his end goal. But God.
Here's my question: How do I love a Father who permits Satan to sift me? How do I love a Father who would allow literally everything I have and everyone I love to be taken from me? How do I love a Father who would let Satan afflict my body, nearly to death?
So I turn to His love letter for me – because I have no where else to turn (John 6:68) – and His Word reminds my heart that He is weaving a greater story. He is walking me through the fire, burning away the darkness that Satan throws at me, uprooting dead trees and burning the diseased portions of the forest so that better things can grow. He tells me I will suffer with Him (Romans 8:17). He shows me that His people are not understood by the world, that they will endure horrible conditions and many will die... because He is providing something better (Hebrews 11).
For the past two years, as we have moved from city to city, enduring various trials, Satan has tempted me to despair. He's taken what should have been the most joyous moments of my life and tainted them with darkness. He's breathed fire on beautiful friendships, he's twisted the guidance of my Savior and made me believe He's put me on a path to destruction, he's whispered lies into my ear as I held my newborn baby that I am worthless, I should just be grateful to exist, I don't deserve to have a voice. Satan has ripped deep scars into my marriage, caused me to hear my baby's cries as assurance of my prison, made me believe that it would be better if I wasn't here anymore.
As I laid on our bedroom floor, hiding from my husband and my baby, from another new city, from the work I once felt called by God to do, Satan reminded me of pills we keep in our bathroom and how I could just take too many. That I could fall asleep and not be part of this world anymore. That death... death is better than my life.
When the night is holding onto me... God is holding on. There is not a man or a beast, nothing on the land or underneath, nothing that could ever come between the love You have for me. I could lay my head in Sheol, I could make my bed at the bottom of the darkness deep, but there is not a place I could escape You. Your heart won't stop coming after me. He provides me with a shield of faith and a sword of truth against Satan's army, but He does not expect me to hold them up on my own. Jesus Himself prays on my behalf and God answers His prayer and keeps me safe.
There is one last promise made to us in Jesus's words to Peter. It is not meant to be a burden – it is meant to multiply our joy. Jesus tells Peter, "And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."
I have been so fearful to reveal this to you, fearful to write at all. Who am I that I should be another voice in the already destructive and complicated world that is social media? Who am I that I should speak of what Satan has done to me? What's worth sharing in that? What a failure I am. Not writing for years. Struggling, trying, and failing. Who am I to even consider myself a writer. I type this and hear Satan spitting all over the keyboard, putting me to shame. But God.
He demands that we come to our community of brothers and sisters and proclaim what God is doing – because it strengthens the hearts of others to trust Him, is a healing balm to those who have walked a similar path, bonds us stronger together for His glory, and multiplies our joy.
I've said it before and I'll say it again... let's share joy together.
To the mass of you who, prior to reading this, did not know of my ongoing struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, do not be afraid. I proclaim what God is doing in my life, as someone who has repeatedly walked a familiar dark path, to declare proof that He is greater, He is always good, and His will is infinitely better than our own.
When you are faced with your own sinful, selfish, dark bents, faced with your own afflictions that you hide, that you fear, that bring you shame at your innermost core – know that every single one of us has our bents and that God has graciously given us these thorns in our sides to drive us to our knees at His feet, knowing full well that we cannot do this life on our own, that we cannot save ourselves, that we are infinitely needy for His power and His love. PRAISE GOD. If not for these afflictions, we would never experience the full weight of His glory. Shallow waters do not quench what only the deepest ocean can. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.