The Fog of War and the Clarity of Christ
Growing up, I was an avid fan of magic. Card tricks, magic sets, making tissues everywhere disappear before your very eyes, you name it, I was enthralled with it. When my little brother was too young to understand that things couldn’t actually disappear, I obtained a great amount of joy from hiding toys behind my back and watching him look at me with utter amazement wondering how I did that. But, due to my extreme amount of clumsiness and lack of finesse, I never got very good at doing anything. The key to a halfway decent magic trick is to keep someone totally focused in one direction while you do the actual work in the other. If they are too focused on the wrong thing, they will never come to an understanding of what actually happened in the big picture.
Getting lost in the spiritual wilderness often happens the same way. We don’t notice that we are slipping away out of the city of God because we are too focused on something else: a new car, career possibility, relationship, or interest. It becomes the center of our attention as opposed to God, and, as a result, once we finally look up and back to God, we realize that we are in totally unfamiliar surroundings. And then a new sensation takes over. We suddenly feel panic at the realization that we are lost, which can lead to hopelessness and despair on the one hand and franticness and vain striving on the other. We either immediately give up, lie down in the dirt, and await death, or we attempt to run in every direction at once, trying to make up for the harm we have done. (Note: Franticness is different from repentance. Repentance is fruitful and should be undertaken as God calls us to retrace our steps back to where we came from. Franticness is just an extension of panic and yields nothing but more damage.)
Neither of these is the right reaction to realizing our lostness. But they are tools that Satan uses to disorient us once we realize that we are in the spiritual wilderness. His ultimate goal is to use sleight of hand to create an illusion that we are trapped in this wilderness. He makes it appears as though the trees are closing in all around us and that every noise the forest makes is an animal preparing to pounce. By bringing our attention to the depth of our lostness or the danger of our situation, he creates the illusion of a barrier. A twelve-foot tall chain-link fence with razor-sharp barbed wire across the top. An impenetrable barrier that separates us from Christ.
Satan has to do this, because if we take our minds off the barrier for just one moment we will realize that Christ stands at the gate, and it is wide open. “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, and behold, now I am alive forevermore! And I hold the keys of Death and of Hades.” (Revelation 1:18 BSB) Christ holds the keys to the barrier that Satan has constructed, for he stands condemned. (John 16:11) We are no longer owned by the prince of this world, but instead, we have been given the right to be called children of the Most High. (Ephesians 5:8) And as such, God promises, “That neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV) And that promise certainly goes for any sin, shame or guilt within us.
Satan stands condemned, not us. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV) We are free from the barriers of Satan if only we would take one moment to stop looking at how big they are, and instead, looked at how big our God is. The fog of this war is easily penetrated by the light of Christ. He will be faithful to guide us down the path to His city, where He reigns and Satan and His barriers can not enter. (Psalms 119:105)
But what is the first step to taking our eyes off of all of the barriers and things that lead us astray and fixing them on to Christ? Without any solid guidance, it can be an insurmountable task. In the moment where we decide to take action, Satan will immediately try to push us back towards panicking and vain striving. He will suggest that we try all sorts of things to remedy the situation, but it is all part of the illusion of the barrier. We don’t need to do anything to get over the barrier because the barrier is not there. The walls of hell were torn down by Christ in His death and resurrection. That is why the veil was torn when He died, because there is, now, no barrier between God and man. (Matthew 27:51)
We must not turn to actions but turn to Christ. The first step is always admitting to Christ that we have gone astray and asking for forgiveness. Nothing should ever come before this. We do not need to do any sort of penance. We do not need to make ourselves feel ‘really sorry’ before we go back to Him. Christ always stands there, beckoning us to just come to Him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) Christ has already paid the price. He has already bore our burdens. We do not need to do anything more. Attempting to do anything more is an insult to the sacrifice of Christ. It says that we do not truly believe that the cross was sufficient to pay our debt.
Once we have truly asked God for forgiveness, He will begin to guide us back onto the path of righteousness. There will be some backtracking to do as we hear God’s call to do it, and that will be the time to take action. But that action is not an attempt to make up for what we did, it is simply obedience to the call of God. It puts us back on the right track towards where God wants us to go. It is during that backtracking that Christ will lead us back to the City of God, and from there we will continue to fulfill our calling for His glory. We must not get hung up upon what happened when we were in the wilderness. We must trust that Christ took care of it and carry onward with our mission. You are finally out of the wilderness, by the grace of God! Rejoice in it! Don’t mope around in the past, but embrace the new life we have in Christ and serve Him all the more passionately for it.
“My sins have become stories of grace to recall.” Felix Culpa.
With the mercy we all enjoy in Christ,
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.