The Word Among Us

June 2019 Issue

A God of Faithfulness and Mercy

Countering the devil’s lies about who God is.

By: Deacon Keith Strohm

A God of Faithfulness and Mercy: Countering the devil’s lies about who God is. by Deacon Keith Strohm

Think about all the images of God that exist in the world. There’s the meticulous accountant weighing our every sin against our attempts to do good. There’s the short-tempered judge always ready to find us guilty at a moment’s notice. There’s even the softhearted uncle who is all smiles and lets us do whatever we want.

Oftentimes, these confused images start out innocently enough, but then the devil uses them to great advantage. By taking one or more of these images and exaggerating them, he can convince us that God really doesn’t have our best interests at heart. He knows that if he can cloud our image of God, he can weaken our trust in the Lord and lead us further and further away from him.

In this article, Deacon Strohm looks at three of the devil’s most common lies about God: that God is not good, that God cannot help me, and that God is not more powerful than the devil. And as he did in the previous article, he then helps us grasp the truth about God—the truth that has the power to set us free.

Lie Number One: “God Is Not a Good Father.” One of the Enemy’s classic tactics—in fact, the very first one that we see him employ in Scripture—is to try to convince us that God is not a good Father. If we start seeing God as opposed to us or indifferent to what we go through, then we are more likely to experience fear: fear of God, fear of other people, and even fear of life.

What’s more, once we begin believing that God is not good, we can begin to judge God’s word and work through our own eyes. For example, a Father who would cause his only Son to suffer is a monster, and we would certainly not give our heart to a monster.

This lie about God’s goodness acts as a doorway for even more lies and struggles: anger at God over the suffering in the world, anxiety over the meaninglessness of life, or fear that God may do something bad to us.

Some of us may have grown up in broken or unstable homes or with abusive parents. Our experience with our earthly parents can impact our understanding and experience of God the Father. It isn’t our actual experience that is the lie. Our earthly fathers and mothers may not have been good parents. But this lie about God the Father often flows from our experience of our earthly fathers.

The Truth: “God Wants Nothing but Good for You.” In the Book of Genesis, we read that God created humanity in his image and likeness. But the serpent deceived our first parents by saying that they would not die if they ate the forbidden fruit. Adam and Eve chose not to accept the role of God in their lives. And in doing so, they rejected their dependence upon God and separated themselves from him. Ironically, in choosing to be free of God, they became enslaved to sin and subjected to the devil’s reign of darkness.

But the story didn’t end there. In his love for us, God didn’t abandon us to our suffering. He did something remarkable. He spoke a single word, Jesus, the Word of God, into the midst of the tragedy, brokenness, and suffering of the human condition.

God is a good Father. In his Son Jesus, the power of death has been broken and our whole experience of suffering is transformed.

How would your approach to your life, your relationships, and your prayer change if you embraced the foundational belief that God is a good Father who wants your happiness? This is the invitation the Lord extends to you!

Lie Number Two: “God Is Powerless to Help Me.” Hopelessness is a vacuum. It sucks the very air out of life, making it difficult to breathe. It bleeds away willpower, it eats at resolve, and it infects our thinking. If you’ve ever felt trapped in a situation or overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, you know what that is like. If the Enemy can make us believe that a particular situation—or life in general—is beyond the power of God to change, then we begin to close ourselves off to God and his grace.

When we are in the midst of difficult circumstances, the Enemy will whisper that there is nothing that we can do, no one we can turn to for help—especially not God. The particulars of our situation then start to appear more overwhelming than they actually are, and we can begin to lose perspective. Without anything to counter it, the accusing voice can drown out the voice of God. Prayer becomes difficult, and in this “silence” of God, our sense of alienation and isolation increases.

Sometimes, the hopelessness behind this lie doesn’t magnify an external situation but rather exaggerates the power of our own sinful actions. It makes us believe that what we have done is beyond God’s power to redeem or that God cannot heal a pattern of sin or addiction. The sin is too strong for God to handle.

The Truth: “No Challenge Is Too Big for God.” The good news is that hope is our true horizon—even when we might not be able to see it. This hope is based not only on God’s goodness but on his power to bring life out of death. We see this most dramatically in the resurrection of Jesus. God took the most heinous act in human history (the crucifixion of Christ) and made it the instrument of our salvation.

Wherever Jesus went, he changed hearts and transformed lives—and he still does. There is no sin, no pattern of thinking, no addiction that is beyond God’s power to redeem. He just asks us to open our hearts, give our brokenness to him, and cooperate with the power that is already ours in him. Likewise, there is no problem, tragedy, or trauma—not even death—that God cannot transform.

This doesn’t mean transformation and healing will come easily, or that all problems will cease. It does mean that even in the darkest pit, there is Someone walking with us. The journey may still have its difficulties, but the hope and the reality of salvation cast a new light upon it.

The history of the Church gives testimony to this reality. The weak of this world become strong in him. The worst sinners find new life and love in Jesus. Transformed, they become living examples for us.

Understand this: there is nothing you have experienced, no place you have been, and nothing that you have done that is beyond God’s power to redeem.

Lie Number Three: “The Devil Is as Powerful as God.” The devil possesses power—that much is certain. God created the angels as pure spirits with intelligence and other gifts. Satan and his rebellious angels retained these gifts after they separated themselves from God. If we deny that the Enemy has power, we blind ourselves to the reality of his work in the world.

However, we can fall into an equally false way of thinking by attributing far more power to the devil than he actually has. In an age that has become increasingly distant from the reality of God’s power, it’s easy to overemphasize the Enemy’s power. We see this in some of the books, movies, and games on offer today. When evil shows up, the agents of God are often portrayed as having little ability to drive it back.

This lie can also manifest itself when we give someone or something equal or greater authority than God in our lives. In biblical times this was called worshipping idols. Idols don’t have to be negative things. Positive things such as family, work, and even ministry can become idols if we consistently place them before God. When we idolize something, we begin to shape our thinking, actions, and lifestyle around that thing or person, and we become fearful that we might lose it. Thus the idol seems to exert more power over us than God does.

The Truth: “Nothing Can Overcome God’s Love.” The devil may have power, but it cannot compare to the power of God. Our susceptibility to the lie that Satan is all-powerful stems in part from our misunderstanding of who God is. God is not the most powerful being in the universe. He is not just a kind of “super being” among other beings. He is entirely Other, outside of created reality. Sometimes we think that if God’s power is a ten, then Satan’s must be a nine and that in any conflict between them, the outcome is unsure.

The truth is, far from being as powerful as God, the devil has already lost! The victory belongs to Jesus and his kingdom. If we remain close to Christ, faithfully participate in the sacramental life of the Church, and invite the truth of God into our lives, we have little to fear. “Resist the devil,” James wrote, “and he will flee from you” (4:7). God is all-powerful, and he has given his children a share in his power. Rather than fearing the Enemy, we should stand up secure in our identity as beloved sons and daughters.

Always remember Jesus’ promise: “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:18-19).

These articles were adapted from The 10 Biggest Lies of the Enemy and How to Combat Them by Deacon Keith Strohm. To learn more about overcoming the lies of the evil one, you can order Deacon Keith’s book at wau.org or by calling 1-800-775-9673.

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