Guarding Your Mind from Satan's Attacks
My favorite book is John Milton’s Paradise Lost. It tells the story of the creation of the world, man’s fall in the garden, and the eventual restoration of man in God’s kingdom through Christ’s sacrifice. It’s my favorite because it combines the truth of the Bible with poetic language. Milton actually calls on the Holy Spirit in the opening to pray that he would guide him in what to write. So, whenever I’m reading Genesis chapters 1 through 3, I like to imagine it like Milton’s story.
One of the more prominent characters in the story of creation is Satan. In fact, he says one of my favorite lines in the book. In book 1 he says to his horde of followers, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” While he is absolutely tricking them with descriptive imagery into thinking Hell is better than Heaven (nice try, Satan), I interpret the quote differently.
Have you ever misinterpreted what someone has said to you and then blown it out of proportion only come to find out later that you were upset over nothing? I’ve been learning a lot about confrontation lately and how there are actually godly and ungodly ways to deal with it. I internalize conflict and harbor resentment with friends and family, often without them knowing, until I’m finally able to let it go with time. I’d much rather sit quietly and be angry than approach anyone with my feelings, especially my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
This concept of the mind spinning narratives or making assumptions about people without much evidence is what I think Milton is actually talking about. The mind can take a sharp word said in passing and turn it into a heated argument. We have amazing cognitive abilities to observe the world around us and decipher meaning from it, yet with this creativity comes the danger of assumptions placed on our friends, family, and coworkers. Enter confrontation.
A friend said something incredibly helpful in how to approach confrontation. She said to give them the opportunity to show love by telling them how you feel. Paul says to do something similar in Ephesians 4:25-27.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
There are a couple takeaways I find important in this passage. First, Paul says for us to speak honestly. He definitely doesn’t say to bottle up my anger until it chokes me to death, but he also doesn’t say to go explode your emotions all over someone. He says to speak the truth.
Next, Paul says to do this with your neighbor. In today’s context, I interpret that to include everyone. The next line can confuse that though in saying, “one of another” which could mean he’s only referring to the members within the body of Christ. But Paul specifically writes "neighbor," which means this is how we are to deal with everyone. Whether they are a believer or not, we must show love like Christ shows love, and speak the truth.
Finally he talks about getting this done as soon as possible. While time to calm down and think about the situation is a given, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Paul brings up the devil when referring to our emotions. Our anger is a powerful weapon in the hands of the enemy, but in the hands of Jesus it’s an opportunity to be more like him and come to a resolve that brings us ultimately closer to God, even our conflicts with non-believers! Because it is not about us and too often we think it is.
Jesus says in Matthew 15 that what comes out of our mouths stems from the heart and it can defile us and others around us. I believe the same can be said of our minds.
“Give no opportunity to the devil.”