I’ll never forget it.
My wife and I were working with a young married couple. The husband had been unfaithful and we were working with them to try to bring about reconciliation. For a few months we seemed to be making progress. But then I hit a particularly busy season and we went two weeks without meeting.
When we got back together, everything had changed. Reconciliation was out the window. It was over.
It was frustrating, not because my goal of reconciling the relationship was finished…not because there wasn’t a justifiable reason for the decision. It was frustrating because we were making progress towards a common goal and that was shattered by two things: ideas and isolation.
Since then I have seen the same thing happen so many times. I was talking with someone recently about this and it’s connection to the pandemic. It’s not just in one issue. In fact, I would guess that in 9 out of 10 problems that have crept up as a result of the pandemic, this is at the heart of it.
Things were going fine until the pandemic. But then we got isolated. The relationships we relied on suddenly changed. When we were seeing people weekly or more, we stopped seeing them. The people we were in relationship with who were helping us stay on the “straight and narrow” were harder to get in touch with. They couldn’t pray with us, encourage us, correct us or help us when we needed it most.
Of course, we didn’t help ourselves. We were proud. We thought we didn’t need anyone to help us. We thought we could get through it on our own. But we were fools for thinking so. We found ourselves isolated. Which made us sitting ducks for tactic number two, ideas.
It’s amazing how one itsy bitsy teenie weenie idea can grow like a midwestern farm boy. In a normal setting, we can manage the lies that creep in. We chew on a lie for a few days, but then we see someone who lovingly corrects that lie and it dies. But without that interaction, the mistruths and half truths grow uncontrollably. Like Clarence says to George in “It’s a wonderful life”: “Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.”
It’s so obvious to me now after all these years in ministry. The Devil’s tactics are simple, but incredibly effective. I’ve seen relationships ruined because people let an idea creep into their thinking. I’ve seen people fall back into sin because a tiny idea crept back in. Over the years there wasn’t a good excuse. Often times people will stop coming to church when they’re struggling with something. Partly because they like the thing and don’t want to be corrected, partly because they don’t want to appear as though they don’t have it all together and partly because they think they can fix it on their own.
They can’t. And the devil gets em, time and time again. If the Devil can get you all alone, thinking about a half-truth, He’s gonna getcha. Every time.
What do we do about this?
First, we need to learn to recognize when the Devil is using one of these tactics on us. We need to learn to spot it like a thunderstorm on the radar. If we see it coming, we can get out of the path of the storm.
Second, we need to humble ourselves and recognize that no single human is strong enough to do this Jesus thing on our own. We weren’t created for isolation. God said in the garden, “It’s not good for many to be alone.” We need one another. We need to sacrifice our “me time” for “we time.” Maybe the reason we feel like we’re barely hanging on is because we’re trying to do alone what we were made to do in community.
Third, we have to learn to go to the source. Often times this will mean going to God’s word or someone we know who knows God’s word to get God’s perspective on the thing we’re wrestling with. Other times we will have to go to the person about whom we are believing the half-truth. Lies lose their power when juxtaposed with the truth.
Right now our world is more divided than it’s ever been. It’s no coincidence. We’re divided because we’ve been isolated for months, mulling over idea after idea in isolation. We haven’t had to face the hard truth that this idea we have embraced withers when a real person I know holds a different idea. We think our idea is the only right idea and that it’s impossible to for people who disagree to live together in unity. But, that my friends, is a lie.
The only thing we have to agree on is unconditional, sacrificial love for one another. The primary thing we have to do right is laying down our lives for one another like Jesus laid down his life for us. All that other stuff, when compared to this kind of love, is rubbish.
The question is, are we going to keep letting the Devil win and get the best of us?