I've seen it countless times in many marriages. Humph! I've even been sucked into some of these myself, whether it be in my marriage, close friendships, or my relationship with one of my children. The enemy is out to destroy anything good, especially when it comes to the family unit, and he's gotten very clever at how he does it.
It's not what you think. He doesn't just walk up one day, snap his fingers, and we instantly fall apart. To the contrary, his ways are subtle, sneaky and unnoticed...that is, until the damage has already been done.
So how do we recognize his tactics? Where is God in all of this? Wouldn't a good God prevent this evil mischief maker from harming those He loves? Great questions! And, I'll try to answer them below:
1. Indifference. Remember back to when you were first dating your spouse, the first time you met your best friend, or the moment the doctor placed that precious little bundle in your arms. Like a brand new toy, we treated that person with respect and great care. We nurtured the relationship and made sure we were on our best behavior.
Over time, however, the newness began to wear. We let our guard down and our hair along with it. It became easy...too easy. No longer did we watch our tone of voice or keep our attitudes in check. Frankly, before we knew it, we may have even become indifferent - neither hot nor cold, just kind of lukewarm in our relationship. It was more about what they could give "me" than what "I" could do for them.
Did it happen overnight? No! Slowly, like a carefully planned military exercise, the enemy snaked his way in and pulled each of us in different directions. We became completely oblivious to the drifting of our two ships and somehow awakened to a great separation of time, space, and opinion.
He did it! In a subtle way the enemy separated a relationship, all because we were asleep at the wheel.
2. Stress. We all experience it. It can show up in many forms or variances, and be caused by numerous outside (or inside) influences. Stress, when unchecked and mismanaged, can ruin relationships. When we are worried, upset, or uptight about a particular thing in our life, we tend to vent, clam up or display uncontrollable emotion.
The enemy, well, he sits back and laughs as the fireworks explode around us. All he had to do was set one thing awry, and stress becomes the ultimate relationship killer. A raised voice here. An accusation there. One slammed door to one hurt-filled, angry text. It's happening, and we don't even stop to realize that the craziness is from the enemy. Automatically, we blame God - our Supreme, Heavenly Father who loves us and wants the best for our lives.
The enemy has won, and he dances with glee, for we've now ruined the relationship, but also harbored bitterness towards the One he hates the most!
3. Scenarios and Conclusions. Women are best at this game, though men can play along as well. The moment our loved one says or does something contrary to what we've already conjured up in our minds, we begin the game of scenarios and conclusions.
The enemy lurks around our thoughts and plants little seeds of doubt, discouragement, fear, and betrayal, which cause us to imagine things far worse than reality. We jump from one thought to another and back again, sewing webs of deceit and lies. Finally, when we've spun the web too tight, we explode with outward accusations and often-time delusional projections, leaving our loved ones stunned and horrified at the out-of-nowhere outburst.
Again, the master of trickery falls down in tumults of laughter as he snorts an arrogant mockery in our direction. We have fallen into his trap, and so easily I might add.
4. Time. We are given 24 hours in a day, yet many of us prioritize those hours according to our own needs. "I have to go to work!" "The house has to be cleaned...right now." "I need time to myself." "I'm sorry, but you're just going to have to wait."
Finding time for our loved ones can be a tricky situation. Yes, we have businesses to run and deadlines to meet. Sure, we have houses and children to attend to, and our own personal issues to look after. But after it's all said and done in this life, will any of that really matter? Have we become so wrapped up in our own time frame, that we have left out those most important? Where do our priorities lie? Does God fit in anywhere in our schedule? Or is He just another number on a list of to-do's? Do our loved ones feel their importance to us? Or do they feel left out...shelved like everything else?
The enemy will do his best to disrupt and over-tax your moments of time. A quiet time with God will definitely be out of the question. The evil one knows that God is above time and can smooth out even the roughest seas, so moments with Him cannot be allowed.
Also, time with your loved ones will never do. For he knows that togetherness breeds mutual affections. Tsk tsk. Not on his watch.
5. Boredom. Bored people determinedly look for ways to "un-bored" themselves. It's a rare moment when a body can sit still and do....nothing. Either our mind begins to conjure up activity, or our body commences in searching. Flipping through television shows, radio programs, or surfing the Internet innocently enough, can be a trap the trickster uses to plant seeds of lust, desire, and every other form of impurity. Hanging around people who consistently find themselves in precarious situations may look like a form of excitement, but can literally drag one into the trickster's evil pit of despair.
"Ahhh....let me see what I can plant in his or her mind. What do I have here? A tantalizing picture on a screen? No, no, too obvious. How about a caring gesture by a friend of the opposite sex. Yes, that might do it! Oh the webs we weave when we start to deceive!"
The enemy understands that subtlety is best. We may not always jump in with both feet at the start. It takes prodding and toying, like a bait on a hook, but eventually....he gets his catch!
With all these menacing tactics, what are we to do? Why would God allow such trickery to befall us. Ahh, but the answer is simple. We were born into a sinful world, and we all have sinful tendencies, yet in His glorious greatness, He provided a heavenly solution....Jesus.
With every trick of the devil, for those who are true Christ followers, we can be sure that what he meant for evil, God will use for our good. That what he meant to destroy us, God can take and display His glory in and through us. The Lord cannot be defeated, and for those of us in Him, nor can we be!
So, maybe it's time to re-assess our relationships. Perhaps we need to shore up the walls of our marriages and make sure that in those times when the rains come and the winds beat upon our foundation, that we will not be shaken, and that our walls will stand!
Blessings to you and your loved ones,