Who is responsible for your struggle and suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
It seems to be common in the South, at least here in America. I would like to think it is just us, but I doubt that. It’s a problem where the devil becomes a whipping boy for everything.
Are you struggling with sin? That’s Satan at work. Are you suffering from a sickness? That’s the devil. Is something distracting you from following Jesus? That’s the devil as well.
At some points, you sometimes wonder if you’re developing sympathy for the devil. Why does he get the credit for everything? Isn’t there more likely another reason why you’re struggling with sin? Maybe that reason could be found if you just went and looked in a mirror.
It’s this idea that we’ve developed that we don’t even realize, but it’s as if we’re saying if the devil would just leave us alone and stop tempting us, we would be living perfect lives. This is not to say the devil cannot tempt, but the way we speak about him, we’ve made him more the counterpart of God who is everywhere and all-powerful as well.
We also don’t help ourselves on the path to holiness. I would love it if I could get to blame the devil whenever I fall into temptation or whenever I am even tempted. If I can do that, then it’s not me. I don’t have to work on anything.
If my neighbor is struggling with sin, I don’t have to want him to repent. I just have to pray the devil will leave him alone. Once the devil has left him alone, then he will come over to the house, we will have tea and cookies, and we will discuss the gospel and he will bend the knee to Jesus immediately.
Keep in mind please, none of this is to say there are no demonic powers at work. I do hold that the devil is a defeated foe, but that he still does have some demons left behind that have been allowed for whatever reason to act on the Earth. I don’t doubt that this is what is going on with certain New Age and psychic type practices.
However, when we do this, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to repent and robbing our neighbor as well. Our neighbor doesn’t need to change. It’s just the devil is on his back all the time. Get rid of that and life will go perfect.
Yet in James, we are told temptation comes because of the desires we have within us. If we are struggling with sin, the problem is not the devil. The problem is us. If we blame the devil over and over, then we won’t take responsibility for ourselves.
What about suffering? Even if we went the route of Job and said the devil brought about all of that, the biggest cause of our suffering is again, us. It’s what we tell ourselves about what happens in our lives. Once again, we are the problem.
This is also good news. It means if we accept responsibility, we can begin the work of change. We can move towards holiness. When we stand before God, any sin that we have committed, the devil won’t be able to take responsibility for. It will be us. He can tempt us, but he cannot force us. We choose.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)