Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB)
Know what I mean about frustration reaching “critical mass?” And I’m not just talking about the political arena, although politics did inspire this post, where no amount of attempts to analyze things via critical thinking and no amount of calm appeals seem to ratchet back the riots, figurative and literal, mental and physical, ramping up just now…
Today’s topic was prompted by recent comments I overheard from yet one more (of many, lately) ordinarily calm, rational, political conservatives that sounded a lot like this:
THEY JUST KEEP TELLING LIES NO MATTER WHAT THE FACTS ARE AND I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!
So my first encouragement is to BREATHE. (I used to have a big “breathe” sign up in my office at work for certain days, certain student conferences, certain political campaigns in higher education. It helped.)
However, although what’s going on might seem formidable (because many far-left radicals now hold the reins of power), we are never at a loss when it comes to not only surviving but overcoming such emotional and mental onslaughts–and who knows what physical pandemonium may also come, I should say, intensify.
We have help.
As noted in the epigraph, there are no “new” temptations; however, there are new campaigns and strategies, new variations on old themes, you might say.
But God still provides a “way of escape.”
The Escape Room
As I thought about this critical topic for survival today not only politically, but spiritually, I was reminded of a new fun fad called “escape rooms.” My friends Jan and Geri and I recently enjoyed this experience.
Escape rooms are places, one or two rooms, where participants (2-6, usually) find their way out of the “room” via figuring out the clues provided.
Maybe there is a random key laying on a table but it doesn’t go to the exit door, but to a file drawer.
There might be cryptic notes that lead, one to another, to the next big clue.
Perhaps some background music or wall art or something underneath a throw rug might lead the group out.
But watch out! There might be some false leads, too.
So it’s good to have some good critical and creative thinkers on board–and perhaps some experienced “escape room” participants as well.
But it is to the idea of a “spiritual escape room”–whether an inspired idea, or an action–and for much more serious situations, that I write today. For, spiritually, as the Scriptural epigraph notes, we have lot of “help,” too, and those who have already successfully exited there own spiritual challenges–whether in “mental mansions” as it were (which is the name of our local escape room adventure), or political potholes–provide some problem-solving strategies for the rest of us. Several follow.
But What is God’s Escape Room? Four Things to Remember and by which To Be Encouraged
- The prayer closet, literally but also figuratively, is the “room,” and a good place to start the quest for answers and guidance in the midst of any temptation, every battle. A few people might actually have a literal room in which they pray at specific times, but all of creation is “God’s room,” you might say, in which we can pray, 24/7, and His answers to prayer might include solutions found not just in the physical realm but also the mental, emotional, and assuredly the spiritual.
- Prayer is both formal and informal, scripted and even “groanings” when we don’t even know what to pray nor can we formulate any words in some depth of need or anguish. Paul put it like this in his letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 26 (NIV): In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
- It is also important to remember that the Word of God, the Bible, in context, is a critical source of help, as I discussed in my last post and many others in my “spiritual survival” series. The Bible, which is an anthology of narrative, historical, poetic, wisdom, prophecy, gospel, epistolary, and apocalyptic genres, provides for the reader the length, depth, and breadth of spiritual history as well as the length, depth, and breadth of God’s love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ, the “Word Made Flesh” Who came to illustrate this love. From this source of guidance, counsel, wisdom, correction and protection, there are many examples of how saints of old dealt with their adversaries that can inform us now.
- Lastly, it is important to remember we face a brilliant adversary. However, although our real enemy (and his willing earthly minions in every arena) is formidable in all his machinations, he is limited. The Devil might be in the details, as the old expression goes, but a parallel expression, God is in the details, is all that much more applicable and powerful. After all, Who made whom? And Who limits whom, as also noted in the epigraph?
In short, we serve a mighty–and personal–God, Who hears and answers prayers. Here is an excellent summary of Bible passages affirming this truth. I invite you to spend some time there to build faith in prayer, especially in these trying and very frustrating times.
“Escaping the Room” with a Little Help from Your (Divine) Friend
In this case, to again draw on the analogy of the escape room, a “friend” can help.
Spiritually speaking, by friend I mean the Holy Spirit Who inspired God’s Word. Paul put it this way in his second letter to Timothy (3:16, NIV),
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
One key passage that details, first of all, our “armor,” that is to say, our protection on this new and far more lethal battleground is detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV). It will also be faith building and re-affirming to review this passage:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
There are myriad commentaries that unpack this important series of instructions for believers who are searching for ways to both approach and overcome the state of division and destruction now plaguing our nation, indeed, the entire world, and that might also provide encouragement.
Other Friends, Too, and More Words to the Wise
And just as “the rain falls on the just and the unjust,” as it were, there is also good advice to be gleaned from secular strategists that aligns with Scriptures. Here are a few I try to keep in mind to help allay my own frustration–particularly when it comes to the sorry sate of politics–that may help you, too, and that focus again on our real enemy. For all strategists agree: know your enemy.
- Carefully study the “fruit,” that is, actions, of those who promise Utopias of mind, emotion, and/or government, because they may appear to be “angels of light,” as it were.
- Carefully study their “battle plans,” for example the battle plan “rules” of activist Saul Alinsky, who has reportedly influenced many of today’s radical leftists.
- Always remember that if, indeed, the archetypal enemy of enemies (interestingly, the same to whom Alinsky dedicated his Rules for Radicals linked above) is at play on the battlefield, his end game is desctruction. Not compromise. Not negotiation. Not appeasement. Not fair play. I do not think many Alinskyites understand this in their haze of idealism–or quest for total control.
- Above all: if our real enemy, the one “behind the curtain,” as it were, is he who rages against all things good and all things God, we need God’s wisdom to be able to not only resist the rage that comes of honest frustration (for rage is the Devil’s weapon) but to “go high” by accessing wisdom and direction from “ON high”. Here are just a few words of wisdom and perspective on how to do that, and that will leave you, I hope, with yet more encouragement:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)
I encourage you, friends and fellow believers, to stay in God’s Word and to stay in His “escape room.” He knows the way out, and provides for you the keys: prayer, searching the Scriptures for His wisdom which is higher than all others’ (and more effective), and fellow believers to help and guide you.
Post Script: Many people wonder why Christians put our faith in an “invisible God,” and others consider faith in God (aka religion) to be some kind of “opiate for the masses.”* For one discussion of why Christians have chosen to believe in God, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (The Holy Trinity aka, Three Persons in One God), I invite you to read this thoughtful explanation by Colin Markham, who blogs at Fellowship of St. Peter:
“We cannot know everything. There is a lot of mystery out there and that includes aspects of our faith. Ultimately we believe in a mystery so profound we believe in it because it is so profound. If God wasn’t wholly other, we wouldn’t be in awe of Him, and lacking that awe we wouldn’t believe in Him. It is all the work of the Holy Spirit who is so gentle and subtle, working through the labyrinthine recesses of our minds to awaken and revive our spiritual sensibilities. He captures our true humanity and fashions it like clay so that we more closely resemble the image of God, and Christ came so that we had a perfect example to follow, the New Adam to redeem the fallen Adam. It all constitutes a wonderful pattern, woven by God out of sheer love. It puts man-made machinations into perspective, all the theories and structures that over the centuries mankind has devised to create paradise on earth: perfect societies, perfect political systems, psychology, self-help guides and all the rest of it, not to mention false religions and perversions of the one true faith, Christianity.”
As I reflect on Colin’s words, I am prompted to think about what seems like a primal need to have “someone in charge,” who knows more, is more, and can help us figure out the hard things in life. At first it is our parents, then teachers and others in authority. We may not always admit this, and certainly it goes against human pride, but if we are honest, we have to ask: who has perfect confidence in their own ability to navigate the dark waters of life? So we search, investigating this personage and that, this ideology/philosophy/worldview and that, this belief system and that until we find something or someone who seems to fill the need. For Christians, the choice is the Triune God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Whose Son, Jesus, died for us that we might survive–and thrive–despite what challenges may come in this, yet another kind of “escape room,” called life.- PBN
*For a discussion of the expression “religion is the opiate of the masses,” famously attributed to Karl Marx but also espoused by others, read here. Essentially, Marx’s claim was that “religion gives people artificial, illusory happiness—like opium does to a drug addict—and freeing people from that unrealistic illusion was part of building a better society.” Of course, Marx’s socialist utopian idea of society, as played out in the last century alone, caused the murder of millions.
FOLLOW UP POST HERE.