By Shannon Potter
Have you ever experienced this? Even as I was trying to put together my thoughts on the topic, I felt like it was happening. Spiritual warfare is not something many people talk about, and I’m not trying to sound super spiritual, but there is a reality that we cannot see. It is powerful. It is discouraging. BUT, we do not have to be captive by it because God has promised to be with us through it all.
I wrote several of the items which have been on my mind recently which have been sources of discouragement, with full intentions of writing the encouraging items next. As I was writing, however, my heart started to grow weary, I wondered whether this would speak to anyone or if they would think I was crazy. So I switched tasks and started to study my French. And then get on Facebook and check my email. I just wanted to get away.. from my discouragement, from the spirit of fear which pervaded. But as I checked my email, I realized that a song by Shane and Shane was playing in the background of my mind: “Be near, oh God, be near, oh God of us. Your nearness is to us our good.” Gently, my God was encouraging me to continue, I believe. And even as I was telling Ryan that I couldn’t blog about spiritual warfare because I felt attacked, WHAM, the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7 came to the forefront of my thoughts.
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.
And I knew I could go on. I should. And I would finish my blog. So here goes.
Some items of discouragement:
There has been another death in the family. Dr. Martin Salia, a wonderful surgeon, served his people in Sierra Leone and lost his fight with Ebola last week. Why would the Lord take him home when there are only 6, now 5 surgeons, helping to treat and serve the entire country?
We heard that one of the only ways to get free education in Congo is by joining a local mosque. Our friends who were in Kinshasa during the time when this system went into effect said that the percentage of people who considered themselves Muslim soared. I support free education, but if one must convert in order to obtain that free education, I find it heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because it puts such a difficult decision on parents, heartbreaking because I wish there were more options, heartbreaking because it feels so forced. How would a mother and father feel if their children could not get educated based on religion and their poverty? New City Fellowship, a multiracial Christian church in St. Louis, supports several schools in Kinshasa that help feed and educate students who come from impoverished families. I wish we could do more.
During a discussion, it came up that ISIS is currently making around $1 million a day in oil sales. And blatantly and boldly killing people. (I have avoided the news surrounding them because it just causes fear and sadness within myself).
A very nice young couple here at our language school, pregnant with their third child (under 3) sit next to me in class. They recently lost their grandfather, who not only was beloved, but also their biggest supporter. That, along with the news that several of their donors stopped giving to them has created a deficit in their monthly support. Now, they have until December 1 (one week) to raise $15,000 in one-time support. Otherwise they will have to quit school, fly back to the US, and then have their baby and try to raise support again to come back.
Ryan had a setback this week in that he felt like he was nearly healed from a muscle injury (hyper-extension) in his leg and on his first day back, felt it pull again. This is particularly hard when sports are such an outlet for him (have been most of his life) during times of hard study. And it is a great time for him to be immersed in French as all of his teammates, the refs, and the opposing teams speak solely in French.
Sometimes it feels like the Enemy is winning. There are times when we feel we are at the frontlines.
Some items of encouragement:
Last week I spent the morning in a personal spiritual retreat, listening to worship music in French by Paul Baloche. We also went to an English! time of singing worship songs to God. This really was uplifting to my spirit.
We attended the baptism of a sweet older French lady in our church here. The place was packed and standing-room-only. What a great celebration of a new life in Christ!
We have had several people write personal emails or Facebook messages over the past couple of weeks which have been very timely. One of our home churches is sending us a Christmas care package 🙂
It has been such a blessing to be around the other students who have done and are going to do some pretty cool things in the world. One couple has lived in Brazil for 25 years and are learning their 3rd language. They have quite a bit of wisdom to share. One gal lived in Niger for 8 yrs and will now be living in Paris. Some are families with 4 or 5 children and we can watch how they teach their children to live without normal comforts, go to an all-French school. Several children are very talented in musical instruments. Soon, we will be going to Cameroon, North Africa, Togo, Congo, Niger, Chad, and places in France. I guess the main feeling I get when I am around people with such varied dreams and experiences is that I am a part of something bigger than myself. And that gives me great encouragement to feel a part of that. Even as I dig into the nitty-gritty of the French language, that vision of us going out from this school and making a difference in the world in the name of Jesus gives me great hope.
So there, I finished it. My ups and downs are sometimes just a normal part of living, but sometimes the intensity of the discouragement or the promptness or improbable-ness of the feelings (such as feeling hope in the midst of terrible circumstances) helps me to know that this may be spiritual warfare. Let me end with this quote:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one…. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble of hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate use from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Paul in his letter to the Romans