Remember The Shell Game…
Remember the shell game? The game that street scam artists use to try to con you out of your hard earned money? They put something under one shell (like a marble which will signify you as the winner of the wager) and then there are two other shells that are empty containing NOTHING! Although the street vendor moves his hands very quickly changing the order of the shells, you believe that you know which shell the marble is under. But when the shell you pick is turned over, NOTHING is there.
That is what Satan does to people every day.
He persuades them with lies, deception, and empty promises.
They play the devil’s shell game,
but are left with shattered lives,
destitute of hope and heartbroken.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”
1 Peter 5:8 (KJV)
Satan’s Counterfeit Currency
Have you been attempting to fill the emptiness in your soul with romantic relationships, drugs, alcohol, or other stuff to try to numb the pain? Have you tried healing your mind on your own, through non-Bible-based meditation or seeking enlightenment from some other source of power within yourself—without the help of God Almighty? Trust me, is not going to work. Oh yes, you may find or concoct temporary solutions—but aren’t you tired of that? Who wants temporary peace, hope, or joy? I believe you are looking for something that is real and lasting! Hang with me, and I will show you how to get there. Remember, there is a counterfeit for every authentic blessing of God.
As mentioned in my last post, “Save Me From My Misery – Part I”, if you have prayed the prayer of salvation, but your life is still downright miserable, there are several reasons for this outcome. In my last post we discussed reasons 1 and 2. Today we will discuss reason 3.
3. Satanic Deception
Keep in mind, your enemy, the devil, wants you to believe you are ALL alone, NO ONE cares, your life does not matter, and that it will never get any better.
That is a lie. God cares.
He cares so much that I was motivated to write this for you to read right NOW!
Unfortunately, many times we desire to be the “masters of our fate”. We have been instructed and pressured by society to get busy—to build a fantastic life. “Just Do It!” blares the TV and radio. “Do it NOW!” So, we spend a large portion of our lives trying to build a life that resembles our deepest desires.
There is no sin in working hard—the Bible tells us to work hard! The sin is when we self-direct our lives without consulting God. One way to absolutely know, without a doubt, that you are “self-directing” your life is if you are manipulating circumstances. Manipulating people and circumstances can be exhausting. If you are manipulating situations to get what you want whether it is a relationship, job, or opportunity—beware, you may get more than you bargained for. I am not talking about carefully planning and executing a well-defined God inspired strategy. I am talking about manipulation as Webster’s dictionary defines as:
- to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.
If the God of the Bible is a God of miracles such as parting the Red Sea for Moses and making the walls of Jericho (a highly fortified city) fall by God’s people marching around it in obedience 7 times—He does not need our manipulating help for His will to be done on earth.
Moreover, just because a choice “makes sense” in the natural, physical world, it doesn’t mean this decision is God’s will. For example, say you are very attracted to someone who appears to have a fantastic personality, he or she is a Christian, and you are madly in love with them. Does this mean you are supposed to marry this person? Does this mean he or she is God’s perfect mate for your life? No—not necessarily.
It’s not just that we cannot always trust our emotions as sometimes they defy logic. No, we need to spend many days and hours seeking God for his leading whenever we are making pivotal decisions because God’s Word warns us that our human non-spiritual rational thinking is at odds with spiritual things.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace, 7 for the carnal mind is hostile toward God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:5-8 (MEV)
In addition, God’s word tells us “in a multitude of counselors there is safety.”
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.“ Proverbs 11:14
So to be safe, select several righteous people you respect that you can safely confide in such as pastors, teachers, or counselors. Also, do not choose people that will agree with you because they like or respect you. You need unbiased opinions. When making several life-changing decisions, I now realize I would have benefited from obtaining a counselor who did not know me personally. However, because I had experienced so much emotional trauma in my past, I did not want to discuss and relive my life history with a anyone else, especially a stranger. Just the thought of it was extremely stressful. I also could not see how it would help me. Grief is a journey, and in my mind, unless the counselor had personally lost a spouse, I did not see how they could guide me any better than the friends who knew me. This was a mistake.
No matter how wonderful or well-intended our plans are—only God knows what is ahead of us on this path of life. Only God knows what future awaits us beyond our pivotal choices of who our friends are, whom we decide to marry, what vocation we choose, where we decide to work, where we should live, and when we should move to a new town. Decisions like these need to be considered with extreme caution and prayer. Most of all, when we desire something greatly, we can convince ourselves that God wants us to have it.
Therefore, we can pray sincerely asking God for direction, but then become impatient and wander off God’s path for our lives. Sometimes, while waiting and trying to figure out God’s will, we assume God wants us to be busy—so we continue down a path paved with good intentions doing “what is right in our own eyes” thereby deceiving ourselves. I have done this myself.
Sadness, Loss and Deception – My Story
In 1999, deeply in grief as a young widow, I spent a lot of energy trying to “fix” my broken life. I absolutely hated the barren “valley of the shadow of death.”
The overwhelming sorrow, the loneliness, and my shattered dreams needed to be “fixed”. I am naturally an upbeat, happy person and was so tired of being sad. Sadness and depression felt like an unnatural disease. I hated it. I just wanted to feel joyful.
Therefore, I rushed into dating then quickly became engaged to a hilariously funny, nice man, who loved God sincerely, and who made me laugh again. I cried out to God for guidance and prayed for months. I thought I was marrying the right person—but I was wrong. The counselors I sought out were Christians (friends and ministry leaders) that knew me. Several times when a caution or objection about my marriage was raised—I always had some sort of an explanation that logically explained away the objection. It was impossible for me to understand that my emotions could not be trusted. I could not comprehend that I, a strong mature Christian, could deeply love someone who was not God’s best choice for my life. When romantic feelings are beautiful—we can convince ourselves that a relationship is right for us and blessed by God.
In hindsight, the worst decisions in my life have all stemmed from my urge to “fix” my life by analyzing and rationalizing with my human mind. Looking back I realize, the fog of grief was still hovering tightly over me and I was not thinking clearly. This marriage turned out to be one of the worst mistakes of my life.
My husband, Henry, was a recovering alcoholic. Although he swore allegiance to God and that he never wanted to drink again, he had three serious relapses each lasting for months or years during our six-year marriage.
During the second year of our marriage, he decided to undergo a rigorous Interferon treatment to try to achieve a cure for Hepatitis C that he had contracted in his 20’s. This treatment was similar to cancer treatment with severe side effects. After reading the contraindications, I was worried. Nonetheless my husband wanted to try for a cure. After enduring severe insomnia for several weeks, his physician prescribed him Ambien. I have no idea why a physician would prescribe narcotics for a past alcoholic/drug abuser, but apparently this happens every day. My husband was a respected businessperson in the community so even though his physician was well aware of my husband’s past medical history, apparently he assumed Henry would not abuse these drugs. This prescription began his decent into a drug using hell.
During our marriage, Henry had three unsuccessful inpatient stays at several renowned drug treatment facilities, including Betty Ford Center Drug Rehab in Rancho Mirage, California. Then he spent the last two years of our miserable marriage as a raging “dry drunk“. He was unsuccessful overcoming his addiction for several reasons: he refused to get a sponsor, work the 12-step program, attend AA meetings, or meet with a counselor when he came home—but most of all because all inpatient treatment was forced by family intervention NOT because my husband wanted help. He was threatened he would no longer be allowed to retain his top management position in a third generation family business if he did not go to rehab immediately. His family loved him—but at least in our case forced intervention was unsuccessful as my husband was angry and refused to work the program as needed to achieve success.
Inpatient drug treatment centers provide life-changing stepping-stones patients need to achieve success, but each patient MUST be willing to do the grueling work. The process to become drug free is extremely painful emotionally, spiritually, and physically—so the patient must want help. The crazy fact is that his closest friends and loved ones were sober. We all thought he “had to be” miserable. However, no matter how much a family loves their addict, no one truly knows or understands what the addict is thinking or feeling, and we should never assume we do. Only God knows. The main fact is, no matter what was in his heart or head, he never said to any of us, “Please Save Me From My Misery.” It was more like we were all freaked out thinking, “We are afraid you are going to kill yourself and none of us can stand watching you self-destruct anymore.”—but our addict did not care. All he wanted was one more high.
So again, I found myself in a cesspool of swirling sadness and grief. No matter how horrible I thought widowhood was—marriage to a wealthy using addict (with an unlimited supply of money that I could not control enabling him to have access to any drug he desired) and then a non-using “dry drunk” rageaholic was an incomprehensible nightmare. My life was like hell on earth as living with a drug addict is like living with a mental patient—-because they are not in their right mind. While in full drug using frenzy mode, no voice of reason, concern, or warning from family, friends , pastor or me could assuage his desire or bend his will towards sobriety’s sanity. There he stood on the precipice of life and death readily flinging himself from its edge over and over to escape reality while teetering on the brink of self-destruction. His drug and alcohol addiction caused him to become the worst version of himself. It caused an otherwise beautiful person to become a raging lunatic who engaged in extremely destructive behavior thereby permanently damaging his most precious relationships. My husband’s addiction altered his personality, character, and judgement to the point he was unrecognizable. I found myself asking, “Where is my husband? Where did he go? Who is this nut case I am married to?”
My battered emotions and mind were bad enough, but next I became physically ill—I began experiencing debilitating panic attacks so severe I thought I might die of a heart attack. This lasted for months—and of course, the physicians I saw put me through a litany of tests then medicated me with antidepressants. That itself became another nightmare that I will discuss in another blog. We cannot “fix” our lives—only God can—and unfortunately, it usually takes a long time. However, with God’s help we can make better choices. I dragged my children and myself through a living hell because I thought this man was the right choice.
To avoid a train wreck like mine, consult with a Christian counselor you do NOT have a personal friendship with and ask them for their honest opinion on any pivotal decisions you are about to make especially if you are considering marriage or divorce. It is amazing how a non-biased counselor can see things in our lives from a different perspective than we can. Since the counselor is a professional who is NOT YOUR FRIEND, they will give you the brutal truth you need to hear. These professionals do care about their clients, so he or she will make sure you understand all of your options and what each decision might mean in the real world. Next, consider the advice you receive and spend time alone in prayer blocking out all noise and distractions so you can hear God clearly—then be willing to WALK AWAY from what YOU THINK will make YOU happy if there are ANY RED FLAGS of danger waving in the distance.
Many times a counselor can pinpoint areas of our lives that need to be addressed that we do not even realize are a problem. If you want a better life—seek truth! If you do not like the first counselor—find another one. If you are persistent, you WILL and CAN find the support and answers you need.
Stop berating yourself for poor decisions of the past. If you have been deriding yourself and beating yourself up with statements such as,
“Why did I do that?—I am such an idiot!”
“How could I be so stupid?—Why in the world did I think that was the right choice?”
You are not alone. Despite all our good intentions, we humans tend to get lost when we attempt to make decisions on our own.
Satan will even use our own belief system against us. For example, why would I marry someone that I knew had a history of addiction in his past?
I grew up in an evangelical denomination that not only believes in the power of prayer, but one that has seen countless addicts delivered from a myriad of addictions. Over a period of 25 years, I had personally witnessed the lives of many addicts who were changed by the supernatural power of the living God. So I was convinced that my future husband would be no exception and that any knowledge he might lack (as he grew up in a different denomination) I could share with him.
I was naive and inexperienced with addiction as there were zero addicts in my family. As a teenager my only firsthand experience with a drug user was with my 17-year-old brother when I was 14. He told me that he smoked marijuana, had tried angel dust, and was now experimenting with concoctions of legal highs that he found in a book.
One Saturday morning my younger brother and I had the unfortunate enlightening experience of witnessing the effects of drug use. While playing Monopoly at a card table my elder brother, Daniel, announced, “I don’t feel good” then laid his head down on the table while it was my little brother’s turn. About a minute later, he roared like a lion. Next, his 6’4” body went into violent convulsions jerking erratically then crashing into the card table as all Monopoly pieces, money, board, and card table flew through the air as he hit the floor with a thud.
Next, our mom flew into the living room like an eagle soaring into the storm. With fervent faith, high-octane adrenaline, and “devil you ain’t gonna kill my boy” finesse—she swooped down and landed on the red oriental carpet beside my brother. After repeatedly washing Daniel’s face with a cold washcloth, prying his eyes open to see if his pupils were dilated, and praying loudly, he came to his senses.
“What drug did you take?”
“Dried tomato and banana leaves. It was a natural high.”
“Yeah, I dried and rolled them, and smoked them like a joint.”
Oh brother! I whispered under my breath as I rolled my eyes in disbelief.
Later when we were alone I asked, “Mom how is it that Daniel got the high IQ and photographic memory, but has no fear of frying his brain?” I did not understand it then, but I do now—he was in deception.
Most importantly, I did not understand the personal component at play in all those wonderful, transformative changed lives I had witnessed throughout my life. God had not zapped all those addicts over the head with Holy Ghost power so that they never desired another drop of alcohol or drugs again, but it was that those individuals were changed to their core by the compassion and love of Jesus Christ. These men and women fell so deeply in love with Jesus that they had chosen to deny themselves and had picked up their cross to follow Him.
He [Jesus] said to them, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever would lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:34-37 (MEV)
The Devil’s Agenda
The devil’s agenda is to “kill, steal, and destroy” all of us. The first step in his plan is to deceive—so watch out for possible areas of deception in your life. All of us are susceptible to deception! Ironically, the deceived are in deception, but don’t know it! Question everything. Assume nothing!!!!! Be brave enough to ask God to show the truth—whatever it is!
The heart is more deceitful than all things
and desperately wicked;
who can understand it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
even to give to every man according to his ways,
and according to the fruit of his deeds.
PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS VIDEO: Are you feeling worn out and hopeless like this woman? Please click on the blue words below and listen to this prayerful song of repentance that we all need to pray. It is a beautiful depiction of what God will do in our lives if we allow him…
“…Lord, forgive my history and save me from my misery…”
“Save Me From My Misery – Part III” will be my next blog post.
© Margaret R. Wilder, 2018
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