“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds); casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
You walk through the foyer at church when your eyes meet a familiar face. You’ve seen her on Sundays and at Bible study for years. You may have even had a formal introduction, but something in you just doesn’t feel like you quite mesh.
“Does she like me?”
“Is there something about me that offends her?”
“Does she belief an untruth that’s been spoken about me?”
Not knowing the answers to any of these questions, and rather than risking an uncomfortable situation, you give a half smile and keep walking. Later on you reason and play out all of the potential scenarios in your mind and justify your “safe” response.
This is an all too common scenario that plays out in our churches and communities of believers. The result? A “war” created in the minds of women, relationships missed and unity in Christ deferred. We’re just not sure how things will play out so we err on the side of self preservation and fail to pursue connection.
Jennie Allen says it this way in her book, “Get Out of Your Head”: “We build entire narratives that begin to take on lives of their own, based on assumptions and our overactive imaginations – all because we attend to fears, attend to distractions, attend to worst-case scenarios.”
Assumptions are a clear attack on our minds. The enemy uses assumptions as a cunning tool to cause us to question and withdraw from situations we could otherwise be enjoying as opportunities to connect and grow as a body of believers. He watches and waits until he sees the potential for connection in a certain situation, whispers lies and relentlessly feeds that lie to us over and over until we either succumb or take it captive.
Our enemy wants to keep us warring with one another, even if the wars are hypothetical in our minds. But as 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us, our battle is not of the flesh and we must keep our minds focused on the fight against our true enemy.
It is not a question of IF, but WHEN we experience these attacks. You can absolutely expect the enemy to whisper and plant seeds of deception, especially in situations that could result in the growth of God’s community of believers. It is our choice whether or not we nurture those seeds of deception into growth and allow them to take root in our hearts and affect our actions. We have a choice to listen and believe the lies or step away from the situation and pause to seek wisdom in how God would want us to both interpret and respond.
Let’s talk about 4 ways the enemy uses assumptions. But first, let’s remember who he is.
“The thief comes to steal, kill and destory…” John 10:10a
- Deceive – The enemy has always used deceit to cause God’s people to stumble. In fact, his very nature is one of deceit. He takes whatever is true and twists it, using every trick he has to lead people astray. He also knows women well. He knows we camp out in our minds so much of the time. He wants to convince us to interpret a situation and act based on what we see and how that makes us feel. In the case of assumptions he plays on our insecurities and deceives us into thinking a person’s body language or lack of eye contact, for example, are proof of their dislike for us personally. He wants you to believe they think the very worst of you, which of course, hinders you from seeking connection and friendship.
- Disrupt – Everything was going perfectly, literally, in the garden before satan showed up. He whispered a lie and – boom – disrupted the whole party. His methods aren’t new, he’s just incredibly good at tweaking the same lies to fit our situations and target our weaknesses. Insecurity. Suspicion. Competition. Self-sufficency. These are the responses of the flesh that the enemy loves to fuel. His goal is to disrupt, wreak havoc and create chaos. Why? Because he knows how much we value peace, order and calm. So naturally, he is going to give his best efforts to keep us frantic and out sorts. He knows if we are operating from the overflow of God’s peace in our lives, it becomes more difficult for him to discourage and trip us up.
- Divide – We all struggle with insecurity and seek to feel safe in social environments. God created us with an innate need to belong. It’s why we look, sometimes frantically, for our friends when we step into a crowded service, Bible study or luncheon. God’s heart for His people is always unity, so of course, the enemy is going to attack in this area. He wants us at odds with one another. We see it everywhere. Gender. Race. Denomination. Socio-economic status. You name it. If it has anything to do with God’s original design of a unified people under Him, the enemy is going after it with gusto. He is going to feed people all sorts of lies that their differences are valid reasons to separate and exclude. This leads to a division amongst God’s women and therefore, we become ineffective for the kingdom – which is his aim every time.
- Disillusion – It is an unfortunate truth that sometimes our assumptions prove to be true. The enemy loves nothing more than to perpetuate gossip to the point of reaching your ears so that you become aware of negative opinions you were once oblivious to. He knows our human reaction tends to be one of withdraw and disengagement as a result of learning these unfortunate truths. He delights in attaching your value to the opinions of other women who are simply at a different point in their journey than you. Yes, it is an unpleasant and even hurtful truth to learn when we’re not everyone’s cup of tea but listen, God places the people in your life that you need to sharpen and encourage you. The others might eventually change their minds, and then again, they might not. Either way, you have an opportunity to be loving and gracious with everyone you encounter and in so doing, squash the enemy’s attempts to cause further hurt.
Now understanding how our enemy operates, let’s look at God’s wisdom and how He encourages us to respond.
“…but I (Jesus) have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b
Capture the thought – “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 To take captive means to lock up and throw away the key. We are to treat deceptive thoughts as though they are dangerous criminals whose proper place is locked away so that they can do no more harm. Whether from our own weak flesh or whispered to us by the enemy, we exercise obedience to Christ by locking these thoughts away, never giving them freedom to take root in our minds and spring forth in our actions.
Carry out Jesus’ command – “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12 If you are a follower of Jesus, there is no arguing with His unmistakable command to love. Did Jesus only love those who embraced and treated Him well? Um, not even close. He loved those who rejected Him, persecuted Him and even asked forgiveness on behalf of those who crucified Him. So here’s the deal: There will always be people you don’t mesh with. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with them or with you. But whether you mesh or not is not the issue at hand. We are called to love as Jesus loves. Period.
Your value does not lie in the opinions of others and showing love for others as Christ commands, should not be contingent on their opinion of you.
Consider others – “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 Stop the cycle of “overactive imagination” and consider the other person. They’re likely carrying a lot that you have no idea about. They may be so distracted by their struggles and concerns that they truly don’t see you when you think they looked right past you. Step outside of your own feelings and perspective and lend your heart to pray for and seek to serve a fellow sister in Christ.
Create opportunities to reach out – “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:4 It doesn’t take much to show you care. A small gesture goes a long way. We are under constant pressure to have it all together and display a “boss babe” persona but the truth of the matter is, we all need support and encouragement, especially from those who truly understand the struggle. Odds are, the woman you think is killing it is actually desperate for connection and belonging and you could be just the person to welcome and be a blessing to them.
The enemy knows, y’all. He knows the fierce opposition that comes when Jesus loving women get together. He knows about our God-given devotion, fortitude and resolve. He knows that a community of women walking under the banner and strength of Jesus’ name will obliterate his plans of destruction. This is why he goes after our minds, sweet sisters. This is why it is so important that we see his game and shut him down before we ever begin to play along. Instead of allowing our comfort to be priority or fear of rejection to drive our actions, let’s allow God’s love in us to drive our initiative to reach out to other women and build community for the sake of the gospel!
Let’s take our imaginations – the whispers, the lies, the scenarios – captive and encourage one another on in faith, continue to build community, support other believers, pray for one another like crazy and love others well that the love of Christ would be made known through all that we do!