relationship breakdown

There is nothing more painful than a relationship breakdown. Here’s how you can find healing and restoration when strife takes its toll.

It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I felt as if I were watching a train wreck in slow motion, and I couldn't do anything to stop it. A great friendship was breaking up.

We had been close at one time, but our relationship had become strained. Words of peace somehow got warped. Confusion and suspicion whispered lies. Then suddenly,a firestorm of words ensued. It was over.

If you've ever experienced the pain of an unexpected relational meltdown, you've probably encountered the spirit of separation. You are not alone. Relationships in the church are under attack. The last decade has set records for divorces and separations, even among Christian leaders—and in the midst of headline-grabbing revivals.

If you've ever experienced the pain of an unexpected relational meltdown, you've probably encountered the spirit of separation. You are not alone. Relationships in the church are under attack. The last decade has set records for divorces and separations, even among Christian leaders—and in the midst of headline-grabbing revivals.

Thankfully, God is revealing the way this spirit operates and how it can be shut down. Though its power is real, the spirit of separation is no match for an equipped, humble and prayer-filled Christian. If you learn to recognize and defeat it, you won't fall prey to its ploys.

To deal with this enemy, we must look to the Word. Scripture describes the defeat of a spirit called Leviathan: "In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea" (Is. 27:1, NKJV; see also Ps. 74:13-14, 104:24-26). Though there are a number of theories about what these verses describe, most scholars have linked Leviathan with the Nile crocodile.

But Leviathan is clearly more than a crocodile. Isaiah sees him as a spiritual enemy; a supernatural serpent that must be defeated.

Throughout Scripture, serpents and dragons symbolize the work of Satan. Leviathan's crooked path can be traced from the serpent in Eden to the dragon of Revelation. Thank God, we've been given authority "'to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy'" (Luke 10:19). In the end, Leviathan is slain.

Twisting the Truth
Leviathan's clear mission is to destroy the lives of God's people by dividing them in subtle ways. The name Leviathan comes from a root word that means "to twist."

Like the crocodile, Leviathan approaches its prey slyly, just under the surface. When the moment is right, it strikes explosively with one aim: to take hold of its victims and twist them apart. Here's an example of how this spirit works:

Ray and Susan came to New Life Church with high hopes. Their first service was refreshing. They were warmly welcomed and saw great love and humility in the pastor.

Before long, Ray and Susan were heart-deep in their new church home. Ray was delighted: "I'm so glad we found this church. It's perfect!"

Subtly, however, Ray's assessment began to change. One Sunday Pastor Peterson gave a report about a recent outreach that bothered Ray. He couldn't put his finger on the problem, but he kept thinking: He's taking credit for what God is doing. He wants us to think he is responsible for the souls being saved.

Soon Ray was persuaded that Pastor Peterson had a spiritual problem. Susan disagreed, but Ray kept noticing problems until everything about the church he had once loved irritated him.

Ray set up a meeting with Pastor Peterson. Ray was intimidating, judgmental and harsh. The stunned pastor couldn't reason with him, no matter how he tried. Ray's views were twisted and disconnected. Susan just looked down in shame.

Ray refused to pray with his pastor. "I think it is best for us to part ways," he said. "I don't know what we ever saw in this church."

Within a year of their leaving, the couple's marriage began to crumble. Words were warped, communication was strained and hearts grew hard. Ray and Susan separated, and eight months later they divorced.

Why does the enemy target relationships? Because our connections with one another are critical, delivering the love and power we need to fulfill our destinies. Paul describes the joints in the body of Christ as keys to our supply (see Eph. 4:16). Dislocated spiritual joints are painful and disabling to our unity and growth as the church—a real coup for the enemy.

Word-twisting is central to Leviathan's operation. David complained of his enemies, "All day they twist my words" (Ps. 56:5).

The serpent defeated Eve by twisting God's words. "Did God really mean that? You won't die if you eat of the tree" (see Gen. 3:4-5). Adam and Eve were quickly separated from God, and the fallout was devastating.

Separation attacks relationships subtly. A wife wonders, What did my husband mean by that? With the right amount of demonic spin, confusion and suspicion can be sown even between the best of friends.

The enemy twists what we hear just a little bit more each time, and if we don't discern his tactic, relationships often dissolve. The apostles themselves fell prey to a spirit of division and parted over unimportant matters (see Acts 15:36-40). The rhythm is always the same: Twisting and separation, twisting and separation—and you never see it coming.

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