Some days, the most exciting part of my day is when the kids' bedtime arrives.
Such was the case the other day. I found Timmy playing games on his computer, and I told him media time was over. The following conversation ensued:
Me: "It's time to get your jammies on."
Timmy: "But I want to play on my computer!"
Me: "Sorry. It's bedtime."
Timmy: "Can I watch TV after I get my jammies on?"
Me: "No. I've told you it's time for bed."
Timmy (sadly): "I don't think you're my best friend anymore."
Me: "I'm sorry to hear that."
Timmy (sadly): "I think you're the meanest mommy in all the cities and towns."
Me: "Hmm, that's too bad."
Timmy (sadly): "I don't think anybody likes you."
I must admit that I found the conversation funny, in a way. Poor Timmy was trying so hard to manipulate me into doing what he wanted. And for a just-turned-4-year-old, his attempts were actually pretty skillful. I mean, think about it: Timmy took my desire to be connected with him and to have people like and approve of me and used it against me. At 4 years old, I think that reflects pretty impressive thinking skills.
You know who else besides our children loves to try to manipulate us by using our legitimate desires against us? Satan.
Do any of these statements Satan loves to whisper in our ears sound familiar to you? Maybe more than one?
"Nobody likes you."
"You're a loser."
"You're not good enough."
"You're not capable enough."
"Anybody could do that better than you."
"You're getting it all wrong."
"You're a screw-up."
"If you were just prettier/smarter/skinnier/more talented ... ."
How many sins have we committed in the name of proving ourselves worthy of love or capable? How many times have we failed to stick to our guns because we didn't want people to dislike us? How many times have we done the wrong thing, or failed to do the right thing, because we valued our emotional comfort over the spiritual blessings that come from pleasing God?
Our desire for people to like us isn't wrong. It's what helps us bond to one another. Neither is our desire for people's approval necessarily wrong. When our legitimate desires become problems is when we place the fulfillment of those desires as a higher priority than obeying God.
What does Satan whisper in your ear? What is it he tells you that tempts you to make a desperate attempt to fulfill that desire, no matter what you have to do (or give up) to gain the fulfillment?
Whatever it is, I can guarantee you this—it's probably not even true. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He will whisper anything in your ear if he thinks it will get you to do what he wants. He doesn't care if it's true—he only cares if it works.
When he comes to you and tries to tempt you, you have a choice. You can either buy into what he says, that you would be more emotionally fulfilled if you do what he wants. Or you can stand firm in your belief that the spiritual blessings God provides from doing the right thing are far more fulfilling than avoiding the emotional pain Satan threatens you with.
And you can remember this: that Satan's goal is to destroy you. Utterly ruin you. Lay your life to waste. Wipe you out. Anything he suggests you do will lead you toward devastation, if you do it. That's why he has to get you to think you're protecting yourself by listening to him. See—even that is a lie!
On the other hand, God's goal is to give you abundant life. He wants to fill you with a spiritual joy that's beyond all imagining. He wants to make you a shining example of His goodness and glory in a dark, dark world.
So which will it be? Will you listen to Satan's voice or to God's?
When it comes time to choose, remember this: You can't reach joy by heading toward hell.
John 10:10—"The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
Adapted from Megan Breedlove's blog, Manna for Moms. Megan is the author of Well Done, Good and Faithful Mommy and Manna for Moms: God's Provision for Your Hair-Raising, Miracle-Filled Mothering Adventure (Regal Books.) She is also a stay-at-home mom with five children.
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