Have you ever gone through great personal struggles, dear friend? Have you wrestled, day after day, night after night, with tangled thoughts, frayed emotions, and failing physical strength? Have you cried unto the Lord, while He seemed not to answer? Have you looked to men who seemed to fail? Have you watered your pillow with tears?
[Christian] heard doleful voices and rushings to and fro, so that sometimes he thought he should be torn in pieces, or trodden down like mire in the streets. This frightful sight was seen, and these dreadful noises were heard by him for several miles together; And coming to a place, where he thought he heard a Company of Fiends coming forward to meet him, he stopt, and began to muse what he had best to do: Sometimes he had half a thought to go back; then again he thought he might be halfway through the Valley: He remembered also, how he had already vanquished many a danger; and that the danger of going back might be much more than for to go forward; so he resolved to go on: Yet the Fiends seemed to come nearer and nearer: But when they were come even almost at him, he cried out with a most vehement voice, I will walk in the Strength of the Lord God: So they gave back, and came no further.
One thing I would not let slip: I took notice that now poor Christian was so confounded, that he did not know his own voice: And thus I perceived it: Just when he was come over-against the mouth of the burning Pit, one of the Wicked Ones got behind him, and stept up softly to him, and whisperingly suggested many grievous Blasphemies from his own mind. This put Christian more to it than any thing that he met with before, even to think that he should now blaspheme Him that he loved so much before; yet, if he could have helped it, he would not have done it: But he had not the discretion either to stop his ears, or to know from whence those Blasphemies came.
When Christian had travelled in this disconsolate condition some considerable time, he thought he heard the voice of a man, as going before him, saying, Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear none Ill, for Thou art with Me.
Thus has been my journey these past few weeks. It has been a difficult one, yet a prosperous one in the end. The Lord saw fit to hide His face from me, closing – it seemed- the very windows of heaven as I screamed — literally screamed on my knees — for mercy! My dear husband, seeing my plight, rushed home early every day the worst week of it to relieve me, comfort me, succor me, but it seemed, as the Psalmist lamented, “there was none to help.” I grasped for a reason for the difficulty: I was too tired, and needed more sleep; I was sick, and needed more medicine; I was lonely, and needed encouragement; but in my heart I knew none of these really were the answer for the deep, dark anguish creeping over my very soul and tearing at my being, wrestling me from my walk with my Father.
Finally, as I tossed and turned in bed, keeping my husband awake with my moanings, I began again to offer up prayers to the silent Heavens, asking for help in my trial, for relief from my burden, for release from my woes. Again, no answer was coming; even the Spirit within me seemed to move not, so I heaved a sigh and cast within myself what more could I pray for? What could I ask, in this helpless state? “God, you know I wish to serve you in my new church; I can’t like this! I wish I could share your Gospel boldly! There are souls that need you in Mesquite! There are people that need to hear your Word …”
Suddenly, at the mention of the Gospel, my eyes were opened, and I SAW for the first time in my life, the spiritual beings that had been wrestling around me. Angry, vicious faces, leering, lunging angrily toward me, and I sat bolt upright in bed and SCREAMED!!!
My husband grabbed me and asked me what was wrong, calmed me, and began praying earnestly with and for me for God’s peace and protection. We spent a beautiful couple of hours that night, talking of God’s working in our hearts, our marriage, our family, and our church. My husband left to get a drink, and I saw them leave around the corner of our bathroom. David left our bathroom light on for me, but I easily fell asleep. All was at peace in my soul; at last the strife was o’er.
Then he was glad; and that for these reasons:
First, Because he gathered from thence, that some who feared God were in this Valley as well as himself.
And their phone calls, emails, and messages eased the journey greatly.
Secondly, For that he perceived God was with them, though in that dark and dismal state: And why not, though he, with me? Though by reason of the impediment that attends this place, I cannot perceive it.
“Thou God Seeist Me!”
Thirdly, For that he hoped (could he overtake them) to have Company by-and-by… And by and by the Day broke: Then said Christian: He hath turned the Shadow of Death into the Morning.
Since then, the change within has been remarkable. My mind is clear, my memory returning, my faculties sharper. My children remark every day, “Mommy, you are getting so much better!” I have a renewed respect for Ephesians 6, and will no longer scoff at “angel stories.” Indeed, I will be more reverential of the kitchen floor I scrub – angels tread this ground.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, with which ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints, and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.
– Ephesians 6: 12-19
Days past, and I began to cast about within myself what would cause such an occurrence in my life. Why did I find myself in the midst of such a struggle? One would expect a great Man of God, a leader of a great ministry, a prophet of the Lord to come under attack from the evil one. A missionary, teacher, counselor, or shepherd of any kind making headway in the work of Christ should expect such demonic opposition. But I was not doing any such work! I had not even been able to make it out soul-winning in months due to family obligations! It seemed for weeks on end, all I had offered the Lord was laundry and nose-wipings. I sat down to pray over the puzzle one afternoon, and this is what the Lord gave me in my devotions: Job 1. As soon as my husband came home, I asked him if he had considered why these things had befallen me, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Have you read Job carefully? Did you see what he was doing right before Satan spoke to God?”
And so it was, when the days of [his sons’] feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
I noticed two interesting things regarding Job’s ministry of intercession on behalf of his children. First of all, he sanctified them. He “set them apart for the Lord.” They were not “in full-time Christian service” or going off to Bible College, but each of them knew their father had given them to the Lord, to use how He saw fit. They belonged to Him. They were God’s children; this was a part of their daily lives. Even as grown laymen, and apparently men that had grown to have a close relationship in their extended family, they knew they were to love and serve the Lord with their lives, no matter where they were or what they were doing. My children are to be sanctified, daily set apart for the Lord. They have not each made their own decision for Christ yet, but they each know their parents are praying for them and guiding them to honor the Lord with their lives. They each belong to God.
Secondly, I noticed that Job did this continually. I don’t know how I missed this for so long! Job was praying and offering sacrifices – a true ministry of intercession- continually on behalf of his children. Such a powerful ministry bore powerful fruit; apparently his children’s hearts were turned toward the Lord, and in the end Job was blessed with the same ministry for additional children. And perhaps more astonishingly, his powerful ministry of intercession garnered the attention of not only his family and his heavenly Father, but also his adversary, the devil.
My husband’s challenge to me was this: keep praying. If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t be so opposed. And my encouragement to you, my praying friends, is likewise. Our greatest weapon is so readily available, it must be oft used. Prayer works. Our children’s hearts will be turned to their Father, our family strengthened, our church empowered, our Gospel spread, if we simply go to Him on our knees each day for what matters. There is much at stake, so much we cannot see right now. But we simply must keep praying!
Pray without ceasing.