45. Painful Distractions

“Satan deals with confusion and lies.
 Put the truth in front of him,
 and he is gone.”
—  Pat Matlock

 

I wonder how Simon Peter felt when he heard the rooster crow and realized he’d blown it … again. According to the synoptic Gospels, Peter was quick to accept Jesus’ challenge: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He heard the Master speak kindly to “sinners” and scold arrogant Pharisees. He watched as scores of disabled people were miraculously relieved of their suffering. He attended a divine conference between Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. He actually heard the voice of the heavenly King.

I’ve never even briefly walked on water, like Peter did, or had my feet washed by the Son of God. I haven’t been given authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, or drive out demons. I’ve never sliced off someone’s ear – that’s not to say I haven’t been tempted. I’m not really into fishing, but I believe that if Peter and I had a chance to “do lunch” we would find that we have a lot in common.

If Moses and Elijah appeared right in front of me, I’m not sure that I’d recognize them. But I am sure that I’d say something really dumb, just like Peter did. If a furious storm swept over my boat, I’d be the first to yell, “Lord save me, I’m going to drown!”

At times, it seems like I can hear Jesus whispering in my ear, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Like the time a “black cloud” of depression overshadowed me with brute force, at a very unexpected moment.

More than a year had passed since I’d overcome prescription drug dependence. At last, I was enjoying some emotional stability. Then early one Sunday afternoon, a sudden relapse caused me to panic. I remember crying out to the Lord, “I trusted you to take this away and you healed me. Why has it come back? I can’t go through this again!”

An evil laugh sounded in my imagination, and my attention was drawn to the valance above my kitchen window. A puppet-like Satan appeared in my mind’s eye. Laughing gleefully, he pointed an accusing finger in my direction, obviously enjoying my distress.

In that moment, I realized that depression was not my enemy, and this battle was only one of many that I would fight during my lifetime. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – humans who had also dealt with questions about the Lord’s intentions – had given me victory in the past. With this vision, He was allowing me to virtually see and identify my attacker.

At that moment, the name of a treasured friend popped into my thoughts, like an escape ladder suddenly hung over a brick wall. It occurred to me that she knew about my struggle and wouldn’t expect me to explain my need to hear a reassuring voice. I dialed her number and she graciously shared my pain, reminding me that the victory had already been won by Jesus.

I understand now that Earth’s present “landlord” sometimes tries to intimidate me into thinking I’m still fair game. Satan used that ploy on Peter too. But even after the wishy-washy disciple betrayed his Teacher three times, Jesus invited Peter to join Him for breakfast on the beach. He gave Peter the opportunity to answer a critical question, “Do you really love me?”

When I remember that Jesus asks me the same question, I can join Peter in responding, “Yes Lord. You know I love you.”

And Jesus replies, “Take care of my sheep.”

 

“[The devil] left Him until an opportune time.”

(Luke 4:13)

 

A RUST REMOVER …

Make time to read John 21, and try to put yourself in Peter’s place at the moment he realized that Jesus had caused their empty fishing nets to be filled. And if your net seems empty, listen for the voice of the Lord to tell you on which side of the boat to cast your net.