If you are willing to be a solider in the army of Christ, expect to get beaten up by Satan. But with that, also expect full recovery; if not on earth then certainly in Heaven. Luke 9:23 (NIV): “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.“ While we are called to pick up our cross, we are never told that the cross wouldn’t hit us in the head, fall on our toes, or that we wouldn’t find it chaffing against our skin. But when the Lord tells us to deny ourselves, we are in some sense prepared to be bruised. Denying ourselves will cause us to get stronger as we pick up our cross even after it smashes our toes, gain tougher skin after the chaffing, and become wiser in the way we hold it after it hits us in the head. Self would say, “My head hurts. My feet hurt. I am tired. My skin burns. God can you give me something else to hold? Like an unlit candle?” My point is that when doing the will of God, carrying our cross, be mindful that Satan will try to use that cross to anger or discourage us to the point where we want to drop it.
This past weekend I went on an academic trip to Western Denmark as a requirement for my major course. I almost didn’t go as earlier last week I was diagnosed with having a respiratory infection. I had no idea I even had an infection until I noticed one of my lymph nodes had swollen up to the size of a marble and was beginning to protrude from my neck. I was creeped out, I will admit. But after gathering myself I was able to give God praise for it being an infection that could be treated with antibiotics within a week. I missed two days of school but I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to miss the trip to Western Denmark. I felt like God would give me the strength to do all that I needed to do, so I went.
The first day in Ribe, Denmark was pretty cool. They had amazing architecture and tasty traditional Danish meals. Our first academic stop was visiting a school for troubled teens. Teens who had experienced everything you could imagine but who somehow became resilient students through the program offered at the school. There were about 10 students who my class and I was given the opportunity to converse with for about 3 hours. As I listened to each of them share their story, one girl who I will call Joy, caught my attention. She poured out her heart about how she had been diagnosed with anxiety and how she has been told by many psychologists that she has an extreme case of sociofobia that she will only be able to cope with, but never fully overcome. She continued to talk but the last thing that she said which kept replaying in my mind was, “I am getting better with my social skills because I don’t know if I can ever fully be free.” From that moment I kept saying to myself, “Yes you can be free, and I am a witness.” There were 4 teens in our group but as they went around introducing themselves I felt something special regarding Joy. I felt so much compassion as she forced herself to engage in conversation. I watched as she desperately wanted to look at her new American friends in the eye but could only find comfort in gazing at the ceiling. The more she talked, the more red her throat became. This may sound crazy but as she fought against her demonic oppression, the heavier the red prints showed around her neck as if someone was choking her. There were red marks on the right and left of her neck that looked like stripes, or fingers. It was then that I knew this was a spiritual mission. I took a step back to see all of Joy. She was dressed in black from head to toe as she wore several layers to protect her body from the cold that crept through the holes in her clothing. I said a prayer to God telling Him that if He wanted me to do or say anything to Joy about Him, I knew He would create the opportunity.
After our group was dismissed I looked up to go talk with Joy but she disappeared. I thought maybe I was wrong about talking to her so I went to the restroom before our next activity started. To my surprise, when I got back to the classroom Joy was back inside, alone in the corner and I knew that was an opportunity presented by God. I went over to Joy to talk with her, nervous and hoping that she wouldn’t think I was a weirdo. I felt a tight clinching in my stomach as I usually do when I am about to do something that damages Satan’s kingdom so I walked over faster. I began to tell Joy how proud I was that she was willing to take necessary steps that would help her overcome her sociofobia. I looked at her and the demons that recognized the presence of God became extremely nervous and went to hide so immediately, instead of seeing the demons, I saw Joy. For those who don’t understand, ask God for understanding. I didn’t see demons in the flesh but the discernment that only comes from God allowed me to see the many demons manifesting in Joy as they plotted her destruction. Joy and I continued to talk and I began to share some of my testimony with her. Joy stated that she did not have a religion but that she was still open to listening to me tell her about Jesus. Regardless of how much of my testimony she received, I know the part about anxiety is what she held on to. Long story short, I was at one point diagnosed with anxiety. I didn’t REALLY have anxiety but demons were trying to play tricks on my mind so I knew all too well what Joy was referring to. The difference is that I was saved and I immediately prayed that my mind be set free while Joy was convinced that this was an inevitable part of her life. I only had anxiety for a week; I couldn’t imagine Joy suffering from it for years. I told her that she can be set free from all oppression and more importantly, that Christ WANTS to set her free. I continued to tell her how the love of Christ surpasses all understanding and how He has changed my life. Sharing with Joy the love of Christ and how He yearns to fill her with His love and glory, Joy smiled for the first time since we met, 5 hours before. I knew then that a seed was planted. I offered to give Joy my email address as she doesn’t have many friends and is terribly afraid of being social with others. I wrote my email on paper and she grabbed the paper so quickly and almost ran to put it in her purse. It wasn’t her words that showed me I did what God wanted me to do but her actions.
Later that night my class and I had gone to a Chinese restaurant to get dinner. While the rest of the students decided on what they wanted to eat I had gone to the restroom. The last thing I remember was going down the restaurant’s steep steps and holding onto the wall. Before I knew it I was on the ground trying to remember what happened. After recognizing that my head and back were hurting, I concluded that I had fallen. Although it felt like seconds, friends said I had been gone for a while leading me to believe that I may have blacked out for a while. The ambulance was called and I was rushed to the hospital. In the ambulance I spent time praying to God in the midst of machines beeping because of their inability to read my vitals and a paramedic repeatedly asking me to try to move my limbs. For some time I couldn’t move my legs or my arms and after having a moment of spazzing, I began to ask God for faith, trust, and relaxation and He gave it to me. I was rushed to the hospital to be checked for a brain hemorrhage and within the first few minutes I was asked to sign my name on a document. I cried when I went to write my name but couldn’t because I had forgotten how to write letters. I was able to write the first two letters of my name but even those two letters were overlapped like a toddler learning how to write their name for the very first time. I knew in my mind how to spell my name but my brain wasn’t effectively communicating with the rest of my body, or that’s what I think. I began to cry harder, asking the doctor to allow me to call my biological parents and parents-in-Christ. I was wondering how I would finish school and if I would have memory loss for the rest of my life. Talking with the teacher who accompanied me was a struggle as I would forget what I was saying in mid-conversation. I was now suffering from a respiratory infection and a concussion after only being in Europe for about 3 weeks. Who said a wilderness experience would be all flowers and candy?
I was praying and talking to God alone but I remembered that my teacher was in the room with me so I started sharing the Gospel with her. I found it interesting that although I had forgotten some stuff, I didn’t forget a bit of the Gospel. My first comment about the goodness of the Lord started an hour and a half long conversation about Him. I shared my testimony, even the most personal. Why? Because God put it on my heart. Some parts of my testimony that I am usually ashamed to share flew out of my mouth as the Holy Spirit put it on my heart to say and I know me not having my usual filter played a part in that. I am not sure how much of what I was saying was received by my teacher but she appeared to have been engaged the entire time, asking questions and smiling along with me. I usually talk with my hands and I was thrilled to recognize that although I had a difficult time moving my limbs hours ago, I was then moving them freely as I talked about my Groom. I was so excited and I sat up, stating how God was giving me my mind back. The doctor came back inside and to his surprise, aside from my headache– my eyes were now focusing correctly, I was able to move, my ears were adjusting and guess what? I was able to write my name, decently and in order. I jumped out of the hospital bed excited by the goodness of the Lord and as my teacher and I went to the office to handle insurance matters, we were informed that all of my medical bills had been covered. We insisted that they hadn’t been but the hospital assured us that they had and I was released to go home. *My European insurance has been delayed and is about two weeks late. With that, I would have had to pay for that visit out-of-pocket. Thank You God.
How does this relate to taking blows for Jesus? Well the time I spent on the floor after the fall and the time I spent in the hospital bed I kept thinking about Joy and how the Lord had used me. It was in a sense Satan’s way of trying to scare me from helping others and ultimately his way of trying to get “back at me.” Sure, not everything bad that happens comes from Satan but in this situation, he was trying to wound a solider. As I walked home yesterday from the bus I told God that regardless of my sore throat, regardless of the pressure from the infection in my chest, regardless of the swelling of my skull, regardless of the pain in my head from post-concussion syndrome, and regardless of feeling lonely during these hardships, I will fight in His army. I will willfully take blows for the Kingdom as my Lord is with me. My concussion was worth every bit of me sharing the Gospel with Joy and my teacher. The blood of Jesus always prevails on our behalf so even if I am wounded, I am trusting in Him and that His breath will cleanse and bandage every cut and bruise. Put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and keep on throwing grenades in the enemy’s camp.