You don’t have to fight the enemy in your own strength! To escape fear or any other assault by a negative emotion, don’t plunge into rebuking it first thing. That’s like trying to muscle your way through it, hoping to get past the obstacle that is coming between you and your sense of God’s peace and presence.
It is true that sin and our agreement with it begins to separate us from God, but the enemy knows this too. That is why part of the tactic of negative emotions and spiritual assault is to get us to focus on the problem instead of the Problem Solver. We start thinking something like this: “I’ve got to do something so I can get my peace back.” And the other kingdom points us to something for us to do—as if it all depends on us!
The real way out of this snare (which is a subtle form of self-salvation) is to immediately “run to the Father” in prayer in the midst of any temptation or assault—no matter how badly we are doing under it. This has to happen first. Listen carefully to what this scripture is saying:
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:7-8 NKJV
Do you see the progression? We have to learn to go back to God first and reconnect with Him (cling to Him, call on His Name, etc.), before we turn back to resist the enemy who is assaulting us through temptation. This is especially hard to recognize when dealing with negative emotional reactions. In the beginning stage of awakening to truth, we don’t see them as sins, but as “natural” reactions to circumstances. It’s the way we have always been!
You and I will never get our spiritual growth unless we abandon the mental habits of the fallen nature which produced such a distorted thought life in us (see Negative Emotions). Christ in us is our hope of glory. He always keeps negative emotional reactions from capturing His heart and mind. He has come to help us learn to live His way. Here is what He has been teaching me, and it has really become effective at restoring me to peace, joy and confidence in Him whenever negative emotions are seeking to capture me.
1. Confess the negative emotion coming on you as a sin: “Father here I go again, I’m falling into the sin of fear (put any negative emotion here). Forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9.) This identifies the real problem (not the thing I fear, but my abandonment of trust in Him). We are having an honest conversation and through it He is not only going to work to release forgiveness and to cleanse me of the deeper issues, He is also restoring fellowship—beginning with this moment of truth over the very thing that was initially causing separation!
2. Ask Him to come and deliver you from anything that the enemy may be seeking to bind you with. Now that you are full-filling His Word–“Look to Me, all the ends of the earth and be saved” (Isaiah 45:22)–you can set your heart to believe that He is definitely sending the help you need (see Romans 10:13 to nail this down–He guarantees help will come to anyone who calls on Him).
3. Thank the Father for His steadfast love and mercy to you—even at times such as this when you are tempted to fall away from Him. Don’t let the trial or temptation be wasted! Make sure you get restored to confidence in His great grace in the midst of the struggle.
4. Now you can rest assured that your fellowship with God is restored. He has crossed over (in your perception) from being “on the other side of the problem” (with you trying to battle through it to reconnect with Him). You now have a sense that He has come to you where you are at, that He loves you even in this embattled moment and is “on your side” wanting to help.
By this you are gaining His strength (through rising faith) with which to turn and face the situation or the enemy and deal with it as He leads. It is also now much easier to receive His strategy or guidance, because fellowship and peace are being restored through turning to Him before taking the enemy on and this allows for better listening for His still, calm voice.
5. Obedience is next. He may say, “Be still and know that I am God,” or “Rebuke the enemy and he will flee,” or “Praise me in the midst of this,” or give you a specific thing to repent of that opened the door for this attack, or show you something specific to do or to say that will resolve the situation.
By following these steps, the very things the enemy seeks to use to separate your thought life and heart reactions from God, become new bridges of communication with God and means of being ever more firmly convinced of His steadfast love and mercy. How good is that?