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Fiery Darts & Feeling Discouraged

I've been thinking about faith. In a sermon this past Sunday we were reminded to take up the shield of faith as protection against Satan's attacks. Ephesians 6 calls them "fiery darts"—the barbs Satan uses to wound us in our walk, to crumble our courage, shatter our peace, and poison our hearts with despair. He's a cunning enemy, and he chooses his weapons with the skill of a master tactician: stress, fear, doubt, anger, pride, discouragement . . . on and on.

Fortunately, we are not defenseless. We have the shield of faith!

But in the times of true doubt, true despair, what does that mean, really?

I can't deny that the events of this week have brought on some bleak discouragement, an all-too-familiar spiritual projectile straight from Satan's arsenal. Admittedly, that discouragement also came with guilt, for allowing my optimism—my faith—to slip, in what felt like a spiritual failure. Where is my faith? I should never be discouraged! Aren't I supposed to be joyful all the time???

Ah, guilt. Another classic dart from the bowstring of the enemy. As if being Christian and following Jesus means we suddenly cease to be human.

Feelings are inevitable. They're part of our earthly existence, the fleeting sparks of emotion and thought that make up our daily lives. God doesn't expect us to be immune to emotions—He designed us to feel them! But what He does expect is that our faith will be stronger . . . that our faith and our feelings be separate, NOT one in the same.

See, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It's intangible, like feelings, but it's deeper, firmer, stronger than the fleeting bursts of thought we call emotions. A spell of discouragement shouldn't crowd out my faith—it doesn't mean I've ceased to be a believer. My faith should outlast all those momentary feelings; it may not stop them from flying my way, but it will keep them from piercing me deeply and wounding me within. And after the barrage, I can pluck away the barbs and find my faith still intact, ready for the next onslaught.

Our feelings don't determine the strength of our faith. Our ability to cling to what we believe IN SPITE of what we may be feeling—that's what reveals how steadfast our faith is, and how firm our foundation in God. So Satan can fling his fiery darts. Sometimes, they'll probably find their mark. But my shield of faith has been forged by the Saviour, and it will still be in one piece on the other side of the fight.

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