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Comer: Countering Satan’s desperate attempts to influence us


By Ryan Comer - | May 6, 2023

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Ryan Comer

When I was on my Latter-day Saint mission in Taiwan, there was a phrase I often heard by the people who we would attempt to teach: “Kao Zi Ji.”

Simply put, it means, “Rely on oneself.”

Respectfully, I just can’t do that. And I’m not ashamed of it. I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and wants the best for me, so why shouldn’t I lean on him? Why should I rely on myself if I don’t have to?

Because of my willingness to accept my need for God’s help in my life, I am frequently seeking spiritual promptings. My mind is open to receiving them whenever and however they come, and because of that, they sometimes can come in circumstances when I’m not putting any thought into receiving them, in moments where one might not expect to receive them.

Such an occurrence happened last week at the conclusion of a hockey game I had been watching. The game was part of a playoff series and the team that had won was suddenly one victory away from advancing to the next round. A reporter asked one of the winning team’s players what he thought it was going to feel like during the next game knowing that if they won, they would advance. He responded by saying that the other team was going to have “a ton of desperation” and that they needed to “match that with detail and hardness.”

Immediately after he uttered the words, an unexpected thought popped into my mind: Do I realize how desperate the adversary of all of us (Satan) is? Do I match his desperation with detail and hardness?

To fully appreciate Satan’s desperation, one must first acknowledge that he exists and is a problem. Satan would have us believe that he isn’t real. Many decades ago, Professor Émile Cailliet of Princeton Theological Seminary wrote: “Experienced students of Christianity have pointed out that among Satan’s accomplishments the neatest of them all is that of persuading so many people that he does not exist.”

“Truly the Devil has put over a fast one when he makes man either ignore or deny that he is the unceasingly active enemy of souls; the one who would constantly accuse us before God, telling him of our sins; the one who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; the one who in Job is pictured walking up and down in the earth plotting man’s downfall; the one who wields great power in the earth and whose works are on every hand for all to see and whose activities are recounted in every morning and evening newspaper.”

You know that was written a long time ago because it mentions morning and evening newspapers.

If we can’t even acknowledge Satan exists or that he’s a threat, then how can we possibly be prepared to fight him and his tactics?

Years ago, when I was a high school sports reporter for the Standard-Examiner, I was talking to a high school football coach in the area before the season started. This coach mentioned to me that one of the challenges teams sometimes face is taking seriously opponents perceived to be inferior. Players and coaches can sometimes go through the whole week assuming that the game will be easy, and that not much preparation is needed, and then suddenly the game is a lot more difficult than expected. When that happens, he explained, it is very hard to suddenly shift your mentality. It’s difficult to flip a switch and take a team seriously and play to a certain level when you haven’t taken them seriously and practiced to that level all week.

This is what we do in our battles with Satan when we refuse to acknowledge his existence, or diminish his potential impact on us. We don’t take him seriously, and then the moment of a trial comes, and he pounces. Suddenly, as Satan attacks us with relentless desperation, we find ourselves fighting a battle that’s a lot more difficult than we could have ever anticipated, and it’s hard to suddenly flip the switch and rise to the level necessary to overcome him.

This brings me back to the words of the hockey player as he explained succinctly what his team needed to do to counter the desperation they knew they were going to face: Detail and hardness.

Latter-day Saints learn from a young age the importance of praying, reading scriptures, going to church and otherwise keeping the commandments. We call these the “primary answers” whenever we’re asked, even as adults, what we need to do to counter Satan’s influence. We use the words “primary answers” in almost kind of a negative way because it seems too simplistic. We’re inclined to want to think that countering such an evil force such as Satan requires much more thoughtful ideas. But we continue to use the “primary answers” because in our hearts we know that they truly are the best methods. They’re the tried-and-true details.

Focusing on the details provides hardness. I was interested to learn more about that word, so I looked up some definitions. According to Wikipedia, “Hardness is a measure of how much a material resists changes in shape. Hard things resist pressure. Some examples of hard materials are diamond, boron carbide, quartz, tempered steel, ice, granite, concrete. Ability of material to resist wear, tear, scratching, abrasion cutting is called hardness.”

How do we harden our souls so that they resist changes, pressure, wear, tear, etc.? By focusing on the details — the “primary answers.”

As is always the case, Jesus was the perfect example of someone who was able to resist Satan. It wasn’t for a lack of effort on Satan’s part. Three times, Satan tempted Jesus, and each time, Jesus resisted. After the third attempt, Jesus responded, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10)

Satan knew that was his cue and he left.

Just think, though. If Satan was willing to give that effort to try to corrupt Jesus, almost assuredly knowing full well he wasn’t going to succeed, what kind of effort do you think he’ll give against us, imperfect as he knows we all are? He’ll appeal to our vanity. He’ll appeal to our logic. He’ll appeal to our pride. He’ll play off our insecurities and weaknesses. Whatever he has the power to do, he will attempt, and there is no bottom to how low he will sink.

We can’t pretend he doesn’t exist, and we can’t pretend that he doesn’t have a lot of destructive potential. Just look around the world at all the contention, anger and misery. His influence is truly everywhere.

This week, I saw a poll released by the Harvard Institute of Politics that reported how Americans under 30 years old were feeling. According to the survey of 2,069 Americans ages 18 to 29 over the course of a 10-day period in March, 54% said they felt “nervous, anxious or on edge,” with 47% saying they felt “down, depressed or hopeless” at least several days in the previous two weeks.

Even more alarming, according to the poll, 24% admitted to thoughts they would be “better off dead” or of self-harm at least several days in the previous two weeks.

All this is exactly what Satan wants. Because he is miserable, he wants us to be miserable. Because he has no hope for anything good, he wants us to be without hope for anything good.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to allow it to continue. Wise are the words of actor and comedian Kel Mitchell. Speaking to the Christian Broadcasting Network of the anxiety and depression felt by the younger generation, he said, “They really need the love of Christ. They really need that love in their life to help them. And I really feel like once the youth understand how God feels about them … and they hear about how much God loves them and that they are a part of a royal family and they invite him into their hearts, it can really change things.”

Mitchell speaks from experience, knowing how he personally has changed.

“I have been through so many ups and downs in my life,” he wrote on his website, according to The Christian Post. “Suicidal, divorce, drug and alcohol usage, deep in sin, dealing with the loss of (loved) ones to gang violence, debt, hurt, pain, vanity, lust, heartbreak, feeling lost looking for answers. I have seen, felt and been in all types of sin and have been done wrong by others.”

Mitchell told the Christian Broadcasting Network “having the love of God” was instrumental in helping him overcome those challenges.

“You know, I grew up in the church so always knew God, but then there’s a difference between knowing God and having a relationship with God,” Mitchell said.

Again, it comes back to the “primary answers.” We learn about Christ and can feel his love for us through daily prayer, scripture study, going to church and living the commandments.

Satan is real, and his power can be frightening. But I know that with an increased focus on the details, we can harden our spirits so that we can resist the pressure he puts on us, and we can overcome our trials while finding peace and joy.

Contact Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net.


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