Spiritual warfare tends to be a topic that people are either very comfortable or very uncomfortable discussing. I personally know people that do not want to even talk about the existence of any sort of evil entities for all kinds of reasons. However, sticking our heads in the sand and pretending certain realities don’t exist, simply to remain comfortable, is not really doing us any favors as we try to grow in our spiritual lives. Let’s consider then a little bit about what is going on in the spiritual realm all around us.
The first step is to describe exactly who Satan and his demons are. Before creating us, God created angels. Angels are beings made up of pure spirit who have a perfect knowledge of God as they live with Him in heaven. At some point after creating the angels, God put them all to a test (we don’t know exactly what the test was) and an archangel named Lucifer failed that test, along with other angels, resulting in an angelic rebellion against God. As a result, the rebellious angels were cast out of heaven and are now referred to as Satan and his demons. The Catechism says, “The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing,’” (CCC #391).
Now, you might wonder why the demons can’t change their minds, reconcile with God, and go back to the heaven for which they were created. The simple answer is that they cannot change their minds or feel repentance because they rejected God with the full knowledge of who He is. So, they didn’t just make a mistake because they lacked information, misperceived the situation, or had a clouded conscience, the way you and I do when we make mistakes. On this, the Catechism says, “It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. ‘There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after their death’” (CCC #393). In other words, they made their own bed and are compelled to lie in it for all eternity.
Now these fallen angels live in hell. If heaven is where God is, then hell is the place where God is not, and that in and of itself is pure misery. Make no mistake, Satan and his demons are miserable. They hate God and hate anyone who loves Him. It would be nice to think they could just be content in their misery alone, but since contentment is the opposite of misery, they are not. Therefore, it is their sole mission to go after as many souls as possible in order to bring them to hell, too, further feeding their pain and misery, while also striking back at the God they despise. Practically speaking, this means there are demons that are after you and after each of your loved ones in order to claim you and them as a prize. Perhaps this is why so many people are uncomfortable with this topic, but again, ignoring the facts won’t help anyone in the battle for their souls, and to be clear, it is a battle.
So, how exactly do Satan and his demons go after us? Let’s start by looking at what they don’t do. They don’t announce their presence and they don’t walk around with neon signs over their heads telling us who they are and what they are up to. If they did, it would be very easy for us to steer clear and walk the other way, which defeats their mission of getting us to hell. Therefore, in order to successfully get to us, they have to be very sneaky, subtle, and use tactics that you cannot even imagine to get their hooks into your soul. We see this right away in the Garden of Eden as Satan disguised himself as a serpent and lied to Eve, telling her, “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil” (Gen 3:4). However, as we know, “The devil ‘has sinned from the beginning’; he is ‘a liar and the father of lies,’” (CCC #392). What’s more, as we are each unique individuals walking into situations with our own strengths and weaknesses, the demons must target each person with tactics that will work specifically for that soul. This means, they are constantly following us around, studying us, and refining their techniques accordingly. I know this an uncomfortable reality, but a reality nonetheless. They learn our weaknesses and lead us into temptations by perhaps whispering in our ears that a certain sin is not really that bad. Perhaps they lead you to the wrong people with the wrong intentions toward you, or those who simply don’t care about the state of your eternal soul. They might try to convince you to doubt God’s love and His will for you. Keep in mind that, the closer you are to God, the harder they have to work. There are so many tricks up their sleeves precisely because they will not rest until they get to us.
So, if all of this is true, what hope do any of us have in resisting these demons? This leads me to the encouragement part of this reflection, lest we spend the rest of the week in anxiety or despair. God gives us angels, the ones who didn’t fall, to help us. More specifically, He gave each of us at least one guardian angel to help us. These angels have all the same powers that fallen angels have. They follow us around and study us and know us, so as to better know how to protect us. But even better than that, they have God on their side, who is infinitely more powerful than Satan could ever dream to be. Of course, as we know, despite these daily spiritual battles for our souls, the war has already been won. Our job is to form close relationships, not only with Jesus and Mary, who are the supreme demon slayers, but also with our guardian angels and other angels who assist us on our journey. Your angel is right there with you, so ask him for help in your daily struggles with temptations. They want to help you and appreciate when you remember they are there to help you.
I want to leave you with two recommendations for further reading on this topic. The first is The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities that Surround Us, by Anthony Destefano. The author does a fantastic job of breaking down complex spiritual realities into very easy to understand language with a healthy dose of encouragement for living within these spiritual battles that surround us. The second book is on the lighter side, as it is a work of fiction that utilizes some humor while still accurately illustrating what these demons are up to. It is called, The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. In this book, a master demon writes letters to a novice, instructing him in the ways to best tempt a particular man with the goal of getting to his soul. As you read it, even though it is a piece of satire published in 1942, you may be quite surprised to see how many of Screwtape’s nefarious instructions are still being carried out in the world around you today.
This week, rather than being discouraged or anxious about spiritual warfare, lean into the strength of our almighty Lord and His legions of angels, with the knowledge that the war has already been won.
To receive articles and reflections like these directly to your inbox, please subscribe.