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The word of God is living and powerful,
and sharper than any two-edged sword.
If we adults think that the pressures of the world are almost unbearable, we don’t have a clue. Most of us have enough years on us to recognize that we’re spinning out of control, to locate the negative power source, and to pull the plug on the treadmill if we’re serious enough about changing. I am completely convinced, however, that Satan has launched a full-scale attack on our young people that is so shrewd, powerful, and encompassing that they don’t even know what has hit them.
I was painfully reminded of one dimension of this attack recently when I came across a stack of old-fashioned magazines. Not all feathers left in our nests provoke happy memories. One of the things I like best about God, however, is that He can redeem absolutely anything. The family memory I want to share in this reflection is not pleasant. I choose to share it because it’s important. Although I can’t say that I’m necessarily glad to have had this feather in my nest, I wouldn’t trade the precious little sparrow that left it there for anything in the world. Furthermore, I wouldn’t trade what God redeemed out of this one “feather” for a whole handful of happier ones.
I am alarmed about our young people. I wish I could say that my alarm has come strictly from what I’ve seen and heard through my travels, but that’s not true. Although what I’ve seen “out there” among our youth would be enough to scare a soul half to death, I know more than I ever wanted to know firsthand. Satan came calling for my own children. He wanted not only to disable any potential they had to make his life miserable but also to get to their parents. Satan knows that one of the most effective ways to get to any of us in ministry is to get to our children. He got my attention all right. Then God got my attention. The Devil didn’t get the full victory he wanted in those battles, but neither the girls nor I would mind telling you that he left them pretty bloody.
Satan tailors his schemes to fit his subject; therefore, my girls’ battles took on different forms. Amanda discovered the vivid reality of Jesus Christ through her own personal difficulties. Thankfully, Satan never got far enough with her to threaten her life. But I want to share a little bit about Melissa’s battle because hers had the potential to be deadly. Yes, I mean that it literally could have killed her. She is just one of untold thousands of otherwise sound-thinking, successful Christian young women who have fallen into this life-threatening brand of satanic snare. Melissa is very vocal about her experience and passionately desires that Satan be exposed, and I have not only her permission but also her encouragement to share this.
I’m going to allow Melissa to share her own story through an excerpt from a paper she wrote for one of her college classes. She is one of the gutsiest young women I’ve ever met, willing to let herself look weak so that God’s strength can be revealed and the Devil can be defeated.
It was homecoming, the biggest event of the year for a high-school girl. I was getting ready for the football game. This particular year I was up for homecoming queen, and my dad was there to escort me down the football field. The four other girls and I were anxiously waiting for the life-or-death call.
I had on a Georgiou suit for the occasion and a very expensive formal for the dance. I had an appointment with a makeup artist and manicurist before the dance. I had spent tons of money at a tanning salon hoping that the tanning beds could make me look better. I was the size that I wanted to be due to the fact that I had not eaten in months. I was everything that Hollywood was telling me that I had to be. I was deathly skinny, popular, and completely miserable.
The morning after the event was over, I woke up to the smell of warm blueberry muffins. I walked downstairs only to see the norm. My mom was sitting in the dining room doing her “quiet time.” Her “quiet time” was the time she spent alone with God each day. Without catching her attention, I watched her. She was in her old, faded pink robe. Her hair was a mess, and she did not have on a hint of makeup, but she looked so beautiful.
I had watched her do her “quiet time” for seventeen years, but it had never caught my attention like this. There was something about that day that was absolutely brilliant. Her face was radiant. I saw her sitting there in her chair and knew that she was truly satisfied. I wanted what she had. She was confident about who she was, even without makeup on. I envied her. I wanted to have whatever it was that fulfilled her.
I tiptoed up the stairs and dug around in my drawers. Finally, I found my own dusty Bible I had shoved in the drawer every Sunday after church. As I cracked open the Bible, I felt immediate renewal. I felt that I had some kind of energy somewhere deep inside my soul. I flipped through the pages and read words that I did not understand. But I knew that they meant something powerful. I could feel the power. I remember staring at a verse that told me who I was in Christ. It said that my body was not my own and that my body was the temple of the Holy Spirit. I found that my identity was in Christ, Himself. That was refreshing to me, because I hated myself.
I looked up from the pages of the Bible to the walls that surrounded me. I felt instant oppression. The walls were covered with magazine cutouts of Elizabeth Hurley and Kate Moss. The walls were overlapped with pictures of women that resembled skeletons. I tacked these on my walls to remind myself that I was forbidden to eat and that I was fat. I would not pass the pictures without a deep feeling of worthlessness and shame.
A few minutes later I heard my mom walking up the stairs. She said, “Melissa where are you? What are you doing?” The tears streamed down my face. She wrapped me up in her arms and read me the words of King David in Psalms. The words gently soothed my ears and my heart. One by one, my mom and I ripped off the magazine pictures. I bitterly threw the pictures in the trash and walked away in agony. I spent the rest of the day trying to differentiate between who the world wanted me to be and who God wanted me to be. I sat at the computer and typed out Scripture and printed it out. I replaced the bare walls with God’s Word. . . .
It was a parent’s worst nightmare, and it barreled out of control so fast that our heads were left spinning. Melissa was not a troubled child. She was a deeply loved, very well-adjusted child who had received countless accolades for her successes in all sorts of areas. She was a darling size 6 who couldn’t have cared less how many French fries she ate. Then suddenly, through a toxic cocktail of just the right conditions, her little world started quaking. The first I realized the pressure that girls her age were under was a year or so earlier when I took both her and her sister to a nice mall in Houston to try on prom dresses. I took two completely happy, well-adjusted size 6 daughters into the mall, and two hours later left with two terribly depressed teenagers who were convinced that they were fat and ugly. I was so mortified over the mannequins in the windows that I finally checked the dress size on one of them. It was a 2. The girls seemed to forget the trauma over the next few days, but I never could get the experience out of my head. A red flag started waving, but I also knew that I had to be careful not to overreact or over control them.
Time passed without any real signs of oncoming trouble. Melissa had quite an eye for putting clothes together and had decided that she wanted to be a fashion design major when she entered college. She began looking through more and more fashion magazines. I grew concerned and started dialoguing with her about them immediately. I always had to be careful about how I dealt with Melissa. She was the type of child who could have knee-jerked with total rebellion if we forbade her every single potential hazard. Her weight and her attitude remained steady and visibly unaffected, so I just continued to watch and pray. Then something unforeseeable happened.
About two months before the events she described in her paper, someone very dear to Melissa moved literally to the other side of the world. She was absolutely heartbroken. Melissa is much like her mother in that she doesn’t just love with her heart. She seems to love with her whole being, so when she gets hurt, she hurts all over—heart, soul, mind, and body. With indescribable alarm, Keith and I began to watch our gregarious child sink under a cloak of despair. The lower her spirits sank, the less appetite she had. Soon everything made her sick to her stomach. Weight began rolling off of her like snow melting under a sudden summer sun.
We immediately took her to doctor after doctor. We never could get a physician to diagnose her with what we suspected. Each one independently diagnosed that she was depressed over the difficult losses she had suffered over the recent years. Her brother had returned to his birth mother, her cherished grandmother had died, and her big sister had gone to college. They each felt that her friend’s departure had triggered a full-scale physical, emotional, and mental response to the cumulative losses. Keith and I concurred with their diagnosis, but we also felt that it was leading to an eating disorder with a potential much deadlier result than depression.
Here is the mind-blowing part of this scenario. While we were trying to tell Melissa how sick her precious little body was and how it was starving for food, her peers were telling her how fabulous she looked. I cannot estimate the amount of praise she received for being physically ill. Our precious young people have been totally brainwashed by the media. Pictures on magazine covers that have been doctored and air-brushed to look utterly perfect have become their ideal. How in heaven’s name have we been talked into buying “perfectionism” from such a grossly imperfect world?
In one form or another, it’s happened to all of us. The difference is that our children are too young to fight it off for themselves. They need our help. And not just from their parents. They need the help of the educated, joyful, trustworthy, and Christ-confident adult believers who will expose the lies and tell them truth. Although many of them may choose not to listen, God will hold us, as the adults of this generation, responsible to tell!
I urge you not to think for a single moment that I have become an expert on dealing with teenage depression or eating disorders. I have not. I would advise anyone in the same frightening situation to do the same thing we did: mobilize and seek sound, godly counsel and proper medical attention. I am far from an expert on eating disorders, but I have learned a few things about warfare in my time. Keith and I chose good doctors and counselors and let them do their job. Then we did our job. We fought our heads off in prayer and drew our swords like crazy, battling the enemy with the Word of God. In the power of Jesus’ name, we absolutely refused Satan any right to destroy our daughter’s life.
Thank goodness, we had Melissa’s cooperation! She wanted to get better. She did not want to be captive to a stronghold and, to the glory of God, the child did practically everything we asked her. You see, no matter how Keith and I loved her and fought for her, a measure of the battle was hers alone to fight. We could teach her how and support her in prayer, but we couldn’t “make her” do what the furious battle demanded.
Many of the Scripture passages in the chapter of Praying God’s Word called “Overcoming Food-Related Strongholds” were those we prayed over her and she prayed over herself. She used them so much I had to laminate them. I believe that a key to the victory God soon had in her came from her willingness to forsake her pride. I gave her a list of Scriptures that I had personalized by inserting her name in them and instructed her to pray them every day. I never in a million years expected the child to take them to high school with her! I would have thought that she would have been too afraid someone would discover them. Not only was she unafraid of being “discovered” but also she came home to me one day and said, “Mom, I’m going to need a new set of Scriptures. I shared mine with a friend at school who needs them so badly.”
When Melissa pulled down the pictures of the bone-thin models and replaced them with Scripture, she was unknowingly performing a vivid demonstration of: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” She tore down their pretension of perfection and the arguments they raised against the truth of God’s Word.
Those magazine pictures said something to Melissa contrary to what God says about her. When she tore them down and replaced them with the knowledge of God, she demonstrated in physical terms what we’re to do in spiritual terms: take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. If she had stopped with the physical demonstration, little would have changed. Instead, she began to practice spiritually what she had done physically. She started allowing God’s Word to expose the lies she had believed, and she began writing down and believing what He said about her instead. The change didn’t come overnight. Change in habitual thinking rarely does. But God used the process of time to do far more than an instant healing would have accomplished. She learned to trust Him, love Him, and depend on Him.
That’s when the most amazing thing of all happened. The little that Melissa knew about God and His Word started whetting an appetite in her that she couldn’t quench. She pleaded with me to tell her how I came to love Him. She asked me questions about His Word constantly. She studied portions of Scripture, then asked me to listen to her thoughts on it to see if she was interpreting it correctly. She got into in-depth Bible study and went through Breaking Free with a group of college girls. Her thirst for God began with desperation but developed into delight—just like her mother’s did. And just as it did for thousands of others who have been captured by the healing heart of God.
David was one of those. Psalm 18 is a testimony of his love for God. It is the only psalm David began with the words “I love you, O LORD, my strength” (v. 1), as if bursting at the seams to testify. To me, his approach seems to suggest that he couldn’t wait to work up to a crescendo. The psalm literally began with his compulsory confession of intimate affection. Because of my own experience, I have no trouble imagining why David loved God so much. The words immediately following his outburst of love say volumes:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my
Somewhere along the way, the God of the universe—his father’s God, and his grandfather’s God—had truly become his. Their relationship became deeply intimate in a spiritual sense, somewhat like the two described in the Song of Songs: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” ( KJV).
I watched the same thing happen to Melissa. God was no longer just her mother’s intimate partner. He became hers. How? Perhaps David said it well for both of them in the very same psalm:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster
[in other words, they took advantage of David’s
weakened state, just as the enemy took advantage
of Melissa’s after her loss],
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
I have watched God perform a staggering miracle. Before my very eyes, over the course of a year, He took her disaster and used it to teach her delight.
Her lessons in passion still continue today. No, I don’t know about tomorrow, but I have to believe that what she learned in her “yesterdays” will help draw her home in her “tomorrows.” Melissa is a very young woman and has plenty of battles in front of her, but she has a victory behind her that sent Satan into a tailspin. For now, the child is head over heels in love with Jesus. Her Bible looks like it’s been through the dishwasher. Melissa knows where she’s “been had” and has to live on her guard constantly. She may be vulnerable to the same attack for many years, but at her young age she has encountered a God more alive, active, and powerful than she ever imagined.
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and I will walk in your truth; . . .
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
Lord Jesus, how priceless to me is the power of Your Truth! With humility and gratitude I worship You! For Your Word is alive and active in me, and full of divine power to demolish every stronghold in my life. I praise You, my Redeemer, for empowering me to triumph victoriously over the evil one! My joy in You is everlasting! Amen.
Excerpted from Experiencing the Great I Am: 40 Faith-Building Stories From Contemporary Christians by Bryant and Cindy Heflin, eds. Copyright © 2005. Used by permission of Kregel Publications.
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