“The Devil’s brain is prolific with plans. He has many ways of doing many things. Perhaps he has many ways of doing each thing. With him nothing is stereotyped. He never runs in ruts. Fruitful, diverse, and ever fresh is his way of doing things. Indirect, cunning, and graceful are his plans. He acts by trickery, and always by guide. Sometimes Satan comes to us disrobed of his heavenly garments. He comes as a sharp, pointed, painful, poisoned thorn-a thorn that cannot be extracted by prayer. The saints who have seen most of heaven are often summoned to see most of hell. Saints who have the fullest and most transporting revelation of God often have the saddest experience with Satan. Satan may come to us in his own native character, the thorn-breeder and piercer. He may put thorns in us that no prayer power can extract-thorns that will poison and pain. But the thorn will enrich grace, increase humility, and make weakness strong and glorious. Satan’s thorns will clothe necessities with richest attire, and change distresses and persecutions into the most divine pleasures. Satan’s thorns will make room for God’s greatest power in us and on us. The Enemy’s thorns will make the lowest point of a spiritual depression the highest point of vision.”

Guide to Spiritual Warfare, E.M. Bounds

I am soaking in this wise dissertation on Satan’s tactics, penned by Missouri-born pastor, E.M. Bounds, in the mid-late 1800’s. Known for his wise teaching on prayer and spiritual warfare, Bounds’ writings are worth meditating upon.

I should have known that my restorative week of walking on the beach would be followed by Satan’s attempt to undo the deep ocean of peace and rest residing in my soul. It didn’t take long. A phone call here. A sharp word from a friend there. A serious infection invaded my body-hence, physical fallout and sleepless nights. Here a little tension, there a little tension, everywhere a little tension. Before you know it, the ocean has become a pool . . . a puddle . . . and then poof! It evaporates into thin air. One might call it . . . spiritual erosion!

This past Tuesday, during an extensive “coloring” process on my hair (smile), my hair stylist and friend, Karen, and I were getting caught up on the graduations and beach week. Our conversation reminded me of something I had failed to tell you! While walking along the coastline, I began seeing the fiercest, ugliest jellyfish I had ever seen at the Outer Banks. Big blobs of opaque jelly, filled with deep red blood, their long, slimy tentacles stretching a good 10-12 inches. I thought their presence on the beach a bit odd. Typically, stinging nettles can be found, but these I hadn’t seen before. As I walked further, I saw more and more. Frustrated by their obstruction, I desperately tried to dodge them. All I wanted to do was walk and gaze at the sparkling ocean. But, I had to keep my eyes on the beach, in order to avoid the blobs! Karen commented, “You know, Janell, when you look at the ocean, from the surface, it is incredibly beautiful. Never in million years, would you think anything ugly or dangerous could be lurking under the surface. But, the ocean is full of things like those jellyfish.”

I could’t stop thinking about our conversation and those jellyfish! As I researched this sea creature, I discovered one thing: jelly fish have one purpose-to sting. To fire poison. To cause immediate, intense pain and burning.

“Jellyfish release toxin that fires poison whenever its tentacles brush against an object.”

Have you noticed that some people just “brush you the wrong way?” Their comments or conversation can definitely sting like a jellyfish. They glisten like gold on the outside, but under the surface, they have one purpose: to keep you from walking in victory. In one quick second, their words release a toxin that fires poison. The result: emotional paralysis.

But, I gleaned one very important lesson from all this. The jellyfish didn’t have an opportunity to sting me. I kept my eyes wide open and fixed my gaze straight ahead, as advised in Proverbs [4:25](MSG):

Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
   that’s where life starts.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth;
   avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead;
   ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
   and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
   leave evil in the dust.”

The jellyfish, an unwanted guest on my perfect beach walk, didn’t ruin my day. Didn’t impede my communion with God. Didn’t steal my joy. Didn’t keep me from moving forward. No, by God’s grace, I was able to enjoy the experience. By God’s grace, I was able to sidestep the distractions. Literally.

Take courage, dear one, if you find yourself brushing up against a difficult person, situation or circumstance. Remember Proverbs 4:25. Sidestep Satan’s attempt to distract you and ENJOY GOD!