This content is adapted from Pastor Halim Suh’s message in the ninth session of ROOTED, our new parenting curriculum for adoptive and foster families. To learn more about ROOTED or to purchase the curriculum for your family, church, or agency, go to hopefororphans.org/rooted.
In our recent post about the top five needs facing orphan ministry in the United States, we mentioned that 40% of the adoption and foster care ministry leaders we surveyed listed dealing with spiritual warfare as a top priority.
For some of us, that number is startling. 40%? Really? In twenty-first century America, it’s easy to minimize spiritual warfare. Evil and the devil seem like distant concepts, maybe even ancient myths. But hear how God talks about spiritual warfare in his Word:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. ” (Ephesians 6:10-113)
The Bible is using vivid, concrete language to help us believe that this is real. Evil is real. The devil and his schemes are real. We have a tendency, especially in our comfortable American environment, to believe that things like the devil and evil are primitive ideas or a bogeyman for scary stories. Even if we do think they are real, we can assume they exist only within the deepest, darkest confines of distant jungles or long-ago societies—not contemporary America.
And I think that, if we’re thinking that way, the Enemy has us exactly where he wants us. The flow of the argument in Ephesians 6 begins with reminding us that these spiritual forces of evil do exist. Because these things exist, Paul tells us, we must put on the armor of God.
When a family adopts out of a desire to present God’s redemptive work through adoption, they are living out a powerful illustration of the gospel. They are sharing a picture of what happened when the gospel was applied to us—though we were children of wrath and came from a far-off place, he brought us near and made us his children. And in my perspective, such a powerful gospel witness can potentially incur attacks from those forces of evil.
To be clear, we are not talking about disabilities or developmental delays as demonic. Much pain has come from linking those in the past, and we do not want to add in any way to the stigma and discrimination that disabled individuals still face. Rather, we are talking about spiritual darkness, which might be manifested emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually.
So how do we respond to these forces of evil? If there is ever a time as a parent that you feel a distinct sense of evil or darkness, what should you do?
- Seek the wisdom of your church leaders.
While we shouldn’t minimize the reality of spiritual evil, we also shouldn’t be too quick to assume that something is demonic. It could be, but we shouldn’t jump to that possibility automatically. Instead, we should seek to discern this spiritually, praying and asking God what is going on.
There is a level of sinfulness and evil that could simply come out of the hardness of our own hearts without any demonic activity, and it can be hard to see that around our own sin. But at the same time, demons and evil do exist, and so we should seek help in discerning what’s going on.
One of the most powerful gifts God gives us for spiritual discernment is the leadership of elders and pastors. Talk to the leaders in your local church and ask for their perspect.
- Don’t fear.
The idea of forces of evil is uncomfortable. Seeing their effect in your own life can be downright terrifying. But God assures us that he is our mighty protector. Here’s how he assures us in 1 John 4:4:
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
Yes, we are just “little children,” but we have a great and powerful God. God loves you with a ferocious and perfect love, and that perfect love casts out fear.
- Submit to God.
We’ve probably all seen movies where people use the name of Jesus as a weapon for fighting against evil spiritual forces. But Jesus’ name isn’t some magic spell or formula we can manipulated. Instead, let’s look at how God’s Word tells us to resist the devil in James 4:7:
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
We first live submitted to God, and then we resist the devil and trust in God’s promise that the devil will flee.
So what does this submission mean? In context, James is talking about how God gives grace to those who humble themselves before him. Throughout the scriptures, prayer is one of the essential ways we can express our humble dependence on God. Another is turning to His word and clinging to His truth.
So if you are experiencing spiritual darkness, pray. Ask specific things from God. Confess to him that he is in control and that he is mighty to save. Talk to him about his promises, his power, his love for you.
Open up the scriptures and read them. Maybe just open your Bible with our family right there and read scripture out loud. The Bible tells us that the devil cannot abide with truth, so make the truth your refuge. Memorize the scriptures so that you can return to them again and again.
Yes, there may be some extreme instances where we ask for a demon to be cast out. But most of the time, our response is the hard work of turning from fear, clinging humbly to God through prayer and through his word, and seeking the help and discernment of our local church. And when we do this, when we submit to God and resist the devil, the Bible promises that the devil will flee.