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When Satan Gets a Foothold—Part 1
(Temporary Footholds)

The war has been won. By accepting Jesus as your Savior, you now have a place reserved for you in heaven. However, every day, we are in spiritual battle. Sometimes Satan gets a temporary foothold—or exercises a existing foothold—and we suffer. Common footholds include painful anxiety and depression. The most common causes are unforgiveness, fear, worrying and dwelling on the conflicts we have with others.

This article does focus on anxiety and depression. However, some of the principles mentioned can be used with other issues as well.

The sooner you address the problem, the better. The longer you wait, the longer it will take before you feel better. Here's what I suggest.

First, immediately bring the problem to God. Make a specific request. Then listen for any guidance that God may provide.

Second, forgive anybody you may be angry at from your heart. Do this even if you've forgiven them many times before. Make a firm decision to forgive and reiterate your firm decision to forgive whenever angry thoughts come up.

Also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44 NIV)."

The Greek verb translated 'love' (agapeo) means to regard the welfare of, to prefer, to wish well. Scriptural love is a determination to do good to the other. Feelings certainly CAN be involved, but are not a prerequisite. Obedience to God is the prerequisite. If God commands it, he will also give us the resources to do it.

Sometimes you will need God's help, via prayer, to enable you to forgive. Such prayers must be made in faith, without doubting. Remember: "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him (1 John 5:14-15 NASB)."

Third, confess any sin you become aware of. To confess means to agree with God that what you have done is wrong. Confessions need to be made from your heart or they will probably be ignored by God. So, if you have been harboring unforgiveness, you can say "I confess that I have been a 'wicked servant' (Matthew 18:21-35); I ask forgiveness of my sin."

It is stupid to unnecessarily prolong your suffering by neglecting to authentically confess your sin of unforgiveness.

Sometimes, it may not be clear who you are angry at—or even if anger is the problem. Two ways of dealing with this situation follow.

One thing you can try is to simply affirm as follows: "Lord, I forgive all those who have wronged me." This is in accordance with the Lord's Prayer.

Another technique that sometimes works is to get a blank piece of paper, write a person's name down and then just write whatever comes out. This technique—known as automatic writing—will sometimes help you identify who you are angry at; that is, which anger foothold the Devil is exercising. You then know who you need to forgive.

One word of caution: Just because something comes out doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Sometimes automatic writing creates problems for people since demons can put thoughts into your mind which then come out on paper!

Usually, the easiest and fastest way to forgive someone is to simply affirm as follows: "Lord, I forgive ________."

Sometimes, dealing with anger issues will resolve the problem.

At other times, the burden will remain. Sometimes, you may never understand why. You don't need to. Keep reading.

Fourth, cast your burden on the Lord (Psalm 55:22). Surrender the issue to God, actively trust God and be willing to do whatever He says to do—or not do. Wait until God makes it clear how to handle the problem.

Fifth, pray for God to remove the foothold and believe that God has answered your prayer—even if there is no immediate relief (Mark 11:24). Thank God, in advance, for having answered your prayer.

Sixth, use Scripture to resist the Devil whenever negative thoughts come up (Matthew 4:1-11). Some examples: If you find yourself saying to yourself "You're an idiot!" you can remind yourself that the Bible says "I am a child of God (John 1:12)." If you find yourself thinking bad things about another person, you can recite Scriptures such as "Do not condemn" or "Do not judge" (Luke 6:37)."

Seventh, rebuke the Devil forcefully in the name of Jesus (Luke 10:17). Command him to leave by the authority of the name of Jesus. This rebuke should be audible, but it doesn't need to be so loud that others hear. Sometimes, this will provide immediate relief.

Eighth, praise and thank God from your heart. Also: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30 NIV)." There is an important point here that needs to be made: When you undergo suffering, you will naturally be angry at the God who allowed it to happen. This is often a subconscious attitude that you may not even be aware of. This attitude is a sin that enables demons to continue to cause distress. Praising, thanking and/or loving God, from your heart, corrects this—and sometimes provides immediate and dramatic relief.

Remember: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NKJV)." God uses trials to increase our wisdom, develop our character and make it possible for us to be more successful in the future. This benefits us both in this life and in the life to come.

Since going through trials is necessary, cooperate with the process. Be willing to go through whatever painful trials God allows. Align your will with God's will. Look for what God might be trying to accomplish in your life and cooperate with the process. This will prevent you from experiencing the additional and unnecessary distress that will always result if you allow a bitter attitude to develop.

Ninth, listen to Christian music and/or sing praises to God. This is also very effective and will sometimes eliminate a stubborn foothold all by itself. Remember: "the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)." As my pastor once said: "If you have no joy, you have no strength."

Tenth, stop thinking about the problem for 1/2 hour. Focus on something else. Do this even if you continue to feel muscle tension and/or emotional distress. The foothold may be gone—the distress you still feel is probably residual tension from the trauma you've experienced. It will go away if you don't focus on it. Usually, this will resolve the problem.

At this point, just focus on positive things (Philippians 4:8-9). I've sometimes been amazed at how a stubborn foothold simply disappears when I simply start thinking about good things.

One simple technique that will help is to think about ten things you can thank God for.

Finally, if the problem remains, that means the foothold has more power than usual. This often happens when you procrastinate on resolving the issue and/or when you are dealing with a long-standing problem.

In this case, I suggest the following three items: 1) Stop trying to figure out the problem. You will only make things worse. 2) Keep your focus on God (Isaiah 26:3). 3) Keep yourself and your mind busy. I want to comment on each item.

First, stop focusing on the problem. Trying to figure out any emotional problem at this time is counter productive. You are emotionally overloaded—your mind needs a rest.

Second, keep your focus on God. Do this until you feel better. The best way I know to do this is to listen to Christian music. Christmas music also works well. Listening to soft Christian music, while engaging in an activity that involves focused mental concentration, can be incredibly effective.

Another very good option is to listen to an undramatized version of the Bible on CDs. I've found that this works well even while reading.

Prayer will also help—if you do it right. Prayers, at this point, should consist primarily of praise, the giving of thanks and prayers for others. Prayers for yourself must clearly, forcefully and repeatedly express your unwavering faith in God. Praying for yourself, in the context of fear, is another form of worrying—and will usually make things worse.

Third, this is the time to be productive. Try to stay busy. Just identify one productive task at a time—and do it. If what you're doing doesn't require your full attention, listen to Christian music or the Bible on CDs while you work.

Actually, anything that keeps your mind occupied on things other than psychology and emotional problems will be helpful. However, focusing on God, in my experience, works faster and better: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV).”

If you have nothing to do, just keep on listening to Christian music until you feel better.

When Satan has a foothold, it is often difficult to think clearly. That's why you need a plan written down that you can refer to. There is no one plan that is right for everybody. Devise an individual plan based on what you're struggling with. And what you need to be reminded to do. Make sure to have a copy available whenever you might need it.

Here's an example of a plan.

1) Pray. Listen for guidance.

2) Forgive anyone you may be angry with from your heart. Love your enemies and pray for them. Confess sin.

3) Use automatic writing to identify which anger foothold is being used against you. Isn't always reliable.1

4) Cast your burden on the Lord. Surrender the problem to Him. Be willing to wait until He makes it clear what to do. Trust God.

5) Pray in faith for God to remove the foothold. Believe your prayer has been answered. Thank God, in advance, for having answered your prayer.

6) Praise and thank God for ten things.

7) Adjust your attitude: Love God.

8) Be joyful: Listen to Christian music and/or sing praises to God.

9) Set the timer for 30 minutes. Stop thinking about the problem—or anything related to the problem. Stay busy, doing routine tasks. Also, do one or more of the following:

  • Listen to Christian music or a reading of the Bible.
  • Listen to the radio or read something distracting.
  • Pray to God, giving thanks for the blessings in your life.
  • Just think about good things.

10) (If the foothold remains) Rebuke the Devil forcefully in the name of Jesus. Command him to leave by the authority of the name of Jesus.

11) (If the foothold remains) Call someone to pray with you.

12) (If the foothold remains) Work and listen to Christian music or the Bible on CDs. Do one routine job after another. Pray whenever your mind is not constructively occupied. Keep your mind off of problems; instead simply surrender problems to God whenever they come up. Keep your focus on God. Do this until you feel better.

So that's it. These are my suggestions. Come up with your own individualized plan. Or start by making a copy of the plan above. And use it the next time Satan gets a spiritual foothold.

Note: Once you've become more experienced, a simpler process may be used. Be sure to read When Satan Gets a Foothold—Part 2.

1 Notes: 1) Always use caution when using automatic writing. Everything that comes out may not be true. Demons may put thoughts into your mind which will then come out on paper. 2) This technique does not always work. If you think that you may still have some unforgiveness, forgive anyway and see if there is some improvement. 3) On a more positive note, expressing your feelings in writing may discharge negative emotions and make it easier to forgive.


Next Topic: When Satan Gets a Foothold—Part 2.

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