When it comes to sayings, I might not be the most creative person in the world. I seem to repeat a short list of statements over and over again. I believe these verbal assertions help my husband and I attempt to parent our children in this out-of-control world.
Faith and Family
My kids would tell you that one of my more common phrases is “in God’s divine providence.” I say this often because I want my kids to see how God’s desired path for us is ordered toward the good. My children know I have delighted in picking out situations that made the genius of God’s plan and his hope for us seem apparent. When options presented themselves and my children selected godly ways, the results were affirming, joyful, and uncomplicated, although not always easy. In God’s divine providence, that beauty is made most apparent as you look back at the results. As a parent, I am happy we have worked hard to unpack the marvels of how God continues to offer his interaction through grace and love for us even in this broken world.
We have just completed the trifecta of eternal holidays that focuses on life beyond earth, Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. Living in accord with God’s providence is intended to help us navigate our way through the narrow gate. And although I was pretty good at pointing out how to identify God’s providence, I haven’t done a perfect job teaching my kids that “the gate is wide and the road broad leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14). This wide road is riddled with the work of the demonic.
I don’t think I am alone when I avoid the discussion of the devil. I believe in our society it is becoming more and more common to believe that the devil is more of a fictional character than a reality of this fallen world and the frequent persuader moving us away from the Heavenly Father.
The deceiver is downright deceptive and crafty while doing his ungodly work. Eve proclaimed as much when she said, “the serpent tricked me into it” in Genesis 3:13. I think it is easy to tell the devil uses trickery, but I haven’t spent enough time explaining to my children how with his deceit, he can move comfortably and acceptably within our lives if we let him.
A few of my children have a view of Satan as portrayed in several Hollywood movies. Satan looks like a possessed person whose head spins around, projectile vomits, and walks across walls and ceilings for some of my kids. Satan does possess people, but I think we are more likely to encounter the demonic while he uses incitement in subtly seductive ways. I believe Satan’s mode of operation is not hard to recognize if you understand his wicked motive. He wants everything God wants but without the light and love of God.
When one of our extended family members died, I should have pointed the works of the deceiver. Satan often uses the money to cause disunion in families. He did in mine. Disunity is a classic means of the demonic. Having material wants as a priority ties us to our earthly existence, and God wants us to be seeking eternal life with him. A plan of the evil one is to encourage us to love the things of our loved ones more than we love each other. Although the immediate feelings of acquiring items seem fulfilling, the continued, long-term pain in producing rotten fruit causes a lack of family communion. The devil is pleased when he brings these choices on.
We had many opportunities to unpack conversations with our children when some Catholic friends, who claim to be pro-life, actively supported laws to keep abortion legal. This common demonic technique makes it appear responsible and reasonable to do something that is indeed evil. God created us in his image and likeness, and he entrusted women to carry his adopted children. You can see the work of the deceiver so clearly when you realize that the evil one relishes the slightest twist by tempting us to believe that a greater good would be to eliminate a person that God willed into existence at the hands of difficulty.
Over and over again, Satan has convinced even those with the best intentions that difficult is better than impossible. The devil even manages to take the word “choice,” which used to mean wanting coffee or tea, or “should we go out tonight or not,” and makes the word appear appropriate for someone to believe a choice is between letting your child in your womb live or not. These are examples of how manipulative the devil is, selling his concept successfully to even the brightest intellects, who are trying to be morally upstanding human beings. I need to be more direct in expressing this reality to my children.
God is Truth, and Satan can’t do anything about that. I surmise that there is not a quality more wanting for Satan than to be Truth. For the past couple of decades, I think there are few things more attractive to the demonic than our willingness to distort the truth. Raising my children, I was afforded more opportunities than I can count to observe the devil’s works relative to how he masterly twisted truth and hijacked, if you will, our ability to reason. The fallen angels have willed themselves away from God, and Satan is trying to convince us to do the same.
God provided us with objective truth that can be known not just by reason but by our senses. The evil one has managed to neutralize our will and empowered our feelings to mean more than we objectively experience through our senses and science. God gave us life to work in cooperation with reason to discover objective truth. Satan has, however, suggested that we use feelings to create our personal truth. Instead of explaining to my children why our society is morally declining, I should have spent some of that time explaining why the devil wants us to use feelings to define truth, which is malleable and self-defining, the direct opposite of what truth ought to be.
The devil has not treated all individuals and times the same. Some people are more valuable to Satan than others. The demonic have seized different times in the past and attempted to overcome God’s kingdom. When you see Catholics and church leaders, and they are not acting in accord with the church, Satan is at work. When a culture is blessed with an abundance of God’s grace and manages to twist reality so it makes us feel better, Satan’s persuasion is working as he intended. Satan is an opportunity seeker, and this is an important concept to share with my young adult children.
I am satisfied with how I have shared with my children the work of God’s divine providence in our lives and the life of the world. I regret that I did not speak equally on how the demonic desires us and tempts us in a cunning way to choose his path instead of our loving God’s.
Spiritual warfare is real, but in order to win you must know the M.O. of the opposing forces. As long as my husband and I are here, there are still so many situations we can point out more clearly so our adult children can reject the efforts of Satan and live within God’s divine providence.
Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.