Spiritual warfare: Are you armed and ready for battle?

Pilgrims pray near a large rosary May 11 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in central Portugal. Pope Francis canonized Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the shepherd children who saw Mary, during his visit to Fatima May 13. (CNS photo/Pedro Nunes, Reuters)

There were maybe a dozen or so of us in the Bible study group, seated on comfortable chairs, a candle flickering on the table in the center of the room as we discussed a chapter of Acts.

Joyce Coronel is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun and author of “Cry of Ninevah.” Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

“You don’t actually believe in the devil, do you?” one of my 20-something peers challenged me. “I mean, a guy with a tail and horns?” It wasn’t really a question. It was more of a “you-must-belong-to-the-flat-earth-society” pronouncement.

“I don’t know about the tail and horns part,” I admitted, “but yes — I do believe the devil exists.”

Jesus certainly believed in the existence of the devil. Before He began His public ministry, He fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan. St. Paul believed in the devil and counsels us to “put on the full armor of God so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics” (Eph 6:11).

There’s a battle raging in our midst but some of us aren’t even aware it’s taking place. Yes, the devil is real and he has very clear objectives: He wants to destroy us and our families. He wants us to live in fear and believe we have fallen too far.

Know this: We who are followers of Christ have nothing to fear from Satan — Christ defeated our enemy and reigns victorious forever — but we must understand the reality of spiritual warfare and be armed for battle. We must “put on the mind of Christ,” as St. Paul says.

To refute the father of lies, the Word of God needs to be deeply rooted in our hearts. That doesn’t happen without a commitment to regularly spending time pondering and praying through Scripture. Check out the USCCB website where you can sign up to receive an email of the daily Mass readings. It’s a great way to stay in harmony with the Word of God throughout the liturgical year.

One of the most powerful weapons in our battle against the devil is the Rosary, but did you know that it’s also a wonderful means of growing in love for God’s Word? Try an audio version that includes a brief selection of Scripture before each decade and pray along with it as you drive around town. Before you know it, your daily commute will be transformed into a vehicle of grace. Over time, you’ll memorize whole passages from the Bible that begin to shape the way you think and react. You’ll also draw on an extra measure of grace to fend off our opponent’s tactics.

He works by trying to discourage and deceive us. Jesus called him the father of lies because that is who he is. You can’t believe a word he says — but do you recognize his voice?

A few months ago, I was feeling rather discouraged about a particular situation. I wasn’t depressed, but as I stood in the kitchen preparing dinner, seemingly out of nowhere, a shocking thought popped into my head: Why don’t you just kill yourself?

Instantly, I knew precisely where that thought came from: Our enemy, the one who “prowls the world, seeking the destruction of souls,” to quote the St. Michael prayer.

Now, if you’re being plagued by thoughts of suicide, be sure to talk it over with a loved one and seek immediate counseling. Tragically, suicide claims the lives of tens of thousands of Americans each year and thoughts of suicide should always be taken seriously.

But if you’re just going about your day, and you experience an ugly suggestion out of the blue like the one I did, it may be that the enemy has launched one of his fiery darts. Resist him and run to Jesus who loves us and will never leave us.

We can bring every concern, every problem, every doubt, and yes, even our temptations to Jesus and rest in the knowledge that His love for us is real and never-ending. He conquered sin and death and reigns victorious forever. The devil? He flees from us the instant we turn to Jesus. We belong to the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, who rose from the grave and walks beside us every step of the way. Surrender yourself to Him completely and proceed fearlessly, in grace.