In the spring of 1943, the body of a British soldier washed up on the shores of Spain. A briefcase containing secret documents spelling out a planned invasion of southern Europe was still attached to the man’s wrist. Snagging the documents before the British could retrieve them, the head of German intelligence in Spain delivered them to Berlin. As soon as the Nazis discovered that the Allies had been planning a simultaneous invasion in the Balkans and Sardinia, they deployed their troops accordingly. When Allied forces landed in Sicily on July 9, the Germans were taken by surprise. It took them two weeks to realize the dead soldier had been a ruse.
The body, it turns out, had not been that of a soldier, but of a Welsh vagrant who had died from swallowing rat poison and whose corpse had been carefully packed in ice until the secret plan was ready to unfold. The plot itself was cooked up by the British spy agency MI5.1 Clever deceptions like this one helped the Allies defeat a terrible enemy.
Though we can be glad for the Allies’ decisive victory, the story holds a lesson for us because we, too, are engaged in a battle with a powerful enemy. Only this time, the bad guy is the one who is the master of deceit. His name, of course, is Satan. If he cannot succeed in demoralizing us to the point that we forsake our faith, he will try to neutralize us by making us miserable. He does so by feeding us a constant stream of plausible lies about ourselves, others, and God.
One way to guard against such lies is to make obedience a cherished habit. Disobedience makes us vulnerable to all manner of evil. Another way is to pray and read Scripture so that when you hear a lie that contradicts God’s Word, you will recognize it for what it is. A third way is to stay in touch with other Christians. Voicing our doubts and fears to such friends can expose lies that might otherwise flourish inside our minds.
Today, ask yourself what is making you fearful, angry, anxious, or doubtful. If you find you have unknowingly been harboring a lie, reject it, asking God to help you embrace the truth with faith and peace.
1. For more on this strange plot, read Ben Macintyre, Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory (New York: Harmony Books, 2010).
Imagine that your head is an inch below the water line. You can see the sky, but you can’t break through the surface. Your foot has become entangled in an old log that has settled to the bottom of the river, and you are struggling to free yourself. Your lungs feel like they’re ready to give out. Finally, with one last wrenching attempt, you get your leg loose and break through the surface, gasping for air. That’s a rather dramatic picture of what it can feel like when we are finally able to forgive someone who has wronged us deeply.
Donald Miller points out that there are several practical reasons why we need to forgive.
“The first,” he says, “is because, believe it or not, forgiveness is a pleasurable experience. No kidding, it feels much better than anger or hate. . . .
“The second reason for you to forgive is that it removes you from being entangled in the rather dark thing that hurt you in the first place. . . . Forgiveness gives you a taste of what it feels like to be God, and it’s a terrific feeling. God forgave us because it gave Him pleasure to do so. He was happy to do so. Love forgives, and so does God, and so can you.
“The third reason to forgive is that you open yourself up to amazing possibilities for a happy life. When you don’t forgive, you draw the curtains in your soul and your life gets dark. When you forgive you let the light in again, and you go on about your life in peace. And don’t you want some peace? Isn’t it time for some peace?”1
Feeling entangled, embittered, defeated? Isn’t it time you came up for air? Isn’t it time for some peace?
1. Donald Miller, “Want to Be Happy? Forgive Your Enemies,” Donald Miller’s blog, accessed September 19, 2016, http://storylineblog.com/2015/12/04/want-to-be-happy-forgive-your-enemies/.
Mildred Lisette Norman was seventy-two when she started walking across the country for the seventh time. Possessing nothing but the clothes on her back, she wore her trademark blue tunic emblazoned with the words “Peace Pilgrim,” the name she had come to be known by. This silver-haired woman began walking when the Korean War was underway and kept walking right on through the conflict in Vietnam. Remarkably, she managed to live on the road without money, never once asking for food and shelter but receiving what she needed. Wherever she went, she spoke to people not only about the need for peace among nations and peoples but of the need we all have for inner peace. The following are among her many memorable quotes:
This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. There is nothing new about this message, except the practice of it.
You have much more power when you are working for the right thing than when you are working against the wrong thing.
Only outer peace can be had through law. The way to inner peace is through love.
Since steps toward spiritual advancement are taken in such varied order, most of us can teach one another.1
Peace Pilgrim lived what many of us would consider an extreme life. She was forty-four when she undertook her first pilgrimage and seventy-two when she died in an accident while being driven to a speaking engagement. She lived prayerfully and with faith, desiring to tell others the vital truths she had learned about peace. Whether she was a Christian or merely a Deist I am uncertain, but I am sure she knew something important about peace.
- See Peace Pilgrim, “Steps toward Inner Peace,” Wikisource, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Steps_Toward_Inner_Peace.
Besides adding joy to one’s life, children can add plenty of anxiety. When you love a person, especially someone as vulnerable as a child, you can begin to feel a lot more fear.
I was voicing my own fears recently when a good friend opened his heart, telling me not to waste my energy. He went on to say that he had spent years worrying about one of his two sons.
“Max,” he said, “was always my greatest concern. When he was five, he tested positive for a rare disorder that could eventually debilitate him. The doctors told my wife and me he would probably start showing symptoms by the time he was a teenager, maybe sooner. I was so afraid for him that I couldn’t sleep at night, worrying about what to do.
“But I never thought twice about Josh. He had always been so healthy. He was smart, well-liked, funny. I knew he was going to be successful in whatever he did. Then, suddenly, his life went into a tailspin during his senior year in high school. We found out that he suffers from bipolar disorder. Sadly my fun-loving, capable kid has vanished. Josh’s case is so severe that he has been in and out of psych wards for the last several years and he can’t hold down a job.
“The odd thing is that all those sleepless nights spent worrying about Max were completely off track. It’s been twenty years since we heard about the likelihood of his developing that disorder, but he hasn’t exhibited a single symptom, and the doctors now say he probably won’t.”
My friend’s point, of course, is that worrying about what might happen is a waste of precious energy because it means we are preparing for eventualities that will probably never materialize. As Mark Twain once quipped, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Or as a Swedish proverb puts it: “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” If your life is overshadowed right now by anxiety, ask God to bring you out of that shadow and into the light of his presence, enabling you to trust him for whatever is troubling you.