Home » Spiritual Direction » Spiritual Direction and Encountering the Enemy of Humanity

Spiritual Direction and Encountering the Enemy of Humanity

We define Christian spiritual direction, then, as help given by one believer to another that enables the latter to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.[1]

Part of the help given in Christian spiritual direction (and there are many “spiritual direction programs that ignore this part) is helping the spiritual seeker to discern when they are under spiritual attack by the enemy of humanity. In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of the enemy in the parable of the wheat and tares. Jesus also, in the Gospel of John, that the enemy is like a thief. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn. 10:10 NIV) The apostle Peter reminds us to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8 NIV)

Spiritual direction needs to be aware of the tactics and deceptions of the enemy of humanity. To not be aware is to be dangerously spiritually naïve and vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks.

Ignatius’s second rule in discerning of the Spirits states, individuals who are going seeking the cleansing their sins and rising from good to better in the service of the Lord will encounter it is the way of the evil spirit to strive to attack, sadden, depress, and put obstacles, disturbing our souls with false reasons that discouraging us from not going on in the Christian life.   During such attacks the Holy Spirit is likely to give us courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and peace, easing of darkness, and aiding us in all obstacles, that we may go on in our spiritual growth.

In this rule Ignatius brings out the danger we face. There is no conflict-free life. We will face desolation and attacks from the enemy of humanity. There will be times that the enemy seems to, or does, get the upper hand. I for one have experienced the consequences of not being alert and prepared. I have been to the bottom of the pit the enemy can push a person into and it is not pleasant.

When facing desolation, it is important for the spiritual director to remind the person in direction that God does not give up on us when we fall and fail because God loves us, and we are made from this love for the purpose of this love. Evil hates this love and will do anything to disrupt it, pervert it, misguide it, crush it, and if possible, kill it. To ignore this reality is to aid evil in its endeavor.

To grasp the second rule, we must face what comes our way in life. This is a lifelong struggle. The enemy of humanity is insane as well as vengeful. The enemy cannot overthrow God but is insane enough to believe it can. The enemy believes it can hurt God through us. The enemy hates us as God’s creation and desires to us against one another and against the will of God.

The enemy’s voice speaks to our inner conscience negative thoughts and evil, selfish desires. This voice will tell continually tell us, “You have failed, you are worthless, you are a disgrace, you are bad, or the enemy will try a seductive voice to entice us to sin, “You deserve this, you are superior to others, you have a right to rule your life, etc.

When the enemy speaks, we need to ask God to quiet the voice, to help us overcome the influence the voice has toward our responsibility and will. It is a continual battle. However, God does give us the strength we need when we are willing to accept it. We can say to the voice with the authority of our Lord, “Get behind me Satan.”

The Apostle Paul warns us to prepare to engage the enemy of humanity. Paul tells us, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Eph. 6:11-13 NIV)

I am afraid the arrogance and ignorance of our “modern world” can lead us to believe our ancient enemy is only a myth, a human creation, or a delusion created by a mental illness or inferiority. This mindset plays right into the hands of the enemy of humanity and makes us vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. Thus, we are spiritually unequipped and ill-prepared to stand against such a darkness. It is vital that a spiritual director help an individual or group of individuals to be aware of the enemy’s tactics and how God can armor us against them.

Our enemy is real. The enemy knows our weaknesses. The enemy is determined to destroy us. Our Lord wants us to be alert and aware. We are to test the spirits that come our way (do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God – 1 Jn. 4:1 NIV). We must be aware of how the enemy uses our willfulness against us. We need to learn to surrender our willingness to God so that can strengthen and equip us for this struggle.

As spiritual directors, we have been warned. As spiritual directors, we have a responsibility to make sure those whom we guide are aware of the dangers. God will prepare those whom we guide if we can help them listen and discern how God will lead them in the battle. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we can stand.


[1] Barry, William A.; Connolly, William J.. The Practice of Spiritual Direction (p. 8). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

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