April 15, 2016

The Second Attack

Gary Thomas — 

The Second Attack

Ever think about the fact that the best of marriages likely face the most intense spiritual warfare? Or that the spouses who are most serious about their faith (even if their spouse isn’t) endure the most vicious of spiritual assaults?

Doesn’t this make sense? Satan wants to take out those marriages that most inspire and feed others, or, if one spouse is serious about God, he wants to attack the spouse who represents the greatest threat to his chaos.

By your act of reading this kind of a marriage blog on a regular basis, you are proclaiming your desire for a deeper, richer marriage that can serve the Kingdom of God. So the bad news is, if you’re reading this, your marriage is probably under increased attack. You are under increased attack.

So you need to be wise. And this post deals with one of the most subtle, clever attacks Satan ever levies: the cunning “second attack.”

I was alerted to this second attack by Gregory the Great (540-604), who was surely one of the most spiritually attuned popes who ever served (Gregory was pope from 590 to 604). He initially mourned being chosen pope, as he preferred a life of quiet contemplation and worship, but he realized that just as pride moves some to aspire to famous positions, so pride (love of self) can move others to shirk responsibility—and so he served. Are you getting how in tune he was with the subtle way in which sin can attack us from both ends?

Thus in marriage: 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient.” If you are impatient with your spouse, you’re not, at that moment, loving your spouse. The Bible exalts patience far more than we tend to do today: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” (Prov. 16:32)

The Spiritual Blessing of Patience

Patience protects us from so many other spiritual evils. For example, if you think you are more spiritually mature than your spouse and so regularly display impatience with your spouse’s weaknesses, Gregory would suggest you’re disqualified from being a teacher: “He cannot truly be a teacher of what is good, if in his own way of life he does not know how to bear with equanimity [patience, long-suffering] the evils that others do.” Without patience, you are spiritually disqualified from leadership and ministry.

Impatience with others’ sin also turns us into arrogant people; when we don’t put up with the sin of others, we mentally elevate ourselves above others which is the very definition of pride.

Patience also allows us to fulfil the high call of the gospel. “Among men, it is virtuous to put up with enemies; but before God it is virtue to love them.” (Gregory is applying Matt. 5:44 here). In other words, patient people don’t just “put up” with their spouses or children’s sins, but seek to love them in their sin, to keep serving and being kind, to not let their sin lead them into their own sin of neglect. Without patience, we become resentful and pull away instead of moving toward our spouse.

The Second Attack

But none of this constitutes the dreaded “second attack.” It was Gregory’s perception of this second attack that blew me away. Gregory warns us that patient people often suffer a “first offense” with great patience—they are aware, sensitive, and mindful of the immediate temptation toward impatience, bitterness, and judging, so they apply grace. But like a boxer who has knocked down his opponent and starts to breathe a little easier, thinking “I’ve got this fight,” that initial victory can cause us to let down our guard, making us even more vulnerable.

Gregory warns what happens next: after a certain amount of time passes (different for all of us), Satan begins tempting us with onslaughts of resentful thoughts. What we bore in the moment, we resent in hindsight, and all that spiritual good shrivels up in our souls.  Just as Satan incited the first person to cause the offense, so he incites the second person to become resentful of the offense. When we initially resist his intrusion into our thoughts and marriage, he simply pauses and waits, and then attacks us again when we are less aware.

All of which is why Gregory warns, “The patient are, therefore, to be admonished to fortify their heart after victory, to be on the lookout for the enemy who was overcome in open conflict” but who circles back when the patient one is not as alert, and by this “subsequent ruse” “tread on the neck of the conqueror who for a long time had been inflexible against him.”

You will rarely enjoy the luxury of forgiving a loved one once. The temptation toward bitterness and resentment all but assures that you will have to choose to forgive multiple times to keep your soul fresh and pure.

This is why daily reminding ourselves of the “Gospel”—the good news of Jesus Christ who died for us, rose from the dead, chose us to be in a relationship with him, and saved us apart from anything we might have done—is so key. If I don’t receive grace every day, I stop giving grace. Before you “feed” your family (if you’re like my wife) you go to the farmer’s market so you have something to serve your family.

Grace and patience are just like that. We have to receive grace, be reminded of grace, and thank God for his grace so that we have grace to give, lest we fall prey to the second attack and become bitter after we win the first victory. Otherwise, we’ll win the first battle, but fall prey to the second when we are less aware.

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12 responses to The Second Attack

  1. Great info and reminder. We “survived” an affair and the uncovering of 25 years of hidden porn use. After 18 months of thinking we were recovering and making progress I discovered the porn use was still going on and that he had been lying the whole time to me and our counselor. Definitely a second attack. This one hit much harder then the first. Almost 2 years later we are still feeling the affects of that second attack. Hard to believe anything he says now. Amazing how quickly trust can be shattered.

    • Hello M, Your story is surprisingly familiar. But may I suggest the counselor you are seeing is not helping. First find hubby a Biblical support group of men only. He needs to know he is not alone in his struggles. Second follow Gary’s advice – especially how to affair proof your marriage. Third learn to be emotionally intimate together. You can survive and you will survive if you do all things through your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God be with you both my friend.

  2. Tonya Bradburn April 16, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Such a on time word for me. I have to continue to have patience and forgive because God is that way with me. That you Lord for your amazing grace you have bestowed upon me and help me to be gracious toward others❤️

  3. Great post, Gary!! So, so true. Great reminder to gird ourselves with Armour of God and fill our hearts and minds with His amazing grace 🙂

  4. Gary, it’s amazing how that two word summary captures so much! Both a difficult experience as well as a deep danger. The experience of the truth of this is both personal as well as in a ministry to marriages in our church.

    I greatly appreciate your use of Scripture, reflections on the spiritual and relational life, as well as themes from church history. Keep up the good work! With prayers for you, your marriage, and family!

  5. an EXCELLENT reminder! I would not have put it into the same terms, but know from personal experience that the 2nd attack is a very very real tactic of the enemy. However, tune your heart toward Jesus and He can use it to prompt you to pray for His grace in your own life as well as a reminder to pray For (not AT) the “other party” in the offense. Pray the LORD God bless, walk with and manifest Himself in the life of the other to Gods glory & the benefit of the one prayed for. His Grace is — has been– and will continue to be sufficient for all circumstances—- but our part is to draw on it daily, hourly, and moment by moment.
    Now, with the reminder— remember to expect things to heat up ALOT over the next (varied) length of time so you dont get caught in the 3rd or 53rd wave. 🙂

  6. Thank you for this article. I am thankful for your insights and being led by the Spirit. We just went thru a very long and hard season of conflicts and doubts. For the last month, we have had peace and love when my husband turned his heart to the Lord. This week I had a strange thought pop in my head: be watchful, the enemy wants to bring you down and test your faith. I didn’t dwell on it but was very aware of it. Then the next day I heard a military man talk about preparing for an attack: they don’t wait until the attack happens to know what to do, but prepare and train ahead of time. So you are the third message from the Lord to me this week about being watchful for the enemy’s subtle ways. And to know what I should do. However your message came a day late for me. The attack and accusations came at 10:00 pm when I was tired and thinking the day was over and we were good. But God is faithful, kind, and good to still reach me with His truth . The enemy can still be put down by humility from me to those who were being used by him to bring me down. I spent the whole day yesterday depressed, fearful, worn out, confused, and resentful. I could not get over the words flung at me. But He said we do not war with flesh and blood. And then my heart softened to receive your message because I know He was reaching out His hand to lift me back up. Satan will not keep me down with his evil schemes because God is bigger, loving, and cares for me. Thank you for being used by God in my life today. May you be blessed to keep feeding His sheep with truth because we are prone to wonder . Humility is the key to patience. I would appreciate prayers over our family. We all need grace and humility to live like His own.

  7. I found this to be true in my own life, but when it comes to anxiety. I would withstand an anxious moment just fine, then be filled with pride at how strong I was, then – in a moment of calm – have a huge panic attack. Out of the blue – or so it would seem. And this has had major repercussions on my marriage. Now I know – to keep being strong, and receiving Jesus strength for I can do all things through Him. I still fall for it, but as I am changing my thinking and my thoughts, I think that Jesus is making me strong enough to withstand this second attack. Thank you for another excellent article.

  8. Wow, wow, wow & wow. What an AMAZING post! I work with a group of faithful Catholic women and marriage is THE topic. You have so hit the nail on the head. The devil is TRULY prowling like a hungry lion, particularly in these times. I can’t love what you wrote about impatience enough. I haven’t yet read Pope Francis’s recent Apostolic Exhortation but you would probably love it.

  9. Thank you for this! I definitely needed to read this! God is good! Life is good! And am hoping to print this out so I can be reminded! 🙂

  10. Oh my! I definitely needed this! Thank you!!! God is good! Life is good!

  11. Excellent!! This is especially helpful when infidelity happens and a couple moves on from it with God’s help.