My dog, Bella, and I sprinted down our shadowed street trying to escape the growling pursuit of another neighborhood dog somewhere behind us. Our malfunctioning streetlights created profound early morning darkness. I couldn’t see the pony-sized beast tracking us but his baying came closer and closer. We ducked into a cull- de- sac and stood quietly in the shadow of a large burning bush. Within a minute, the out of control Great Dane flew by on the main street, dragging its owner behind.
I felt flustered and frustrated at the disruption of our peaceful walk. This is my prayer time. Few folks are out and about in our neighborhood between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. While Bella hummed a low growl of her own, I worked to slow my breathing. Memories of times I felt this same way in ministry or teaching came to mind.
That same feeling of being knocked off my pins used to be common fare. I thought of snarly church folk barking about my song selections. Parents chewed on me when I wouldn’t change a low grade their student earned with missing homework and poor work habits. I thought of the lady who stuck her finger in my face and scolded me for missing a funeral for a member I never met. (I was nine months pregnant and couldn’t walk without pain.)
While Bella and I continued our walk I recalled the circumstances surrounding these times. Music complaints came after powerful, life-changing worship services. Biting parental criticism landed on me shortly after a glowing evaluation by my principal. I could see a link between successes and encounters with “barking dogs,” shortly thereafter. Prior to being chased down my street by an out of control dog, I had been interceding for some tragic and serious circumstances in various friend’s lives. Was it just coincidence that dog showed up in right then?
I know that when God uses me to move His kingdom forward, Satan will protest and contest. Most believers understand that dynamic, yet we are often caught flat-footed when it happens. When the enemy observes our impact and victories against his strongholds, I believe he releases the hounds of hell and says, “Git em.”
Do you feel that way sometimes, like people or circumstances chased you down, grabbed you by the throat and shook you? I sure do. Satan’s hounds take many forms, besides criticism and opposition. Cancer may invade your world, or divorce, job loss, rebellious children, maybe financial setbacks or job loss. Whatever it is, know that just as that dog probably wanted to sink its teeth into my little beagle’s skin, Satan wants to bite you hard enough to make you quit. If he can’t take you all the way down, he wants to keep you shaking in the shadows like I did that dark morning.
King David knew the fear of being hunted by bloodthirsty killers. Saul tried to murder him for years. In Psalm 5 David cries out to God, about His perils, probably from some hiding place. After detailing the wickedness of his pursuers and God’s view of them, he says, “Surely Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12 NIV)
Child of God, whatever hounds from hell pursue you, you are under the favor and blessing of God. Will we be knocked down? Yes. Will we feel the pain of the enemy’s bite? Yes, just like Jesus felt every whip and nail. Down doesn’t mean out. This battle you face now isn’t the end of your story. It’s only a chapter. As one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters says so eloquently in the book “The Two Towers,”
‘It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
Darkness WILL pass. Faith in Jesus Christ changes us from conquered to conquerors. Jesus’ death on Friday was merely the prelude to His resurrection on Sunday. We are destined for victory in this life and glory in the next.
What verses strengthen you when the hounds are hot on your heels? Can you share them on my Facebook page and encourage others? Here’s a couple of mine:
“Contend with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.” Psalm 35:1
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1