For anyone just tuning in to this blog, I am a youth minister in the Copper River Valley. It is important to know that my faith is in Christ for what I am about to share. I also believe there are spiritual forces at work. Both those that are helping us, and those that are against us (specifically as followers of Christ). There are often times when we as Christians must experience and fight through spiritual warfare. It is a topic I have often taken the opportunity to teach about.(Ephesians 6:10-19). Recently, I preached on this topic at my church, Tazlina Fellowship, here in the valley.
These last six months have been a rather intense season for me. I went through what people would call a “desert” season. The concept comes from when Jesus went through the desert for 40 days before beginning His ministry or the Israelites that had to wander for 40 years in the desert. These periods of time are often times of testing or pruning away, in order to prepare them for what is to come. My depression cycle this winter was longer than 40 days and my unemployment was as well. I may not have a “40” experience but the desert part is where I identify. During those months of unemployment, I became very frustrated with life and could not understand what God was doing in the midst of everything. In addition to being unemployed (minus the substituting which got me anywhere from 200-600/month) my main ministry endeavors were placed on hold as well. This is something I have talked about before so I won’t rehash it all. It is worth noting that I began to look outside of the Copper River Valley for relocation. In addition to this, while seeking counsel, people encouraged me to give up on the Game Club and the Junior Youth ministry. I am glad I did not give up.
Many of my friends saw the personal struggle I was facing and grew concerned. Some encouraged while others urged me to move away. I was convinced in the Fall that God confirmed I should remain in this valley for my third year. However, as that became December and the depression set in… I wasn’t so sure anymore. This all changed one Sunday in 2019. There was a service at Tazlina where the Holy Spirit began to move and people kept coming forward to give testimonies of what God was doing or asking the church for prayer about their struggles. After each person shared, our pastor, Kim got up and called others forward to pray for that individual. I will never forget the moments of doubt I had about sharing my frustrations. I looked over at my Alaskan nephew, Kameko. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Go up there.” Without hesitation, after that moment I went up and was honest about how I felt. I was frustrated that nothing was happening, I was broke and financially struggling, I was torn about asking for support towards my youth ministry when all of it was on hold. I was in a tough place, and I did not know what to do. When I wondered if it was a season or God closing the door, Kim was quick to say, “I believe this is just a season.” He called some other men up and prayed for me. Within weeks… I had a full-time job as the Technology Assistant at the school district office, stationed in an office within the Glennallen site, Game Club was up and running, and I was meeting with three other adults who wanted to help lead the Junior Youth Ministry.
As amazing as that was, even as I look back on it now, things did not become easy. If anything, they became harder. I am never one to glorify the works of the enemy. But the reality is that we can begin to experience things that are hard to explain when under attack in the spirit realm. These types of attacks began to heighten for me. I could feel the weight of it all, starting with those who died from the flu. I began to notice it in specific areas of my life and I would immediately address them. For years, decades even, I have struggled with the concept of ‘taking our thoughts captive and laying them at the feet of Christ’ as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (my paraphrase). But it became as simple as just that! I would have a thought or struggle come through my mind like depression. I would force myself to pause, recognize it wasn’t mine, and give it to Christ, not thinking about it any longer. I would also think about who I was in contact with recently to see who I may have picked it up from and began to intercede for them. Discernment is one of my biggest spiritual gifts. This concept began to grow as I struggled in other areas as well. I became hyper-aware of spiritual attacks and began to give everything to Christ. I would declare who I was in Him as the sole reason for why those thoughts were not mine. Then the dreams started.
I have dreams where I can see or sense the presence of the enemy. I’ve dealt with these types of dreams before. I can also sense the enemy while I am awake as well, sometimes in a daydream state. Both of these types occurred within one week. As the spiritual warfare heightened, I reached out to my sending church and close friends. We prayed together, worshipped together, and read scripture together. Eventually, these intense experiences came to a stop as well. However, from experience I can tell you, one failed attack does not mean the enemy will leave you alone.
It means the enemy will think of new ways or old ways to attack you. It may be to tempt you, intimidate you, wear you down, or simply make you want to give in or give up. Despite anything the enemy throws our way, we as Christians have multiple promises from God to protect us and deliver us during these hard times. I often reflect on Psalm 91 in times of depression. We are also told the enemy must flee once we raise up a standard against them (Isaiah 59:19), or that no weapon formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). Just as with the thoughts captive bit earlier, it was always hard for me to picture passages like, “Though 10,000 may fall at my right side.” I mean, can you imagine being on a battlefield completely surrounded after watching everyone else fall, and still be confident God will get you out alive? It may be easy to say “yes.” But once you are in the thick of it, it is hard to really grasp it. However, I began to realize how powerful Psalm 23 is, the confidence that David must have had in Christ as he wrote that Psalm. This occurred when I had another spiritual attack in my dream. Often times my dreams are very realistic, to the point when I wake they feel more like memories of things I have actually done. This can happen with spiritual attacks as well. When I wake up it feels like it actually happened due to how intense the dream was for me. Yet, when I had this recent experience, I wasn’t startled or frightened like the last time. I was like, “psh, leave me alone. I am trying to sleep and God’s got this.” I put on some worship music and laid back down. I allowed the Holy Spirit to comfort me and direct me as I prayed against any attacks of the enemy. I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would overflow in my cabin.
Now, as I’m typing this, I am on the third day of bed rest.
48 hours down, 24 to go. I have seven major areas that hurt, my left foot (chip fracture and strained tendon), my left knee (buckle fracture and sore calf), my right arm (bruised bicep) & strained right hand (elbow is also sore), my lower back (Right SI joint tweaked), and the latest which started Saturday in my upper back and has now fully blown all day in my lower neck (injured C7). Oh, and I have most likely pulled my groin from doing “the splits” as I fell as the PA put it during my third trip to the clinic. I have been to the clinic three times as new injuries present themselves since the accident on March 21st.. In addition to these, I am sore in other areas; something akin to whiplash throughout my whole body. As I was explaining all of this to a friend of mine she said, “The devil is a liar!” I had not considered my recent shortcomings could have been the result of a spiritual attack. I am not saying I believe that this is one, but I will say that I believe the enemy has put out a “hit” on me if you will in the past. If the enemy can’t stop me, can’t kill me, maybe he’ll try to slow me down? But no matter what plans the enemy has for me, God has greater plans and He that has the victory over death,over sin, and over Satan resides within me. Jesus Christ died on the cross, shed His blood while his body was beaten and broken. Three days later He rose from the grave and held the keys of victory. Through the Holy Spirit, I have been made new. I am a son of the most high, a prince of the King, a light in the darkness, an atmosphere changer, a bondage breaker, a transformed man of God. These things are not limited to me, oh no. They are available to anyone that comes to Christ. Following Christ is not easy, it was never meant to be despite what some people preach. But following Christ will mean you will never walk alone, never face these dangers unequipped, and will have all the armor and weapons you need to achieve victory for you and your family.
Recently, I had a vision. Hence the title of this blog. Initially, I saw the stormy seas. I could see all the choppy waves crashing up against me. The odd thing was, I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t freaked out. I looked down and saw myself on a floating dock. It was a nice sized raft, but the crazy thing about it was, it was not moving. The storms continued to surge but I remained on a completely level surface. I recall other people being out on the seas being tossed around on their rafts and crying out for help. Eventually, my raft was surrounded by walls of water like something at the bottom of a whirlpool. The water was maybe 10 to20 feet high. Then I realized the raft had become a small island. I was on solid ground. I was in the eye of the storm and centered. The storm continued on but I was at peace. What I have taken away from this vision, from taking my thoughts captive and giving them to Christ. From walking through dark valleys while God has protected me, is that we truly wear the gospel of peace. I wouldn’t say I have “achieved it” but I am starting to get it. I am starting to realize what David meant when he wrote those Psalms. What Paul meant when he wrote those letters. They achieved a deeper and higher level of trust with God to the point where nothing else mattered. The fear of man and the works of the enemy could not reach them. That is where I am starting to see myself, that is where I now strive to be. To walk in the gospel of the peace (Ephesians 6:15) that protects our feet as God lights our path (Psalm 119:105).
To my friends going through hard times, battles with anxiety, depression, and various other struggles, I hope and pray that the testimony of what God has done in my life encourages you. Again, I am in a lot of physical pain right now, life is not all swell. There is still much work to be done in the area of Youth Ministry. But I am growing in confidence into the man of God I have been called to be, created me to be. I am not going to let the works of the enemy stop me from what God has called me to do. My vision statement is for “God to reign in the hearts of the people.” I want to see people set free from their sin, their bondage, their struggles, and know that it is possible to overcome. For we can overcome the dragon by the blood of the lamb (accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior), the word of our testimony (verbally proclaiming what God has done for us and is doing), and not loving our lives unto death (sacrificing our desires, our will in order to align it with His). Revelations 12:11 (my paraphrase)
Be free my friends, be free. To conclude, I would like to leave you with a quote from my older sister,
” It turns out that sometimes our greatest oppositions are the very keys that unlock our greatest opportunities.” – Jessica McCray
Check out the latest from her blog here: WordsWithReason
Author: A.P. Smither
Editor: P.J. Walk
Blog Disclaimer: views and opinions expressed by A.P. Smither do not necessarily reflect the views of his editors, current employer: Copper River School District, or ministry affiliates: Light Shine Ministries and Hope of the Nations Christian Center.