3 Lies To Combat in Suffering and Anxiety

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Suffering is often a breeding ground for temptation. Weakened by pain and disoriented by anxiety, we are uniquely vulnerable to believing Satan’s lies.

C.S. Lewis observed, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against [God].” The Devil loves to leverage our pains and fears to try to twist our view of Christ and his heart toward us.

One of the most reorienting stories for sufferers is Luke’s account of the bleeding woman and the dying daughter (Luke 8:40–56), which you can read here. At the intersection of two tragedies, we find Jesus—whose actions reveal his heart and our hope in suffering. This story also helps us identify and combat common lies we are tempted to believe in pain and anxiety. Consider three:

When Jesus asked who touched his garment, the bleeding woman—likely outcasted due to ritual uncleanness—“came [to Jesus] trembling” (v. 47). Undoubtedly, fighting through a crowd to touch Jesus was scary enough. Now, Jesus wanted her to identify herself in front of everyone—a fearful thought. Yet she still answered Jesus’ call, even while trembling.

How did Jesus respond to her trembling faith? He doesn’t say, “How dare you tremble? You should never feel fear while doing scary things or taking a step of faith!” Instead, Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (v. 48).

Jesus doesn’t condemn her trembling faith; he commends her trembling faith. His response reminds us that true faith isn’t the absence of fear. True faith is trusting God and following his calling amid our fears. It is not the absence of fear but the presence of faith which God commends.

After Jesus delays his journey to Jairus’ house to care for the bleeding woman, a messenger arrives and says to Jairus, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher anymore” (v. 49). The verb has negative undertones and could be translated as “bother” (NIV), “annoy,” or “harass.”

In seasons of suffering, we can be tempted to think our brokenness and neediness annoy Jesus. We picture Jesus with a bothered expression, saying,

  • “You’re anxious again? Over this? How many times do I have to tell you to stop worrying?”
  • “Do you actually have the nerve to ask me for help after all the sinning you’ve been doing?”
  • “Will you quit crying? You should be done grieving by now.”

We think of Jesus as exhausted by our ongoing weaknesses and pleas for help. We see him with hair-trigger anger and reluctant compassion. But notice how Jesus responds to Jairus’ desperation: “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well” (v. 50).

Even before Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter, he comforts Jairus’ heart. This moment gives every suffering believer a window into Christ’s heart. Jesus’ knee-jerk reaction toward anxious and hurting believers is not condemnation but compassion. Not anger but affection. I love Dane Ortlund’s observation:

“The Old Testament speaks of God being ‘provoked to anger’ by his people dozens of times … But not once are we told that God is ‘provoked to love’ or ‘provoked to mercy.’ His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, … ready to burst forth at the slightest prick.”

Ritual uncleanness is one of the most important connections between the sick characters in this story. If anyone contacted a bleeding woman or dead body, that person would’ve himself become unclean.

Most would’ve avoided these individuals. Yet Jesus draws near. He heals the bleeding woman and calls her “daughter”—an endearing title for someone used to scowls and disgusted looks. But even more poignant is how Jesus treats the deceased daughter: “Taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise’” (v. 54).

Jesus could’ve healed the girl from miles away (cf. John 4:46–54). He could’ve stood outside Jairus’ home and shouted, “You, in there—rise!” He could’ve entered the room with a hazmat suit and healed her without contacting her uncleanness. But he didn’t. 

Jesus drew close enough to touch, likely knelt beside her, and took her by the hand—willingly associating with her uncleanness. He embraced her while she was still unclean (cf. Rom. 5:6–8).

And so Christ does for us. When we turn to God in repentance, God runs to us in forgiveness (Luke 15:20; James 4:8). When we reach for Jesus’ hand again after sinning, he doesn’t jerk back his hand and say, “Don’t touch me!” If someone tries to remove their hand after we sin, it’s not Jesus—it’s us, shrinking back in shame. Yet, praise God, Jesus promises that no one will snatch his people from his hand (John 10:28)—not even us, by our sin and shame.

Jesus remains a hand-holding Savior, even when we are most unclean. Even when we feel like letting go of Jesus, he never lets go of us.

One of the most curious details in this story is that the woman had been bleeding for 12 years, and Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old. While it’s hard to know the full significance of this connection, one thing is clear: Jesus knows every detail of our pain. He knows how many days (or years) we’ve suffered, the number of times we’ve tossed in bed, and the exact number of tears we’ve shed (Ps. 56:8).

We gasp both times we read 12 years—but for opposite reasons. For the bleeding woman, 12 years was grievously long. For the dying daughter, 12 years was grievously short. Who can’t relate to these pains? Much of our suffering comes from painful things lasting too long and good things not lasting long enough. God acknowledges both forms of suffering in this story.

I wonder if the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include these numbers in part to say to every sufferer, “I see you. I know your pain. I know your timeline. I know your joys are often short-lived, and your sorrows feel unending. And I won’t leave your suffering unresolved.”

As Jesus said to Jairus, he says to you: Do not fear. Only believe. I am coming soon. When I do, everything will be made well. Until then, I will hold your hand—and I won’t let go (cf. Isa. 41:13; Ps. 139:10; Heb. 13:5).

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Watch or listen to “Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin” here.

Read “Which Jesus Is ‘With You’ in Suffering?” here.

Read “In Suffering, God Isn’t (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.

Read “7 Things to Say to a Hurting Loved One” here.

Satan’s Two Favorite Lies (and Christ’s Victory)

Note: If you like this article, be sure to check out 3 Lies To Combat in Suffering and Anxiety.

Key verses:

“The devil was a murderer from the beginning… there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NIV)

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6, ESV)

Satan has been lying since the beginning of creation, and he has become very good at it. As C.S. Lewis warns in Screwtape Letters, “Readers are advised to remember the devil is a liar.”

If you want evidence of the Devil’s craftiness, consider this: Satan lures us every day with the same two lies (he has zero originality!)—and even though both sentiments have proven time and time again to be fraudulent and harmful to us, we are still tempted to believe them. 

As if that’s not striking enough, what if I told you that these two lies are contradictory to one another? Yes, within a matter of seconds, Satan often gets us to believe two polar opposite, completely contradictory notions. Here’s how it works:

Lie #1: Temptation (Satan downplays sin)

First, Satan—the Tempter—downplays sin. He tempts you with statements like, 

  • Do it (or believe it)! It’s not a big deal!
  • You deserve this!
  • This is what’s best for you!
  • This is what will make you happy!
  • No need to resist—God will forgive you anyway!

Then you sin. 

Immediately—without a moment’s hesitation—Satan reverses his course. You glance over the shoulder from which the Tempter once whispered promises of happiness and God’s awaiting grace, but now he’s gone. Suddenly you hear hissing from the opposite shoulder—words of guilt and shame. The Tempter is now the Accuser.

Lie #2: Accusation (Satan downplays God’s grace)

Next, Satan downplays God’s grace. He tempts you with statements like,

  • You did that?? That’s a huge deal!
  • Fool! How could you think you deserved that? Shame on you!
  • That was the worst thing you could’ve done!
  • You’ll never have joy again!
  • God will never forgive you!

Notice that the claims Satan makes in accusation are often in direct contradiction to those he speaks in temptation. Yet we believe him again. Somehow—just moments after being conned by Satan’s fraud—we are already biting into his next hook.

We are not ignorant of the devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11)

This is Satan’s game plan: He tempts us to do or believe something, then he accuses us when we do. His vile service is a running subscription with no earthly expiration date; it may be hidden at times but it’s never dormant. Satan is always sowing seeds of temptation or accusation. Often both.

Of course, Satan doesn’t need us to sin today to bring harm. The Accuser loves to use our past mistakes and sins against us. Satan’s favorite words are, “Look what you’ve done!”—and he’s perfectly content pointing to regrets from years ago. As long as we are looking at what we’ve done—whether from 20 minutes ago or 20 years ago—we aren’t looking at what Christ has done for us. That’s a win in Satan’s book.

In one sense, Satan already has more than enough ammunition to accuse us for a lifetime. Sure, he will never stop tempting us to sin and doubt God’s promises. But as life goes on, Satan often makes accusation his primary method of attack. As Tim Keller put it, “Accusation is the main problem that we [face] from the forces of darkness, even more than temptation.”

Our defense when Satan tempts us to despair

Here’s the good news: While we are often weak and vulnerable to the lies of Satan, we have a strong Defender who fights for us—and his victory is sure. In fact, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:‬8; see also Hebrews 2:14-15). The same Christ who brings peace to us brings destruction to Satan (Romans 16:20)—this is central to his mission!

If you want a beautiful picture of Christ defending you in the midst of Satan’s accusations, read Zechariah 3. When Satan accuses us (v. 1), Jesus stands by us (v. 5), rebuking and silencing the devil’s accusations (v. 2). Through Christ, Satan is disarmed (Colossians 2:13-15), crushed (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20), overcome (1 John 4:4), conquered, thrown down, and defeated (Revelation 12:9-11).

Rejoice, Christian! In the presence of the slain Lamb of God, Satan’s accusations against you have no power (Zechariah 3:1-10; Colossians 1:22; Revelation 12:9-11). Does Satan charge you of sin? Jesus came to take away sin (1 John 3:5). Does Satan charge you of being a sinner? Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Does Satan charge you of being weak? Ungodly? Sinful? Rebellious? These are the exact categories of people Jesus came to deliver (Romans 5:6-11). Does Satan charge you of weak faith? Weak faith in a strong Savior is saving faith (Mark 9:20-24). Does Satan charge you with wasting your life? Christ will redeem the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25-28) and will bend all things for your good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). Does Satan call you worthless or unloved? God himself tells you otherwise (Isaiah 43:4; Colossians 3:12). Does Satan tell you God has left you? He is irrefutably wrong (Hebrews 13:5). Does Satan bring any charge against you? He will fail; no one will lift a finger against God’s people or separate them from his love (Romans 8:31-39). Yes, because of Christ we can confidently sing,

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! His doom is sure.

One little word shall fell him.

At the word of Christ, the Accuser is instantly silenced. Through Christ, we are already free from sin’s penalty (Romans 8:1) and power (Romans 6:1-14), and one day we will be freed from its very presence (1 John 3:1-3; Colossians 1:22; Revelation 22:3). Rejoice in this glorious hope!

The ironic truth behind Satan’s lies

Satan’s accusations contain a glorious twist of irony: they are actually the first verse of every believer’s joyful song of redemption. Fortified by gospel hope, we don’t need to silence Satan’s charges of our sinfulness—we can actually join him in singing and remind him of the rest of the gospel refrain! (I provide two examples at the bottom of this page.) Thus when Satan accuses us, saying, “You are a sinner!” we can tell him we agree! As Martin Luther famously put it,

“When the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!’”

Victory in the blood of the Lamb

Believer, do not forget this: We conquer the Accuser not by trying harder or promising to do better, but by boldly claiming the blood of the Lamb (Hebrews 4:14-16; Revelation 12:11). To quote another precious hymn, “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.”

As long as we are looking at Jesus—the Truth himself—Satan’s lies have no power. Let’s rejoice afresh today in Christ’s victory!

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “3 Lies To Combat in Suffering and Anxiety” here.

Read “Five Habits That Kill Contentment” here.

Read “Four Burdens Jesus Never Asked You to Carry” here.

Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety” here.

Read “In Suffering, God is Not (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.

Read “An Answer to Prayer Even Better Than Clarity” here.

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Satan’s accusations are the first verse of every believer’s song of redemption!

Consider parts of two church favorites, All I Have Is Christ and His Mercy Is More:

Key:

[RED: Satan and Saints sing together]

[BLUE: Saints sing alone]

All I Have Is Christ

I once was lost in darkest night

Yet thought I knew the way

The sin that promised joy and life

Had led me to the grave

I had no hope that You would own

A rebel to Your will

And if You had not loved me first

I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race

Indifferent to the cost

You looked upon my helpless state

And led me to the cross

And I beheld God’s love displayed

You suffered in my place

You bore the wrath reserved for me

Now all I know is grace

His Mercy is More

What riches of kindness

He lavished on us

His blood was the payment

His life was the cost

We stood ‘neath a debt

We could never afford

Our sins they are many

His mercy is more

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Recommended resources:

Recommended songs: