Satan has a few tricks up his sleeve, and I am sorry to say that I have found myself vulnerable to nearly all of them on occasion. Here are a few that I've recognized:
- Fear. There is probably nothing quite as stupid as a panicked sheep. It will run off in any direction, helter-skelter, in a blind and unthinking attempt to get away. Satan can make us behave that way. Perhaps he threatens us with the fear of pain or death. Maybe he makes us fear our own futures or destinies. He may even make us afraid of the very Shepherd who loves and cares for us. But the moment we give into fear, our brains turn off. By the time we've finished running, we have no idea where we are or how to get back.
- Restlessness. Satan convinces us that lying down in green pastures and being led beside still waters is boring. We come dissatisfied with our lot as one of the Shepherd's sheep. We begin to find this life confining, and we feel desperate to make a decision all on our own—even if it's a reckless one. We want to be independent and free. Isn't it better to do what we want, even if we end up living on a rocky crevice as a result instead of in the lush pasture? "Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven," Satan whispers, and we listen.
- Despair. So many terrible things happen in this world. It's easy to feel sad, maybe even disillusioned about it all. Satan latches onto our despair and goads us into believing that suffering is all there is. What kind of God would allow such things to happen? Therefore there must not be a God—or He's too weak and indifferent to intervene. We listen to this lie and seems easier to believe than the truth of grace. We see the suffering before us now, so how can we believe that none of it is permanent? We see the power of death today, so how can we trust that Jesus has overcome us? Satan tries to reduce us to people who believe only the basest things that are right in front of us. We lose our faith and our hope, and one by one we wander off in dejection.
- Anger. Sometimes life in the flock doesn't seem quite fair. Some sheep get to graze closer to the stream than others. We don't always get to go where we want to do or do what we want to do. Sometimes we even get into disagreements with the other sheep. Satan likes to encourage this discord. Whenever we feel dissatisfied or disenfranchised, he lends a falsely sympathetic ear. He encourages us to be indignant and convinces us that we need to look out for number 1. We get jaded and bitter, and we stop trusting the other sheep. Eventually we reject even the shepherd and we leave just so we can get away from the disappointment and annoyance of being with such disappointing companions.
But there's good news. God will leave all the other sheep to come and find us. After we've made asses of ourselves by giving into our ugliest urges, God will search us out and tenderly carry us back home. Satan can scatter us, but he cannot destroy us. God will keep rounding us back up again until the wonderful day when we no longer have any desire to stray. We won't always be stupid sheep. Someday we will be heirs of God in Heaven. Someday we will be like Jesus and Satan will have no power over us.
Until then, I suggest that we do two things:
1. Be on the lookout for Satan and his craftiness. Defy him as often as we can and avoid his snares by submitting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2. When we do go astray, allow ourselves to be rescued. Let us cry out shamelessly for God like a lost sheep bleats when it's in trouble. When God comes to collect us, let us not struggle. Instead let us allow the Shepherd to gather us up in His arms and carry us back to the flock.