Nicky and I were cleaning out one of our closets a few months ago. We came across some swimming equipment that one of the girls used when they were on the YMCA swim team. Specifically, there was a pair of hand paddles and flippers. I had never used anything like that in my swimming. So, out of curiosity, I tried the hand paddles out at my next lap time at the YMCA.

Two things I noticed very quickly. First, the paddles exaggerated whatever was not good in my form. Instant feedback! Where I was weak and didn’t realize it had now come to the front. The second is obvious but requires mentioning. They create more resistance in the water. It’s more difficult to pull through the water. The point? Paddles are a tool that tells you where you’re weak and help you grow into a strong swimmer.

I looked ridiculous trying to use them the first time. They fell off a few times – one of the apparent feedbacks associated with poor form -and I’d have to stop, put them back on, and keep swimming. Anyone looking on could tell where I was weak. But I didn’t really care what they thought. I want to know where I’m weak in swimming. It’s the only way I’ll get stronger.

That’s not usually the case spiritually speaking. Most don’t want to be told where we’re weak or talk about it. Pride has a lot to do with that. But we also don’t want to appear weak. We put too much consideration into what others think about us. So we don’t share or open up. And that isolates us. Which is precisely what the enemy wants. And as Satan causes resistance in our lives, he can only go so far.

God allows Satan only so much room to operate. Read the first few chapters of Job. God keeps Satan on a leash. He still does today. And that brings questions of why. Why allow temptation? Why allow spiritual battles. Why does God do that if He’s in control anyway? Couldn’t He just not?

Many other people much smarter than me probably have better answers, but here’s one of mine. If I’m never challenged, I’ll never grow. Disuse atrophy happens because muscles are not used. Eventually, the body starts to break down muscles that aren’t used. This weakens them and causes them to shrink in size.

Not doing anything spiritually makes us weaker, and we shrink in size, spiritually speaking. We lose spiritual strength. Times of temptation and spiritual war offer opportunities to improve our form. They give instant feedback on where we are weak. Satan is not stupid. He’s ridiculously strategic in his counterattacks as we continue taking ground away from him while responding obediently to the Holy Spirit. I know this is gonna sound strange but hang with me. If what I just said is accurate, and I believe it is, then doesn’t it make sense to change our perception of temptation, of spiritual battles? What if we saw his attacks, like my swim paddles, as opportunities to help us see where we are weak and make us stronger? Wouldn’t that change how we respond? Of course, it would!

But here’s the thing…we can’t be afraid of where we’re weak, nor can we allow pride. And we certainly can’t give too much consideration to others’ opinions. All of those move us closer toward isolation, spiritually speaking. And that’s where Satan wants us to be – outside the fellowship and accountability of others. Those guardrails keep us from driving off the side of a cliff…they keep us spiritually safe when we face spiritual battles.

I don’t know where this hits you as you read. Maybe it’s a good reminder. We all need that. Perhaps you’re in the thick of it and have accountability and fellowship. Great! Take full advantage of them! If you’re neither of those, I encourage you to seek fellowship and accountability. Both can be found in the body of fellow Christians. And in all cases – change your perception. Give God permission to use the resistance from the enemy to grow you, improve your form, and make you stronger. Remember, God’s still in control and provides all we need to fight our battles. We have authority through Jesus Christ, His Son!

You are loved!