When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. Matthew 8: 14
When I originally wrote this post, I was preparing to go to Nashville, TN. Being married to a youth pastor, I get the extreme pleasure of being able to witness God transforming a teenager’s life as they step out of the comfort zone and try something new. However, my personal life doesn’t stop simply because of things like mission trips.
The week before the trip, life decided that it was time for a few curve balls. The challenges were only magnified because they happened five hours away in my home state of Ohio. I couldn’t be there for the funeral of a lost mentor. I couldn’t sit with my family as my sister was hospitalized. There was nothing I could do but pray.
Even now, as I prepare to publish this post, life is busy and anxiety is running high. There’s been a lot happening behind the scenes here in Stephanie Land that I’ll be sharing over the next several weeks. God’s been asking us to step out in new ways and we’re trying to be obedience.
As a long time Christian, I know the desire of the enemy to distract me and the legitimate struggle of spiritual warfare. However, I also understand that we live in a fallen world and life happens. People die, addictions are fought, and metal illness is very real. So, how do I distinguish between a distraction, spiritual warfare, and life?
In my frustration and lack of understanding I cried out to God.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1: 5
Despite my internal struggles, vexation, lack of knowledge, and minimal listening, God reminded me of Peter’s mother-in-law. The account is recorded in Matthew 8: 14-15, Mark 1:29-31, and Luke 4:38-39. It’s short and simple. Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever and was sick in bed. Jesus walks in, touched her, and the fever left her.
What could such a simple passage teach me? How could it help me determine if my struggles are distraction, warfare, or life?
Jesus was still early in His ministry on earth. He was just getting started. Peter was a new follower and probably still full of questions. A sick mother-in-law could quickly become a deceased mother-in-law and that would have have been problematic.
After doing some research via the world wide web, I learned that Jewish mourning practices can take up thirteen months and nine days. Please, understand that I am no expert in Jewish traditions or culture. However, as described on several sites, the loss of parent prevents a person from engaging in parties for that entire length of time.
I don’t know if following Jesus would have been included in that but Peter would certainly have missed many, many days with Jesus.
Scripture tells us that soon after leaving Peter’s home, many people came to be healed, and to be freed of demons. If Peter’s mother-in-law wasn’t healed, Peter would have been out of commission and Jesus’ ministry would have continued sans Peter.
Peter could have missed all of that if his eyes weren’t on Jesus.
Sometimes there’s no easy way to determine if an event is a distraction, warfare, or just life. However, there is nothing saying that something can only fit into one of those categories. Life happens and the enemy will use anything to derail us from following Jesus or he’ll use the situation to formulate a new weapon.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6: 12
We can allow ourselves to excuse away an event as just part of life. Fight spiritually and diligently against something that is only a distraction. Embrace something as a simple distraction when it is in need of intense warfare.
Even though we can’t always know how to categorize all the things, there’s a very important lesson still to be found — We must keep our eyes upon Jesus.
The account of Peter’s mother-in-law gives us very few details. We don’t know Peter’s reaction but it seems as if he didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t ask Jesus to heal his mother-in-law. He didn’t even celebrate when his mother-in-law was healed. But he had already decided to follow Jesus and it seems as if he was gonna keep doing just that.
Peter kept his eyes on Jesus. He still had some great days ahead of him but he couldn’t know that. Instead, he just followed Jesus. He communed with Jesus.
Our prayer lives must be rich and we must ‘pray without ceasing.’ (1 Thes 5:17) We must listen for the Holy Spirit to give us direction in each circumstance for only the Holy Spirit can see what is happening in the spiritual realm.
It’s not easy to tune into the Holy Spirit when things of this world continue to throw punches.
However, like so many things in this world, there’s a hack for that! Turn out, it is easier to be aware of the Holy Spirit when we are in practice and doing the necessary things when life is at a relative calm.
That doesn’t mean that we can just sit back and ride out the story. When the difficult times are surrounding us, we must remember to be still, listen, and embrace our lack of words. Worship music, Bible reading, and quiet time with Jesus can be helpful when we need to be still, listen, and embrace our confusion. Quiet stillness can be powerful whether we’re facing distraction, spiritual warfare, or just life.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8: 26
I know as human we want things to clear and clean cut, especially when we’re talking spiritual matters. But there’s just no getting around the fact that we can’t always know.
No matter what we’re facing — distraction, spiritual warfare, or life, our reliance must be on God and on His Divine insight and Complete Sovereignty.