By Major Beth Desplancke
For three years my husband, Frank, and I served as chaplains at an Adult Rehabilitation Center where we got to minister to men in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The highlight for me were the Wednesday and Sunday chapel services. One Wednesday after chapel, well past the time we normally left to go home, I couldn’t find my husband. His office was dark, and he wasn’t talking to any of the men in the common area. I walked back to the chapel, looked through the window in the door and saw my husband and Tim, our assistant resident manager, counseling one of the men in our program. I didn’t disturb them.
A short time later I saw Tim in the hallway; obviously my husband was done talking with the man in our program. I walked back to the chapel, and again looked through the window. There were still three men in the room: my husband, the man in our program, and someone who I was sure was Tim. I turned from the chapel window as I heard Tim talking to one of the men at the front desk. I looked back through the window, and once again there were three men in the chapel. Obviously the third man could not be Tim. Confused, I went to my office. A short time later Frank called me saying he was ready to go home. On the way home I asked Frank who was with him in the chapel as he counseled one of the men. Frank looked at me strangely and said he and the man were alone the entire time. I told him I had clearly seen 3 men, several times, and I told him I thought it was Tim with his hand on Frank’s shoulder.
I stewed on the situation that evening and was reminded of a story in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha, God’s prophet and his servant discovered that the city they were in was surrounded. The servant panicked and asked Elisha what they should do. Elisha told him to not be afraid and confidently said that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-17). Elisha’s servant got a glimpse of the spiritual war that was taking place around them.
I believe what I saw in the chapel that night, was a glimpse of the spiritual realm that was around me. This isn’t something that happens often in my life; I am not in the habit of seeing people that aren’t there, but I know that God opened my eyes, because I was in one of the biggest spiritual battles of my life.
Yes, we are in a battle; we have an enemy of our soul, the deceiver, the tempter, the devil. Jesus tells us what the devil’s desire is for us: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10a). He is a liar and only speaks lies (John 8:44), and he loves to fill us with discouragement, defeat and doubt. At this time in my life, I was struggling with my calling to serve God as an officer in The Salvation Army. Besides questioning my call, the stressful situation was impacting my marriage, my family, and my health (both physically and mentally). I was at my breaking point, and I was going to throw it all away. The enemy was attacking, and it felt like he was winning!
And then God opened my eyes to see a glimpse into the spiritual realm. Did I see an angel with my husband? Maybe. I saw someone no one else could see. Whatever God allowed me to see that day, was the encouragement I needed to keep moving forward in the battle. Through this unusual encounter, I was reminded of three things that would help me flourish in this battle (as well as any future battles I would face).
What I saw reminded me that just like the servant, I didn’t need to be afraid of the battle. It has been said that the phrase “Do not fear” occurs 365 times in the Bible (I haven’t actually counted for myself); a daily reminder that we need not be afraid of anything. Matthew Henry wrote, “The opening of our eyes will be the silencing of our fears. In the dark we are most apt to be frightened. The clearer sight we have of the sovereignty and power of heaven the less we shall fear the calamities of this earth.”
Secondly, I had the assurance that I was not alone in this battle. The Lord was with me during this difficult time, and would continue to be with me every step of the way. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Finally, I was reminded that with God, I am on the winning side. Although I only saw one person, and not a mountainside covered with horses and chariots of fire, I had the assurance of knowing that God is greater than anything I face, and the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Did the battle get easier? Not necessarily. Did it end immediately? Definitely not. It was still a battle. The struggle was real. Eventually I did get through the battle. I didn’t let the enemy defeat me. I was victorious because I depended on Christ, through whom we have the victory: But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).