Time for the hard truth, the truth that we don't want to hear (and we know we don't want to hear it because look at all of the elaborate stories we've made up about the devil just to avoid it).
The hard truth is this: the number one cause of the troubles, trials, and struggles in all of our lives isn't the devil; it's us. It's humanity.
Do not misread me. Do not misinterpret this. I know that as soon as I said that, someone heard, "She's blaming me for my own troubles, but I didn't do anything!" And it sounds a lot like Job's friends, who kept insisting that he must be a sinner because so much trouble had befallen him.
That's not at all what I'm saying. While it's true that sometimes, we are the cause of our own trouble through our own sin, that's not always the case. Quite often, the sin of others can be the cause of our trouble.
This is where this, too, gets a little tricky. We cannot, of course, blame our own sin for everything; we know that we live such an interconnected experience that it would be naive to think that we are the sole determinant of the trajectory of our lives. We spend so much of our time interacting with and depending upon others (for example, needing a boss to hire you or a mechanic to work on your beater of a car) that it's simply not true that we are the only factor here. Nor, of course, do we want to be, as much as we say that we do. None of us wants to be the only one holding us back. That requires too much introspection.
But neither can we entirely pass the buck and say that our whole lives are someone else's fault. We see this a lot because it's so easy to do, and so satisfying on a surface level. We like to blame our parents. Or our bad boss. Or our sibling. Or our neighbor. Or the workman who did poor work on our possession. Or the company that made that thing that broke. Or our genes. Or whatever. Anything so that we don't have to take a hard look at ourselves.
The truth about the truth is that it's usually a number of human factors, not just one thing. Maybe your parents set you up for failure, but you took that failure and ran with it. (Or sat with it, as the case may be.) Maybe your boss is too hard on you, but you've adopted an inner dialogue as a result of that, a dialogue that isn't helpful for you. Maybe your body was broken and your doctor prescribed you that dangerous medication, but you're the one who started using it off-label. Maybe your genetics predisposed you to addiction, but you're the one who broke through whatever hedge of protection should have been around that.
The brokenness of others breaks us, but we add our own stuff to it, and the interconnected lives that we live become a tangled web that got us where we are today.
Notice what's missing from all of this?
Some kind of spiritual adversary.
And I'm not saying that spiritual warfare isn't real. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that we give the devil way too much credit when the overwhelming majority of the stuff we're dealing with isn't because he's living on our shoulder and guiding us down the wrong path. It's because many, many moons ago, he whispered in one woman's ear and broke all of us forever, and we have done an incredible job of perpetuating that brokenness for him. We, fallen humanity, are responsible for most of what is wrong in this world.
And actually, that's good news.
I'll tell you why tomorrow.