I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea, spending a freezing Saturday night in October at a Haunted House when I’m the girl who’s always been afraid of pretty much everything. I’m totally a listen to Christmas music in September, beg for a Caramel Brulée Latte from Starbucks in October, and a let’s skip right past Thanksgiving and get on to Christmas type of girl.
Apart from candy, which I can get any time of the year (thank-you-very-much), I find no pleasure in Halloween traditions. For me, there is no joy in being scared, I despise horror films, I like avoiding danger, and I don’t need any inspiration when it comes to fear. Disney’s Halloweentown is as scary as I like things to get, and even that can be pushing it.
So, it makes absolutely no sense why last Halloween, I raised the idea to my family and fiancé that we should go to a haunted trail. I’m not sure if I thought I would rise to the occasion or if I just figured that being a grownup meant I would find some type of joy in the experience. For the record, neither ended up being true.
The main attraction, a haunted warehouse, lasted about 25 minutes. 25 minutes of me covering my eyes with my scarf, clinging to my fiancé as he walked ahead, and screaming (or was it crying?) the entire time. 25 minutes of creeps waiting around the corner, popping out of nowhere, whispering in my ear, terrorizing me in each room we wandered through, and mocking me as I whimpered “I’m brave, I’m brave, I’m brave,” (which nobody believed by the way – apparently my tears didn’t scream courageous.)
Now, there’s something they tell you at almost every haunted house you go to, a rule of thumb, and one that this particular place made you repeat before entering each attraction: “They can’t touch you.”
You probably know the deal – the creeps, the clowns, the ghosts, and the demons have full authority to jump out and do their worst and you don’t always see them coming. They can lie, they can say horrible things to you and about you, and they can taunt you. They can deceive you into thinking you’ll never get out.
But while they have the ability to try and scare you with their taunts, teases, and wicked whispers, they do not have the authority to touch you. They are confined and they cannot leave their assigned space within the house. And you know the truth is, if you keep on walking, you will make it out, you will leave them behind, and they won’t be able to follow where you go.
It wasn’t until the night was over and the weekend had passed that I recognized the similarity between what I experienced that night and what a friend told me a few weeks beforehand at Bible study. She was trying to help us better understand the limitations of the enemy’s power. She compared it to walking through a prison and being taunted and tormented by the people inside and how even though they could say wicked things and do their best to try and lead you off course, they couldn’t trap you there and you were free to walk out, untouched, while they remained confined.
Now, the night at the haunted house, I learned there are some key things you do or don’t do to survive. For example, never in a million years do you throw in the towel and sit down in one of those dark and scary rooms, defeated. Never do you stop and listen to their lies, look them in the eye, or give them more of a chance to scare you or speak to you. If you give them the opportunity, they will take advantage and you’ll run the risk of losing your perspective to their influence.
Instead, you walk straight through each room, eyes fixed on the leader of your group, clinging to the people you’re with. You always look ahead, never giving anyone the chance to distract you, taunt you, or lead you off course. You give them as little of a chance to mess with you as possible. You focus on what’s true, you remember you will get out, and you power through.
This is the key to walking out and reaching the end, untouched by them all.
And this is the same approach we are commanded to take with our real enemy. Not our flesh and blood enemy, but rather “the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV.) Yes, the same strategies for overcoming a haunted house are needed for overcoming this enemy, the one attacking our minds, preying on our wounds, and not fighting fair.
While Halloween comes once a year, the enemy comes prowling every day, seeking to destroy and devour the children of God (1 Peter 5:8, ESV). And he is far more crafty. He knows when, where, and how to strike against each of us.
This enemy wants to make a playground of our minds. He’s eager to heighten every insecurity, smother worriers with fantasy fears, trigger anxiety to overwhelm all reason, boost pride-ridden minds with sweet praises, encourage addictions, comfort the complacent, blind unbelievers, and tempt us all with an aim to trap and destroy.
However, though he may be more crafty, though his strategies may be more specific, though he may know exactly how to strike where we are most vulnerable, he is still confined by the same rules: he cannot touch us, he will be left behind, and he cannot go where we are going.
But, don’t we so often forget that’s true? Don’t we so often give him so much more power than he deserves? How often do we forget that we can walk straight out of his attacks, turn away from his temptations, and silence his lies? Though we would never sit down defenseless in a haunted house and let the enemies come, how often do we walk into the real enemy’s attacks and sit under the power of his lies, allowing his taunts and temptations to tell us who we are?
Philippians 4:8 says we are to fix our minds on everything true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. It tells us that thoughts like these guard our hearts and our minds against the enemy and lead us into God’s peace (v6, 9, ESV.)
The enemy’s ways and words are contrary in every way to the list above. He fills our minds with everything that is false, wicked, evil, and destructive. He lies, he deceives, he warps truth.
That is why in every way, we have to “submit ourselves to God and resist the devil” (James 4:7a, ESV.) We must take every thought we choose to linger on, every action we carry out, every word we speak to ourselves and to others, captive to Christ – and then, the devil will flee (James 4:7, 2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV.) We are to be always on guard, watchful, ready for the enemy’s attack and always prepared to fix our minds and our sight on what is pure and lovely (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).
Because while we are vulnerable, we are not defenseless.
In the same way that we wander through a haunted house always on guard, prepared for the demons in each room, we are called to walk through life prepared for the attacks from our real enemy. We are to fix our minds on what is true and just. We are to always be ready for an attack and always ready to speak truth to ourselves to drown out the voice of the enemy.
But there is one more strategy I mentioned about surviving a haunted house that is vital for overcoming the enemy: we must cling to the leader.
The courageous one who walks before us, leading us around every dark corner, remaining steady and stable, unshakeable. The one who sees the enemy long before we do. The one who has the authority to make the enemy tremble.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear” (Isaiah 41:13, ESV.)
Jesus is that leader we cling to in order to tear down the strongholds the enemy builds in our minds. He is the one who shines light in the darkness, who exposes the enemy’s schemes, who silences lies with truth.
The enemy wants to make a prisoner out of us. We’re born in chains, but Jesus holds the key to our freedom. He beckons us to walk out of darkness and into the light, never turning back and never again being held under the power of the enemy. But once we’re free, the enemy will do whatever he can to make sure we live like our chains are still on. He lies to us, deceives us, and tries to cover us with shame, and bring us back into darkness.
But he is confined. He attacks our lives from the confines of a prison cell.
Does that mean he can’t do any damage? No. Our experience living in a broken world shows us evidence everyday that he can still wreak havoc. He can still shoot those fiery darts at our lives, at our identities, and at our purpose.
But he does not have the power to keep us in chains. He has no right to tell us who we are. And though he might do his best to massacre our lives, he holds no victory. And though he might try to derail us from our purpose, warp our identity, smother us with the shame of our sin, and keep our focus off of the grace and mercy of Christ, we get to decide how much authority we are going to give him in our life. For while the option is ours, to sit in his prison and put on his chains, we have the power and authority as Jesus’s chosen and beloved children, to declare Christ’s victory over the enemy, to define ourselves by His righteousness, and to silence the enemy’s lies with the truth of the Gospel.
And that is why we can endure each day, equipped with the power of Christ, and proclaim in the face of the enemy: “You can’t touch us.”