Among the Devil’s chief strategies is destroying relationships of love between Christians by eroding their trust in one another. It is highly effective and highly destructive. As we ponder new resolves in 2015, we would be wise to consider increasing our vigilance against this very subtle tactic, since we are likely to face it repeatedly.
What Mirkwood Can Teach Us
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and his 13 dwarf companions must travel through the forest of Mirkwood on their way to the Lonely Mountain. The forest had once been known as Greenwood the Great, but the evil Necromancer had crept in and infected it with fear, corruption and the shadow of death. Just before the company sets out, they are warned not to stray from the path because the disorienting evil influence in the forest is so strong that they might never find the path again.
Sure enough, as they trudge through Mirkwood they fall under an oppressive discouragement. This is powerfully portrayed in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation (the second film of the trilogy) where we see each character’s perception of reality become warped. Evil plays on their minds. They not only become more disheartened than they should be, they also become distrustful of each other. Conflicts break out. Bad decisions are made. The quest nearly ends in tragic disaster.
Mirkwood gives us a helpful picture of what it’s like for us to journey through life together in a world that lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). We are walking through a dangerous, deceitful place. Many things we perceive and feel are distortions of reality, but they can feel so real.
What Satan Targets to Kill Love
Among the most painful and destructive of our “Mirkwood” experiences are when doubts and distrust develop between our “traveling companions” and us. Something happens—a sin or a perceived sin occurs—an offense is taken, relational tension builds, trust deteriorates and the result is relational alienation. Often it’s not clear why or how things became so toxic. And that’s because more is in play than meets the eye.
Relationships of love trade on the currency of trust. If trust can be broken, love dries up and the church will split, the small group will fall apart, the marriage will break up, the friendship will disintegrate and the professing Christian will walk away from the faith. When love dries up, Christianity dries up. So to destroy love, Satan targets trust. It’s the quickest way to kill love.
Satan may not like when faithful churches are planted and passionate Christian marriages commenced and vibrant Christian friendships formed, but he is willing to bide his time. He knows that a strong start can still end badly and do a great deal of damage in the collapse. He knows how to play on our fears and our pride. He knows that the journey through the Mirkwood of this world is long and the evil influence is strong. And he knows how to wait for an opportune time (Luke 4:13). He will endure a happy beginning in the hope that an unhappy ending will produce that much more disillusionment and cynical unbelief.
For this reason, we must be prepared to remain alert and keep our wits throughout the long Mirkwood march.