Blessed be the Lord, my rock,Psalm 144:1
who trains my hands for battle,
my fingers for war.
If we are aware of Spiritual Warfare raging around us, we need the best training. The Lord himself trains us for war. All the Children of God have the opportunity to develop warlike strengths–virtues to aid us in battle.
Our goal as Soldiers of Christ is to be peaceful and joyful. Like all soldiers, our lives are not about fighting. The virtues we build are not for the sake of war, but for the sake of protecting our spiritual lives, our joy, which is to know and love Jesus.
All the warlike virtues of the Children of God help us to be happy, and they make us strong to protect us against the enemy. They are all based on complete trust in God, as a child trusts his father. So most of these virtues can be observed in children. No one is more determined to be joyful!
A soldier in any war learns to be ready. The first way of being prepared is to know that there is a war. When we know, we build virtues, learn enemy tactics, and practice our responding defense.
A ready soldier is also attentive to his captain. Our Captain is Christ Himself. His commands come to us in the Bible, through the Church, and in the circumstances of our lives. Such readiness is a sure beginning of joy.
The Children of God know their goal is none other than happiness in heaven. The devil will constantly try to distract us from this goal. Therefore, we must build the virtue of focus.
St. Ignatius of Loyola was a soldier before his deep conversion, and he always maintained his warlike focus. Wishing to pass this focus on to his Jesuits, he taught them the First Principle and Foundation of Christian Life: “God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God.” In living out our Christian life, we must “desire and choose only what is most conducive for us to the end for which God created us.”
Just as a boot camp drill sergeant teaches the new recruits focus and discipline, so St. Ignatius teaches us.
Strong, Confident, Fearless
The strength of the soldiers of Christ comes from our faith. The devil will give us reasons to doubt. We must trust that God is all-powerful, and that He will give us the strength we need to accomplish whatever He asks of us.
We must be confident in hope. The devil, and the parts of the world in his control, will sow images of despair. It is so easy to believe in evil; it is much harder to hold onto hope. But it is only hope that will free us to act with confidence in Spiritual Warfare.
We must have the courage to love. Everyone agrees that love is difficult. It is vulnerable. In living our Christian lives, we must constantly stretch ourselves, to grow in love. Then we will have the fearlessness we need in Spiritual Warfare.
The most powerful soldiers in the world are those who heal quickly. We might get sad about our failings. The devil will try to make us sad, and then sad about being sad, and then sad about that sadness… This is despair.
Despair sinks into us in that downward spiral, and it nests deep in our souls. We must cultivate our ability to spring back into joy, no matter how sad we’ve been. All we need is a the kiss of Our Father or the hand of our Captain.
In this life of Spiritual Warfare, we can become well-trained soldiers, ready for anything. Many other warlike virtues will come to us, such as gentleness, peace, merriness, patriotism, brotherly affection. All will serve us as we defend our lives of joy and travel to meet Our Lord.
These virtues will also serve us as we come to understand the attacks of our enemy. Next time, we’ll look at a few strategies various Saints have found helpful when weathering spiritual attacks.