By Courtney Lee
A few weeks ago, I was invited to join a group on Facebook called “Go Outside and Howl at 8pm.” I didn’t respond to the request so their posts kept popping into my feed. It is a group, quite literally, of people going outside at 8pm every night to howl and hear others howl back. What’s crazier is that there are over half a million members in this group! Some have posted their videos and audio recordings. Some posted references for wolf archetypes in literature and other cultural references. Some recounted their Covid stories. Still others spoke of the cathartic experience of howling and how it has helped them cope with the reality of living in this new normal. Personally, I hear enough howling in my house with my kids home full time, so I haven’t stepped outside to hear the rest of the world go at it during the evening hours. But there’s plenty of video evidence showing that this event is actually happening.
I couldn’t help but think of this online group when, during the message last weekend, Pastor Bryan also brought up wolves. As he was closing the sermon he told this story, “I can hear the wolves howling. . . . Now what? What we’ve trusted, has fled. We are all alone in the wilderness. With the wolves.” Literally. I can step outside at 8pm and hear the howls!
As the ‘at home’ orders continue and the virus statistics keep rising, the fear can feel suffocating and claustrophobic. It is as if life as I knew it will never be my normal again. With each desperate attempt to grab at some worldly form of coping, the enemy sneaks closer and closer to the pen. And if I’m not careful, I begin to hear his voice more than I do my Good Shepherd at the gate.
- “The pen is constricting. Come out with the wolves. The pack will protect you.”
- “Isn’t the thought of ‘what if’ so scary? I bet it’s really gonna happen like that. Worst case scenario for sure. Definitely replay every bad thing that could happen in your head. I’ll help.”
- “You’re right. That gate is never gonna open again. Today will repeat each day until you die. Monotony forever.”
- “These other sheep in here are all idiots. You deserve to not have to be around them anymore. Here are some of my best tools . . . distraction, numbness, addiction, conflict, avoidance.”
- “Your anger is justified. Keep it up. But either let it erupt like a massive volcano or shove it down and let it simmer into palpable bitterness.”
- “Look how well everyone else is doing. They seem to be doing so much better than you, don’t you think?”
The enemy is next-level good at getting my attention off my Shepherd. It doesn’t matter what lies, what misdirection, what unhealthy habits . . . whatever it takes to get my thoughts off my Master and into his mischief. He’s an expert. It’s been his way since the beginning. The same trickery that worked on Eve and Adam often works on us. He’s not inventive, just reallllllll good. He has a whole history of messing up a good thing. His track record is long. His resume is in all caps and bolded. He is ‘full send’ evil, and he knows it.
Steal. Kill. Destroy. It’s what he does.
But thankfully, he is not the only voice. In fact, I don’t have to listen to his voice at all. I can tell him to get lost. And when he messes with my thoughts and feelings and the spiral is real, I can replace all that junk with the words of the One who is standing at the gate:
- Psalm 91:14 I will protect you. I know your name. I hold you fast in my love.
- Hebrews 13:8 I am the same yesterday and today and forever. You can trust my consistency. I’ve never left you and I never will. Matthew 6:34 Tomorrow is mine and I will take care of it. Leave your worry with me.
- Zechariah 9:12 You are a prisoner of hope; cling to it. I will restore double. You can count on that.
- John 1:16 Grace on grace, my daughter. It’s from My fullness. Go ahead, take all you need. Now take some more and give it away.
- James 1:19 Beloved, anger comes quick, I know, but instead go slow. Listen first. Just listen. . . . Nope, keep listening . . . John 1:16 Here, take some more grace. James 1:19 Okay, now speak.
- 1 Corinthians 6:20 I love you so much so that I paid the highest price. Ephesians 2:10 It’s because before all this happened, I knew you and you are my workmanship. John 3:17 I didn’t come to condemn but to save. 1 Peter 3:4 You are precious, my dear one.
- John 10 I am ready to give life in all its fullness and abundance. Listen, sister. Listen to me. Hear my voice. I am your Good Shepherd. I got this. Disregard the other voices; they’re lies. Listen to me. I tell the truth, and I have laid down my life for you.
I have a Good Shepherd. He is capable and calm and can handle the wolves. I, unfortunately, cannot. Without Jesus, the enemy wins. But with Him, I am protected, cared for, and made alive. I have a choice which voice I will recognize and listen to today. No howl from the enemy is loud enough to overpower the whispers of truth from the Good Shepherd. And as Pastor Bryan concluded, “I can sleep just fine. Tomorrow morning, the sun’s coming up. And He will lead me to pasture–green, lush fields, fresh water and beautiful sunlight that reminds me that if I listen and follow the Shepherd, He’s got this. Everything’s gonna be okay.”