Use this quick guide to discern these signs of a spiritual attack.
One of the most necessary skills in the spiritual life is the ability to discern signs of a spiritual attack. Without this skill we run the risk of following a voice that leads us away from God to a place of eternal loneliness and despair.
St. Ignatius Loyola was a champion of this type of discernment, and laid out specific rules in his Discernment of Spirits for how to identify the voice that is speaking in your soul.
Here are a few signs of a spiritual attack taken from Loyola’s writing, but also based on Catholic teaching.
1. Tempted to violate God’s Commandments
As with Adam and Eve in the Garden, Satan always lures us away from God’s Commandments. Satan will try to convince us that we don’t need to go to Mass or that pornography really isn’t all that bad or that gossip doesn’t actually hurt anyone.
That is why we need to form our conscience well in the 10 Commandments and not just stop at “Thou shalt not murder.” There is much more to that commandment than killing another person.
If we feel drawn away from the 10 Commandments, we are most certainly under spiritual attack.
2. Unexplainable increase in anxiety
Satan seeks to divide and conquer, and often uses anxiety to accomplish his designs.
In effect, one of the most common strategies of the devil in his efforts to distance us from God and to slow our spiritual progress is to attempt to cause the loss of our interior peace. Here is what Dom Lorenzo Scupoli … who was highly esteemed by Saint Francis de Sales, said: “The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one’s heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things.” (Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe)
The key here is to always test the voice/decision and to see if it creates peace or anxiety in our hearts. This is a vital part of discerning God’s will every day, and especially when it comes to discerning our vocation in life. God is a God of peace.
At the same time, anxiety could be something biological, or a response from a catastrophic worldwide event. We should always seek to use any medical means necessary to treat such anxiety, as it may be something that can be addressed with proper treatment.
However, when anxiety comes out of nowhere and is mainly spiritual in nature, we know who may be trying to influence us.
3. Growing feeling that you are worthless
A key feature of God’s voice is that he always seeks to affirm us and tell us about our beauty as children of God. The devil, on the contrary, will try to convince us that we are terrible, horrible, awful human beings. He will do his worst to tell us that we are worthless, sinful, wretched men and women. After we have committed a sin, Satan will always tell us that God does not love us and that we are not worthy enough to be in Heaven. Satan is the Accuser.
In particular, the devil hates the Sacrament of Confession with all his might and will do all he can to tell us how miserable we are and that we could never receive God’s Mercy.
On the other hand, God will always tell us how beautiful we are in His eyes and how we must never be afraid to come to Him. He is the Father of the Prodigal Son, always ready to embrace us after we have fallen and lift us up. God desires to hold a banquet for us and to kill the fattened calf. God is our Advocate.
If we are feeling especially worthless, it is a clear sign of a spiritual attack.
The spiritual battle for our soul is not easy, but by recognizing these three signs we will know that we need double our efforts and use every ounce of energy to fight back with God’s grace.