I rubbed my sweaty palms on the side of my jeans as the pit in my stomach grew. I was next up for confession and my fight-or-flight was fully activated. The incense in the church raised with my heart rate; the candles seemed to flicker in time with my pulse. Since my first reconciliation 15 years ago, this has been the case every time: absolute terror.
“That feeling you get before confession isn’t nerves,” my youth minister once said. “It’s Satan trying to stop you. He knows how powerful the sacrament is and is trying to hinder your reconciliation with God.”
I’ve been to confession a hundred times since hearing these words, and I still have to remind myself of them regularly. Satan hates all the sacraments, but he especially hates Reconciliation. The sacrament’s etymology comes from the Latin concilium, meaning eyelash; in the most literal sense of the word, reconciliation means to be brought eyelash to eyelash with God. Satan will try to halt this unity at all costs, namely with crippling pre-confession anxiety.
Satan hates all the sacraments, but he especially hates Reconciliation.
Even outside of church, I constantly have to remember that spiritual warfare — this doubtful feeling we face on the path to salvation — is not discouragement, but encouragement. It’s proof that we are on the right road toward God and Satan is trying to run us off it. He will afflict us with negative feelings that could never be from the Lord (fear, doubt, discouragement, temptation, guilt, shame, etc.) yet disguises them as being from God. Paradoxically, these negative feelings are a very positive thing: They can even be seen as a compliment.
Spiritual warfare has been all too familiar in my faith journey. The enemy has trailed behind me in my walk with God, trying to infiltrate my life from every angle. Especially in my young adulthood, Satan consistently tries to afflict me with fear and doubt in following my vocation, discouragement and temptation in pursuing excellence, and guilt and shame in regard to my sins. Every day feels like a battle, but this is proof that I’m getting closer to God. Satan wouldn’t go after what isn’t valuable, right?
When I feel spiritually vulnerable, I recall the words my youth minister spoke to me so many years ago. I take these negative feelings from the enemy as opportunities to laugh at Satan’s weak attempts and continue on the path to salvation. In doing so, I’m constantly entering into closer unity with God — eyelash to eyelash.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.