Dealing with Demons

After a few months on “our” mission field—a post-communist, dead, atheistic region—my family and I were reeling from shock. No, not culture-shock, though there was plenty of that. It was the shock of coming face to face with demonic forces beyond our comprehension.

6160062_f520Numerous strange events transpired: liters of urine poured into our stroller, blood splattered on our apartment door, a small hole drilled into our front door indicating a planned break-in (the hole is used to insert a small probe camera), much sickness, poor sleep, and even sensing an evil presence in our bedroom.

At first we thought we must be imagining things, but the horrid climax was the nightmares that tormented our 2-year old son. For many months he’d wake up screaming bloody murder, and we could not easily settle him back down. At two and a half, he was finally able to verbalize what he’d been dreaming about for the past few months. One of his most vivid dreams was about a woman with black hair and red eyes who wore only a bra and black pants and would offer him a basket of rotten fruit and force him to eat. His nightmare was X-rated, not a typical toddler-being-chased-by-a-bear dream.

Satan was not playing fair. Now the shock turned to anger. I scanned the recesses of my brain. What had seminary taught me about demonic activity? I couldn’t recall any class where we had discussed anything remotely similar to what we were experiencing. “Demonology 101″ wasn’t even offered! But seminary did teach me not to panic in the face of theological conundrums. It gave me a lens through which I could see everything from the perspective of God’s sovereignty.

Demonic Bullying

As Christians, we can be sure of the existence of Satan and demons because the Bible plainly depicts them as fallen angels who work in the world to oppose God and his people, and deceive and blind unbelievers to the truth of the gospel. We have a very real adversary who roams around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pe 5:8). As the apostle Paul explains, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). The Devil is bent on destroying Christians and their testimony, and stopping the progress of the gospel.

What we experienced was “normal” for our context, and many other missionaries can testify to similar kinds of things. I call these sorts of scare tactics “demonic bullying.” In a place where the number of Christians is less than 1 percent and the rest of the population is consciously or unconsciously worshiping the enemy, this is not at all surprising. Satan does not want people rescued out of darkness and brought into the light. He will use ordinary, frustrating events to harass the believer, and occasionally he will employ extraordinary means to bolster his scare tactics, as was the case of my son’s dream.

Satan, demons, and their power are real, but they are not allowed to toy with us, even though that is what it feels like sometimes. The Devil is only permitted to do what God has decreed. I love the story of Job because the author pulls back the heavenly curtain for us, and we see Satan entering the stage of God’s courtroom. God himself brings Job to Satan’s attention. Satan is allowed to afflict Job, but within limits, albeit with severe consequences for him and his family. In Job’s case, Satan is not allowed to take his life. God’s sovereignty has always trumped Satan’s power.

From this side of the cross, we know his doom is sure. Our ultimate victory over Satan is guaranteed because our life is hidden in Christ, and he has already conquered all evil through his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit, who indwells believers, is the down payment on our eternal inheritance. Since the coming of the Holy Spirit, the enemy can only harass, and he certainly cannot possess believers.

Our Counter-Action Plan

Because we were so overwhelmed with our situation, we needed help. We called our teammates to come pray with us. While our son was asleep, we prayed at his bedroom windows, that God would not allow any evil to enter into his room and that he would sleep peacefully. The next morning I asked him, “Did you have a nightmare last night?” His toddler answer was flabbergasting: “Yes, but this time the woman was outside my window, and she couldn’t come in.”

We don’t typically enjoy the privilege of seeing when and how God is acting in the supernatural world. But this time, we did! It was as if God were pulling back the heavenly curtain for us, just for a moment. God, in his sovereignty, was ministering to my little boy, protecting and comforting him in ways I could not. We were given a sneak peek into how God uses the prayers of his people to accomplish his will. How that glimpse ministered to our souls during that dark season!

This answer also spurred us on to pray more fervently. We started teaching our children to wield the weapons given to us and described in Ephesians 6, especially prayer and God’s Word. We came to expect attacks and be alert but also not become paralyzed by them. When we started evangelistic meetings in our home, one of our five children inevitably became sick, every week without fail. Satan’s attacks became so predictable, it was almost laughable.

Instead of canceling the meeting, we would call one of our dear teammates to come babysit and pray on the top floor while we held the meeting downstairs. We learned not to be intimidated and to pursue our calling anyway. We have never experienced an attack of that order again, but we have taken advantage of the gift of prayer on behalf of new teammates facing similar onslaughts. It is an honor to speak from experience and comfort them with the truths of God’s sovereignty.

We labor in the land of Martin Luther who summed up our experience quite well when he penned the words to the famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress”:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

  • Mark

    Very grim, scary, but uplifting post. A reminder that the enemy is real, but God’s Sovereignty trumps all and the conquering Hero that we have in Christ Jesus’ work on the Cross and Resurrection. Thank you for this post and that our battle is far beyond just the fight against sin and flesh, but against the rules and pricipalities of this world. Thank the Lord for His Gospel.

  • Lee

    Thank you so much for posting a personal account with rationality. Thank you for the example of praying to God, rather than “rebuking the demons,” and what that silliness brings. Your perseverance is admirable.

  • Dan

    I have one objection to this article…There seems to be a stated fact that a Christian cannot come under demonic possession which I believe needs some clarification. It is true that a Christian can’t come under such oppression that he/she has no power to choose right and wrong and obey God, but I believe a Christian can have internal demonic influence and I have personally prayed for people who show every evidence of saving faith/regeneration who have had manifestations of unclean spirits. I have also seen deliverance from those unclean spirits and great freedom as a result.

    The argument has been made from Luke 13 where “a daughter of Abraham” was bent over by a disabling spirit for 18 years and healed on the Sabbath.

    I understand the word possession gives the impression that it is fully in control and the person no longer has any power against it, but we have to account for the fact that a Christian can come under strong influence from the enemy and it can be from within and freedom from such demonic influence can be granted as we pray with the authority that Jesus has given us.

    • CG

      Those who belong to Christ and have been united to him by faith are sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They are certainly still susceptible to sin and temptation, but they are no longer vulnerable to internal demonic possession. The house is already occupied and fortified, so to speak.

    • Kenton

      There is a difference biblically between demonic oppression and demonic possession. Can a Christian be oppressed by demons? Perhaps. Paul’s words about the thorn in the flesh seem to support this. Can a Christian be possessed by demons? No. Keep in mind that in the NT, demonic possession is a very specific phenomenon, and it is very, very obvious. Furthermore, it should be noted that neither demonic possession nor oppression are tied to sin and temptation. That isn’t demonic oppression. Unfortunately there are many who believe this. “Demonic doctrines” can result in sin, but biblically speaking, oppression and possession are not this.

      • Michael Massara

        I’m going to disagree with a lot of stuff. I think we as christians do enough blame it on the devil, demons and such. A lot of scripture speaks about our temptation, sin and problems internally. James says the temptation starts within. Doesn’t mean out there we are enticed, but how can one person not deal with greed but another can when offered tons of cash. Temptation starts within. Secondly, if God says sealed with Holy Spirit, then we are sealed. No demons or nothing. Third Peter writes we are guarded by the faith. God will not allow evil one near us. We all have weird legalisms and honestly, its dangerous. There is abstinence and liberty. Not legalism. I don’t know this pastor and what he believes or values. He seems to know the Gospel which means he’s a believer but the older I get the more I realize to be cautious who you listen to or read. I know the Devil prowls around looking for someone weak to devour. But isn’t God who has control on him. So rather than look at the crap happen, ask God what he is doing. God also can allow suffering for our soul, for others, to grows us and for eternal purposes we don’t understand. The present sufferings don’t compare to the future suffering. Romans 14 indicates that God wants to make our minds strong. Do you realize that our minds and bodies are powerful. That means eating healthy affects the mind. Did you know that Vitamin D is only vitamin our body doesn’t produce yet its linked to so many mental illnesses. Its amazing how there are so many things we can do to change things about ourselves yet we blame the devil so much. Sometimes also God is trying to remove an idol. An idol we so gladly enjoyed yet didn’t even know we had because God was gracious to us. There is so much unseen grace God gives us but any conflict we give credit to Satan. There is an Isaiah verse that says I make well being and create calamity. That same hebrew word was use for creating the world. If you look at the story of Job he didn’t look at Satan. He looked at God who has satan on a leash. Don’t give the enemy too much leverage but acknowledge he is there. We don’t fall into certain things overnight, it takes years and time. And honestly living in the culture we live today, where God has been removed and modesty too. Its hard to stay pure. Our minds are powerful tools and the enemy is coming after it but relax. You will never fully defeat the enemy. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves and chill out. Life is marathon not a sprint. Chill out. Take some grace and rest. God is for us. He disciplines us. He gives judgement. But the older I get the less I’m capable of doing and need to trust him. With money, house, family, etc. Bible, Prayer, and Community. There is something about our minds when we are around people having great relationships. God will mold us into the people he needs us for the time being whether pastor, counselor, etc. I’m not discrediting the devil and his power. I haven’t seen much. But when I read I know in part and when I read EPH 6 on spiritual warfare. I just go “I don’t know” but I’m going to trust you God and focus on Micah 6;8… Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with God… Loving God and Loving others. Thats living out the gospel. I think God would rather have us with people in the world like jesus eating and enjoying it than in our christian bubble all the time. Have a healthy balance between the two.

        • Michael Massara

          I want to add on last thing. My hope is my post didn’t speak negative toward spiritual warfare and how to deal with demons. Its real but I really wonder how much is spiritual warfare and how much is self or whatever. I know when I went through my deepest depression moments I thought I was hearing and seeing things. Come to find out, my eating and exercising were in bad shape. I need serious help. But he brings a valid point about how to deal. The fixer inside me wants to say that maybe he is dealing with pranksters or he is seeing things which can be a mental illness or maybe God is trying to grow him through this… or maybe there is something his son is dwelling upon something that causing this mindset. I know when I think about scripture all day I can have dreams of it. not sure if holy spirit or not. Don’t want to discredit but I don’t always know. The fundamentalist inside me says chill out. When I dwell upon sex all day I dream it. It sucks. Our minds make neuro connections which why when we hear father its a loaded question. Thats the beauty of God made us but also the consequences to our sin. I love the gospel and I love jesus. And want to grow but their is tons of wisdom that our world gives us thats accurate according to scripture yet sometimes we discredit it. Sometimes the only difference is they are living for themselves and not for Jesus. :)

    • Eowyn Stoddard

      Thanks for clarifying this because it’s exactly what I was going to respond in light of Dan’s question. Oppression, harassment, affliction are all coming from outside of us. For me, possession, is when a demon actually enters a person and basically commands them around…Big difference.

  • Paul Cummings

    Thanks for your post and for re-orienting a lot of what reformed theologians seem to push aside as “nonsense” into the light of reality in spiritual warfare.

  • Daniel Dorrer

    Holy Mauly! So I’m a german born citizen living in america since i was 14. I love my country, i love the food and most importantly i love my people. But every summer when i go back, i feel like this country is lost and my little faith tells me that god aint doing crab about it. But this is really encouraging! there are missionaries in germany! Whaaaaat? i heard that like twice, every american wants to go to africa but who goes to germany!? So praise the lord that god has send his missionaries to germany, and what’s even crazier is that the devil feels the need to attack them. That just tells me that they must be doing something great, if they werent doing crab than why would the devil attack them! So praise him! Uhhhh yeah!!!! I

    i just followed the lady on facebook, i need to know more about these missionaries in germany!

    • Levi

      To also encourage you, I attended a talk two years ago about a pastoral training center that had recently started in Berlin and was taking off like wildfire, even expanding to other regions. God hasn’t forgotten your people! Check it out: (I don’t read German, so I hope this is right!). Have you thought of getting some training and going back?

  • Levi

    I appreciate that the Gospel Coalition posted the testimony of this dear sister and her family. It should remind us to pray for our missionary families who are out on the front lines. Just because we don’t experience this in our various lives and ministries doesn’t mean that others do not. Maybe our enemy has us so firmly locked in a cultural choke-hold that we don’t need such straight-forward attacks that would make us alert to the warfare that we too are in.

  • Marc Omar

    Good article, I am an anglican priest (reformed) and I have dealt with these things from time to time in Africa and also here in the states. The thing that worries me is that the church seems to be under a reductionistic spell to ignore the word of God and shy away from acknowledging that these things are real. I have had similar experiences in my home at times almost poltregeistic, one thing that I have learned is that reality was made by God to be covenantal. Spirits are bound by covenants if the previous owners of the place lets say had a habitual sin in the room the spirit will claim covenant rights to the place and the only way to get it out permanently is for the Christian to pronounce the place sanctified by the covenant that he has with the Holy trinity in the Name of Jesus. The Name of Jesus is the most powerful weapon you can use along with the word of God. Read Psalm 91 around your house and in your children’s bedrooms often. Where the name of Jesus is called in prayer and his word is spoken on a continual basis is not where these things like to venture much.

    • CJ

      Yea! Thank you for good, rational article. Spiritual realities are there, whether society or even fellow Christians acknowledge them or not. Better to acknowledge them with a Bible in hand and a prayer on our lips. Encouraging!

  • rockingwithhawking

    @Eowyn Stoddard

    1. First and foremost, I’d like to say thanks for your post! Really good, and edifying! Helps illustrate our utter dependence on the Lord, and the need to seek him in prayer.

    2. That said, I was wondering if you could please elaborate on believers not being able to be possessed? Is this because we’re assuming a demonic spirit cannot concurrently dwell in the body of someone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells (i.e. the Christian)? I’d love to hear more, if possible, or if you have any recommended resources? Thank you in advance!

    3. As a side note, when Luther talks about the world being filled with devils, I sometimes wonder if he didn’t mean it literally, because he himself may have experienced it!

  • Tim

    What are some good books dealing with spiritual warfare??
    I am also unsatisfied the way folks in the reformed camps (in America) dismiss this stuff..
    ….missionaries definitely have a more realistic perspective & experience of this stuff in my opinion.
    I am reformed and looking at a future in overseas missions.. Hit me with some book recommendations …

    • Dan

      One of the best books that I have found is Defeating Dark Angels by Charles Kraft:

      Another that has some practical help, but you have to take the good and ignore some parts is Deliverance From Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt:

    • Michiel

      Here are some good books (all searchable on Amazon):
      – William Gurnall – The Christian in Complete Armour (has 3 parts)
      – Thomas Brooks – Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
      – Paul West – Designs of Darkness
      – A.W. Tozer – I Talk Back to the Devil
      – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The Christian Soldier

      Recommended in the order I put them. These are godly and fruitful men. You have always to be watchful on the theology, but I know these come from a trustable and honest source.

      • Chung

        As a pastor of a small Spanish-speaking congregation in the greater Philadelphia area, I too witnessed the destructive demonic influences in the lives of some believers as well as non-believers. Just like Eowyn and her husband, as I first started serving our congregants I had no clue what to make of certain things I was seeing happening in the lives of our members. My seminary training did not provide me with a robust theology of demons, and by God’s grace I found some helpful resources in Mark Driscoll’s series on Spiritual Warfare found here:
        There are some downloads that go with the sermon series (look for the “downloads” tab next to “sermons”.

        I still have so much to learn and it’s so encouraging to read a very honest and level-headed account of the opposition we face as we serve our Lord Jesus. Thank you for this article and for reminding us that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow, all angels, humans, demons… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!

    • Justin

      I recommend Clint Arnold’s books for the best treatment of the Biblical material as well as some practical instruction.

  • Joseph


    This prayer is in the Church of England’s “Daily Prayer” book; a prayer that I say often at night:

    Before the ending of the day,
    Creator of the world, we pray,
    That you, with steadfast love, would keep
    Your watch around us as we sleep.

    From evil dreams defend our sight,
    From fears and terrors of the night;
    Tread underfoot our deadly foe
    That we no sinful thought may know.

    O Father, that we ask be done,
    Through Jesus Christ, your only Son;
    And Holy Spirit, by whose breath
    Our souls our raised to life from death.

    *The Archbishops Council of the Church of England. Simon Kershaw.”

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  • Peyton Jones

    Eowyn, First off…that’s a very Welsh name. I spent a bit of time in Wales (12 years) as a missionary (actually started off in D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s church). This article was excellent and brings to light what I consider an important principle. If a person is on the “front-lines” there will be demonic opposition. In inner city Long Beach, I have been in 5 exorcisms in the past 2 years. I’m not a freaky wacky hyper-pentecostal/charismatic/fill-in-the-blank. I’m actually a former Psych-Nurse (RN) and have dealt with every manner of schizophrenia, Multiple Personalities, and psychosis. This was different. It’s an eye opener. Tim asked about some books on spiritual warfare. It’s hard because not many of them acknowledge these things without veering into some very non biblical territory. I mention some of it in my book Church Zero, and I occasionally discuss these things from a biblical, practical, and experiential perspective (personal experience) in the Church Planter Podcast in iTunes.

  • Mrs. Darnell

    Wow… this struck home. My husband and I live in serve in Europe and we have faced attacks that have felt very direct and indirect. However, what really caught my attention was your son’s dream. My daughter at about 2 or 3 began having nightmares and awaking. She told me that there would be a person dressed as a sheep and remove his mask and he was really a wolf. She had no clue the Biblical reference this held and I remember thinking how real the scriptures are and how real our enemy is. I asked many close people to pray. I prayed that she wouldn’t have the dream. The Lord’s plan was greater. The next morning I asked her if she had the dream and she said yes but when the sheep came she heard God tell the sheep to leave her alone and it did. How great and loving was the Lord’s response. He did not prohibit the attack but instead used it to show how great He is.

  • Nick Kersten

    I appreciate the candor of this account very much.

    I wonder what would give some of those commenting about this happening on “the front-lines” the impression that there is such a thing as “the back-lines.” If the whole world is a mission field, we have little reason to believe this only happens “somewhere else.” I wonder sometimes if we have not conditioned ourselves into blindness by such impressions of where the real battle is going on.

    • LJS

      Exactly, Nick. We are ALL on the front lines…

  • Lee M

    First, oustanding aticle. I am not a minister, but a police officer with nearly 25 years patrol experience under my belt. I am also an evangelical, reformed Christian. I have been convinced by front-line experiences on the street of the reality of spiritual forces at work. Here are some of my conclusions based on those. I have faced them many times in situations where their influence is dismissed by most in our society as extreme social ills (alcoholism, drug use,mental illness, etc.) It is imperative to recognize a distinction between demon possession and demon influence or affliction. Both believers and non-believers can come under attack of the latter, but not the former. They are concerned with destroying people…end goal. They use many different conduits to gain greater access to our minds such as those stated above, but also pornography, hatred, gambling, dark forms of entertainment, spiritualism and the occult (and others). People lower their natural defenses to their minds by engaging in such things, giving demons a foothold. Demons then try to strengthen that foothold over the person over time with continuing barrages to the mind, like slow erosion, until they drive the person ultimately to suicidal or homicidal behavior. The best example of this is the mentally ill person who “hears voices”. In almost all cases, the voices are constantly communicating demeaning, anti-Christian, homicidal and suicidal comments, suggestions, and accusations. Under such extreme attack, is it any wonder the victims choose suicide to escape, or follow the suggestions given them and commit homicide? Perhaps this might give some insight into mass shootings in this country, many of which are without explanation as to cause. I am NOT saying there are not mental illness or other social ills existing, separate from demonic influence. I am saying that we seriously consider demonic influence in regard to these. CS Lewis cautioned us to avoid the extremes of disbelief and seeing demons under every bush. Wise advise. But, having engaged them personally, spoken with them, and fought them, I think we as Christians err too much on the side of disbelief. My best advise for prevention. 1. Be aware that the enemy is real. 2. Guard what you allow into your mind from outside. 2. Fill your mind with God’s word via study, meditation, and memorization. 3. Constant Prayer 4. Use the power of the Gospel, for believers as well as unbelievers. Finally, remember above all that “Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world.”

    • LJS


  • John Spalding


    I am a friend of your husband’s dear family here in the States, and I want you to know that we are praying for your family and the others over there. I am also praying for the Light to rule in the hearts of men and women here in America. We are following Europe back into the Dark, and I am asking the Sovereign Lord to use people like you to wake up the “frog in the kettle” before it is boiled in hot water.

    On the other hand, I admittedly look forward to seeing the look on evangelical American faces when Africa — and Germany once again! — start sending missionaries to share the Gospel with us! What a humbling shock that will be for us! For, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1Cor. 1:28,29).

    Thanks for writing, Eowyn, and say Hi for me!

    Love in Christ,

    • Justin

      There are hundreds if not thousands of Africans in the U.S. and Europe as missionaries already, and hopefully more on the way!

  • Mark Z

    Thank you so much, Eowyn, for being so willing to speak candidly about this issue. If you ask people what topics are the most “neglected” in the contemporary evangelical church of today, which topics are hardest to speak on, it’s popular to say “Sex, Money, and the Holy Spirit”. I disagree, I’ve heard more sermons than I can count on those items. But clear biblical teaching on the demonic, that is something very few are willing to speak about in our time, and it is high time we did. This was very insightful.

  • John S

    This is a helpful article, a reminder of the spiritual aspects of life. As with anything there is a possibility of going off the deep end either way – ignoring demonic activity or focusing on it. Neither is Biblical in my view.

    Another aspect of this discussion is that Satan and demons don’t always influence as ‘evil’. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14. Satan also works to influence people to do good things, go to church, etc. Anything to keep people from Jesus.

  • Carlos

    The notion of demons is a challenge for Christianity, in my humble opinion. Bare with me as I am not Christian and try to apply logic to this, which may not be such a good idea.

    He challenge I find here is more of a question: did God create Satan and demons? Of he did not, and Satan is a third party who sprouted about due to the weakness of human kind, this takes away the divinity of God, wouldn’t it? If Satan has the power to interject in our lives and change God’s plan (as the author puts it: “We have a very real adversary who roams around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”), then it means God has no control over evil, cannot foresee the future or do a lot to stop him. It begs the question: is God then not the creator of all? Is he not omnipotent , omniscient, all-encompassing ? What else did he not create or has control over? Perhaps goodness? Perhaps human kind?

    If on the other hand God did create Satan, it seems He designed evil for some sort of didactic purpose, to teach us about good and bad? Or perhaps to create a system of temptation to see if we fall for it? Pardon my parochial terminology , I’m just a simple man. But this second option is a lot worse, in my humble opinion. It means that the almost 30,000 infants and toddlers who die horrible deaths every day in this world are Gos’s design. Worse of all, a good percentage of them (70% at least if we go with the proportion of non-Christians in this world) are going to spend an eternity of agony and conscious suffering while slow burning in hell. This means that God designed the birth of these children in cultures or geographies where Christianity is not prevalent, engineered their cultural isolation and the lack of bible translations in their language, orchestrated their famine, social misery, and sometimes molestation and murder, and then decided to punish them with eternal torture in everlasting fire. And all of this just to teach us what, the value of charity and compassion? In my humble opinion, this God is either extremely incompetent or extremely evil.

    I don’t know what to make of this, perhaps some of the readers or he author can help point me to literature that deals with this issue?

    Thanks for reading, apologies in advance if I offended anyone

    • Cindy

      For your questions, go to They have good, clear, biblicaly sound answers for a variety of questions:
      “Who is Satan?”
      “Why did God allow Satan and the demons to sin?”
      “Why does God allow evil?”

      There are several other related questions that you can link to.

    • Eowyn Stoddard

      Dear Carlos,
      First off, your comment/question is not at all offensive. Thank you for it! It reveals, that contrary to what you say about yourself, you are not a simple man. You are thinking deeply about very important issues and you are not alone. You are joining the age-old philosophical debate called theodicy. It is stated simply, in my words, something like this:
      If God is God, he must be both good and sovereign. But we have a problem because:
      1. If he’s good and evil exists and he can’t stop it, then he’s not sovereign (can’t be God!)
      2. If he’s sovereign and allows evil, he’s not good (can’t be God). That is a real problem for our minds to get around because it sounds very logical. What I have found though, throughout the years, is that it is very difficult to put God in a box. Because this kind of reasoning is not very helpful to me, I’d like to elevate the debate to the motives behind the question because that’s where the crux of the matter is, at least for me!
      I live in a country where some of my friends are dealing with the very serious aftermath of the Holocaust. One of my best elderly friend is Jewish and lost her entire family at Auschwitz. She is wrestling with the very question you brought up. She holds it against God and cannot find her peace with him and uses this debate as a way to keep God at arms length, not engaging Him personally. I have nothing to say to her on this level, having NEVER experienced anything that has ever come close to that. I keep telling her, that the very fact that she is wrestling with the concepts of good, evil, justice, etc are signs that there is an absolute morality that we all want to embrace, that there is justice out there to be sought after, that there is goodness and kindness. Where on earth does that all come from if there is no God? If we are all products of random evolution, why is it that we get outraged when someone takes it upon himself to be the fittest and survive by trampling the weak (isn’t that how nature works?). This is why I’m not an atheist and this proves to me that man is made in the image of God.
      I also tell her that for me there is also the fact that evil is not just “out there” but in me as well. If I’m honest, I know the hateful thoughts I’m capable of having and that if I were placed in a very desperate human situation, I’d be no better than anyone else. I need rescuing from myself. Dostojevsky wrote in the Gulag:
      “So let the reader who expects this book to be a political expose slam its covers shut right now. If only it were all so simple? If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart.”
      So if each and every heart is corrupted by evil, I cannot be a humanist and believe in the pure goodness of man. I cannot be an atheist because of what I said before…So what is the alternative?
      For me, the worldview of the Bible best explains why humans are such amazing creatures capable of such good, but also why they are so terrible, capable of such horrors.
      For you, however, you need to decide what world view makes the most sense given the situation on this planet. For Jean-Paul Sartre, he came to the conclusion that: “The only philosophical question I cannot answer is why I don’t commit suicide.” For him it led to absolute hopelessness.

      I wish you the best as you search for answers for yourself that are both satisfying and life-giving. For me, having a relationship with God is the answer and trusting that he will, one day bring justice and I will one day understand but for now, Ihave to let God be God on his terms, not mine…

      There are good resources out there such as Tim Keller’s “Reason for God” book. I’d encourage you to read that. Here’s a link to a talk on the topic of evil:
      I know that R.C Sproul also has some good lectures on this topic. Here a brief article:
      Sorry this answer turned into a novel! It’s just hard to be concise. There’s so much one could talk about!

    • Carlos

      By the way, pardon my broken english … In my post I wrote “bare with me”, which could even be inappropriate … I meant to say “bear with me”. English is my second language, sorry

    • rockingwithhawking


      Hi Carlos,

      I hope it’s okay if I weigh in with my thoughts as well? If not, please do ignore what I say. But otherwise I appreciate you asking these questions, and hope I can help in some way.

      did God create Satan and demons?

      The Bible does teach us that God created all things which would include Satan and demons. It’s important to note Christianity is not a dualistic religion like (I’ve heard) Zoroastrianism or Manichaeism. Nor is Christianity like the Norse gods where at Ragnarok, the final battle, it’s more than possible the Norse gods will lose. Rather Christians believes God is entirely sovereign, and that Satan and the demons are already defeated and will be seen to be defeated in the end. For example, see Matt 12:28, Luke 13:16, John 12:31, John 14:30, Acts 10:38, Rom 16:20, Gal 1:4, Col 1:13, Tit 2:14, Heb 2:14-15, 1 John 3:8, Rev 3:21, Rev 12:11, Rev 20 and many others.

      If Satan has the power to interject in our lives and change God’s plan (as the author puts it: “We have a very real adversary who roams around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”)

      I think the latter does not follow logically from the former. Just because Satan is “a very real adversary who roams around like a roaring lion” does not mean Satan can “change God’s plan.” Indeed, the fact that Satan is who he is is part of God’s plan.

      As an aside, I believe I’ve heard D.A. Carson teach the English word “crafty” in Gen 3:1 to describe the serprent as more “crafty” than any other animal is the same or similar Hebrew word translated elsewhere as “prudent.” Also, we know from the Book of Revelation that the serpent is Satan (Rev 12:9, 20:2). Carson has speculated that perhaps Satan was once the more prudent and wise of all God’s creatures, yet he became twisted and thus turned his wisdom into craftiness. I believe this is in his sermon series on temptation which he preached in Zambia at Conrad Mbewe’s church. I’m referring to the first sermon titled “The Temptation of Adam and Eve” on Gen 3.

      then it means God has no control over evil, cannot foresee the future or do a lot to stop him.

      It looks like you’re basing this off the verse comparing Satan to a roaring lion. But, for one thing, we cannot infer “God has no control over evil, cannot foresee the future or do a lot to stop him” just from the fact that Satan is compared to a roaring lion.

      Indeed, we have to consider the entire Bible as a whole and what it teaches about God and Satan and so forth in order to have a more accurate view about what the Bible teaches about God, Satan, etc.

      It begs the question: is God then not the creator of all? Is he not omnipotent , omniscient, all-encompassing ? What else did he not create or has control over? Perhaps goodness? Perhaps human kind?

      As I mentioned above, the foundation for all Christian beliefs is the Bible. So we have to know what the Bible teaches. I do believe the Bible teaches God is the Creator of all, that he is omnipotent, omniscient, etc.

      But why take my word for it? See what the Bible itself teaches. A good way to see what the Bible teaches as a whole is not only to read the Bible, of course, but also to read a biblical theology which helps give us an overall picture and narrative of the Bible. I’d recommend T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology as a good one. Also, Tom Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments was recently released.

      If on the other hand God did create Satan, it seems He designed evil for some sort of didactic purpose, to teach us about good and bad? Or perhaps to create a system of temptation to see if we fall for it? Pardon my parochial terminology, I’m just a simple man. But this second option is a lot worse, in my humble opinion. It means that the almost 30,000 infants and toddlers who die horrible deaths every day in this world are Gos’s design.

      1. The problem of evil and suffering is a thorny problem. But it’s not only a problem for Christianity. It’s a problem for every worldview. Everyone has to answer the problem of evil.

      2. This includes atheism. Atheists have to answer the problem of evil. Take the atheism of Richard Dawkins. As Dawkins has said: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

      So let’s say Christianity is not true. Let’s say atheism is true. In that case, what’s the answer to the problem of evil? The answer is that there is ultimately no good or evil. The answer is there is no such thing as universal objective morality.

      At best, morality is local and subjective. As far as I can tell, if atheism is true, morality is subject either to the social contract of a society, or subject to our genetics and upbringing.

      Now, if morality is subject to the social contract, then the social contract can always change. For instance, a society like Nazi Germany could believe it is “moral” to kill a certain subset of humans (e.g. the Jews), while another society like our society can believe it’s wrong to kill someone based on race or ethnicity. But who’s to say which society is correct? Who decides? If morality is subject to the social contract, then it’s up to each society to decide for themselves, so what’s moral in one society may be immoral in another, and no one can judge between the two. Not without invoking universal objective morality, which isn’t possible on atheism.

      But if morality is subject to our genes and upbringing, then these too can change. Currently we believe, for instance, that rape is wrong. But what if in the future we evolve and our genetics change to the point where we think raping women is perfectly morally justified? That’s essentially what atheist scholar Michael Ruse has pointed out:

      “There is no ultimate truth about morality. It is an invention—an invention of the genes rather than of humans, and we cannot change games at will, as one might baseball if one went to England and played cricket. Within the system, the human moral system, it is objectively true that rape is wrong. That follows from the principles of morality and from human nature. If our females came into heat, it would not necessarily be objectively wrong to rape—in fact, I doubt we would have the concept of rape at all. So, within the system, I can justify. But I deny that human morality at the highest level—love your neighbor as yourself, etc.—is justifiable. That is why I am not deriving ‘is’ from ‘ought,’ in the illicit sense of justification. I am deriving it in the sense of explaining *why we have* moral sentiments, but that is a different matter.”

      Also see Christian philosopher William Lane Craig’s essay “The Absurdity of Life without God” for more about all this. It’s available online if you Google.

      Thus, if atheism is true, there is no ultimate universal objective morality. So it seems to me the answer to the problem of evil on atheism is far worse than the answer to the problem of evil on Christianity. At least Christians believe it’s possible people who come to Christ but who live terrible lives filled with suffering and pain and then die in this world will nevertheless have an eternal life filled with joy and peace and love. But atheists believe once you’re dead, you’re dead. So too bad if you suffered so much in this life. Once you’re six feet under, that’s the end of you.

      Plus, Christians believe even in the midst of suffering and pain, God is walking besides the Christian. He will never leave his people nor forsake them. That’s what the Bible teaches.

      Worse of all, a good percentage of them (70% at least if we go with the proportion of non-Christians in this world) are going to spend an eternity of agony and conscious suffering while slow burning in hell. This means that God designed the birth of these children in cultures or geographies where Christianity is not prevalent, engineered their cultural isolation and the lack of bible translations in their language, orchestrated their famine, social misery, and sometimes molestation and murder, and then decided to punish them with eternal torture in everlasting fire. And all of this just to teach us what, the value of charity and compassion? In my humble opinion, this God is either extremely incompetent or extremely evil.

      1. Actually, the Bible doesn’t specify a percentage for how many people will be saved or not saved.

      2. If I’m not mistaken, the Bible is also silent on what happens to infants who die. Some Christian scholars have argued for universal infant salvation.

      3. Let’s look at this from another angle. Consider the recent scifi movie Looper. The most prominent question the movie Looper asked was, if you could go back in time, would you kill baby Hitler? If you don’t kill baby Hitler, then World War 2 would happen, the Holocaust, and countless other horrors.

      However, if you do kill baby Hitler, then perhaps you could have averted the Holocaust and World War 2. But how do we know someone worse than Hitler will not arise to cause events worse than the Holocaust or WW2? Or even if someone worse than Hitler does not arise, then how do we know that overall the world won’t be a better or worse place, all things considered, than it is now? We don’t know this for sure. For instance, it’s possible Germany would not be the economic power it is today since perhaps the Weimar Republic would have laid it to financial waste. It’s possible someone like Churchill wouldn’t have risen to lead the UK. It’s possible the British Empire would still be around, and millions of Asians, Indians, Africans, and others still under British rule. It’s possible the US could still be in isolationist mode. It’s possible the Great Depression could have lasted far longer than it did, perhaps even bringing the entire world to economic collapse, and perhaps even into a modern Dark Ages, where the democratic nations would not have the economic means to be able to safeguard the world and guarantee democracy and free trade and so forth. Instead, it’s possible barbaric forces like fundamentalist Muslims would arise to fill the space. In short, we could easily imagine a world much worse than the current one. As such, it’s quite arguable killing baby Hitler could have worse repercussions than even letting him live.

      4. Ironically, it’s quite possible neither you nor I nor others in this thread would be around to ask these sorts of questions if it weren’t for an event like WW2. It’s possible we only exist because of certain evil events that transpired like WW2. Imagine if there were no WW2. Then it’s possible many of our great grandparents or grandparents would never have met each other. If our grandparents never met each other, then our parents never would have been born, to have in turn given birth to us. We’ve all heard plenty of stories about those GIs going to Europe to meet and marry European brides, or the Jews escaping the Holocaust to meet other Jews in America or Israel or elsewhere to have their own kids. If these great evils like WW2 never occurred, then it’s quite possible thousands if not millions of couples never would have met one another, to marry, to have children, and grandchildren, and so on. Hence it’s possible we ourselves might not be here to ask the questions we’re asking now. So, in this sense, we ourselves are the products of evils.

      5. I’d also like to point out there’s a significant distinction between evil and gratuitious evil. There’s no doubt murders and so forth are evil. But are they gratuitious evils in God’s overall plan or design for the world?

      6. It appears you’re in part alluding to the Euthyphro dilemma. But there have been many responses to this from a Christian perspective. Google, for example, “John Frame Euthyphro” and you should find responses by John Frame. See the book Suffering and the Goodness of God and Frame’s chapter in there as well.

      7. Another good resource is the essay titled “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa'” by Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga. You can Google for this too.

      I don’t know what to make of this, perhaps some of the readers or he author can help point me to literature that deals with this issue?

      I’ve pointed out several resources in the course of my comment. I hope they help.

      Another resource I’d point out is a two part essay titled “Why I Believe: A Positive Apologetic” and “Why I Believe: I’m Glad You Asked!” by Steve Hays. These two essays are available via The Gospel Coalition as well. Plus, you can always go to Steve Hays’ weblog, Triablogue, and ask all sorts of questions.

      Again, I hope these help you, Carlos!

      All the best.

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  • Elaine Rees

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your faith/hope in God our Father, Redeemer, Deliverer! You made reference to Colossians 3:3 in the beginning of your writing, a great truth to meditate on, a great comfort in the fight and day to day living. Also think on Romans 8:11 – “The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you…”!

    It is CRUCIAL to teach these truths in scripture you mentioned to your children, and exercise your faith in this as a family!! To make a long story short, the devil has ravaged our family.I know he is limited by God as to what he can do. There are times when there are no words. Just weeping, lamenting with a broken heart. I find great comfort in Romans 8:26 – “So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings to deep for utterance.”I know He bears me up.

    I will pray for you as you come to mind. I end with
    James 4:7-10 Amplified Bible

    7. So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.
    8. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of spiritual adultery].
    9. [As you draw near to God be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins].
    10. Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].

    Peace of Christ to you,
    Elaine Rees

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  • Sarah

    Eowyn, thank you for the article. As a new believer, around the age of 12, I experienced the same sort of “demonic bullying”, though not nearly as extreme. Although I was terrified constantly, it was clear that this was an outward attack, not something inside of me. Thankfully I had parents who loved me well through it – held me and prayed for me when I’d scream at night because I was so scared, spoke to me of the power of Jesus, and constantly were patient through it all.
    I feel like if I had read this article then it would have encouraged me greatly. As it is, I’ll be saving it in case something like this happens to me or someone I know in the future.

    May Christ – who disarmed all rulers and authorities on the cross – strengthen your family and ministry.

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  • Lindsey Gutierrez


    I read this article and was very touched. You speak the truth. This topic is way off of the radar of many Christians in America, and seems to me even more those who come from reformed traditions.

    I have been greatly encouraged by learning from other Christians from around the world, as they openly have dealt with this issue and fought back with the power of Christ. I was so happy to share this article on FB, because this is what I needed to hear two decades ago… as a child.

    I went back to read again. And read the author’s name. Greetings from Covenant Pres. in Chattanooga. Nice to hear one of the frozen chosen ;) boldly speaking the truth!

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