There is undeniable joy in having an enemy.
Enemies give us a place for our pain — a direction for our anger and our aches and our energy. They put a face and a cause to our suffering; they give us a reason for why things are.
Our enemies could be imagined or overblown, or they might be very, very real. That was Judah’s case in Isaiah 8; Israel and Syria were allying to destroy them. Instead of accepting help from the hand of the Lord, their king steadied himself with evil arms he could see and feel — the wicked Assyrians.
The people of Judah talked and worried and fretted in the streets. They gathered to share anger and gossip, emboldening their plans and positions with “you-won’t-believe-this” stories and “wait-till-you-hear” innuendo. They justified an evil alliance with the scope of their pain and their fear.
Above all, they did not trust the Lord their God.
For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:11-13).
Enemies may do us great and immediate harm. But, as with all things, the greatest long-term damage lies in our own response.
Enemies make us prideful. We know the score, and we know the secrets; you’re not going to put one over on us. We’re too smart and too good for that. Every act of our enemy becomes a conspiracy — all about us. We become blind to our own sin when all our enemies do is wrong, and all we do is right.
Enemies create unwise allies. We make false friends around a shared foe, or worse, we tighten and strangle our real relationships with common cords of anger against someone who has hurt us. We validate our choices through shared indignation; we build entire futures and connections around what has gone wrong instead of what could go right.
Enemies keep us shallow. They keep us fixed on what is seen instead of what is unseen — what is temporary instead of eternal. Our friendships begin to find their fire in gossip and anger instead of the depths of the love of God. We exorcise our emotions with pithy quotes on Pinterest instead of in the hard work of prayer, honesty, healing, and forgiveness. We stay on the surface in headlines, commentary, and speculation — the ever-changing fears that feed on ratings and money — instead of expanding our trust in the Lord who knows and owns and directs all things.
Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
Don’t fixate on your enemy; focus on your hero.
Don’t elevate what has destroyed you; worship the One who will save.
Fear the Lord, who has brought you to this place for this time to show Himself mighty. He is an Ally who will outrun your enemies — a Peace who will outlast your pain.
Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Isaiah 7:13