At some point, you’ve probably experienced the feeling that someone or something is behind you. I feel that way after watching creepy movies or television shows, which is why I don’t knowingly watch them. But that’s not really what I’m talking about. That’s rooted in fear of something that isn’t really there. It’s transferred fear from what I just watched.
The feeling doesn’t have to be born of something sinister. Today at work, I was having a conversation with a co-worker when that feeling struck. I work in a doctor’s office. Danger doesn’t lurk around every corner waiting to pounce. So, as this feeling of being watched came over me, it did so without inspiring fear. However, as I turned and realized another co-worker was standing directly behind me, just inches away, staring intently at me, I have to admit I jumped a little. How in the world did she invade my space without me realizing it? I have a pretty impenetrable personal bubble. How did she weasel her way inside to surprise me?
I wasn’t in tune with my surroundings. I was so focused on the conversation I was having with my other co-worker that I had blocked out everything else. Being caught unaware didn’t hurt anything in this situation, but that isn’t always the case. Dark parking lots, empty nature trails, and secluded alleys are all areas where being aware of your surroundings can be the difference between life and death.
For Thea, the main character in the fantasy novel The Seer by Erin Howard, being in tune with what’s going on around you takes a different twist. Thea doesn’t know it, but she’s a seer, a person with the unique ability to see what’s going on in the spiritual realm alongside our physical realm. Seers are protected by angels and hunted by demons because of their gifts. As Thea first awakens to her gift and realizes the battle raging around her, her gift doesn’t seem like such a gift. When learning to master her ability requires partnerships with not only her protecting angel but also the demon sent to kill her, Thea wants nothing more than to return to normal life. But once a seer has awakened to happenings in the spiritual realm, normal is over.
Particulars of faith aren’t spelled out in The Seer, but the idea of spiritual battles raging around us is scriptural. The Bible doesn’t spell out exactly how angel and demon interaction weaves into our physical lives, but the reality of spiritual and physical lives working in tandem is undeniable. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” That’s not to say I think every bad thing that happens, every illness or failure is the result of demons at work. We live in a world marred by sin. Bad happens naturally as a result.
But with scripture stating it so clearly, we as believers need to be aware there are things happening beyond our line of sight. There are battles going on every day that we don’t see, but we can see the results of them. And like Thea, we have been given a gift. We may not physically be able to see angels and demons, but we’ve been given the Holy Spirit. Part of His job is to give us discernment. When we’re in tune with God and scripture, the Holy Spirit can help us sense when something is not right spiritually. We can feel God’s Spirit moving in a service. We can also feel it when we’re listening to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That unsettled, sometimes sickening, feeling can be God giving us insight into what’s going on in the spiritual realm. It warns us to proceed with caution or flat out run from a situation. This gift of discernment can lead us to the people God wants us to help or away from those who seek to destroy.
And like Thea found, the gift comes with a responsibility. We don’t get to choose when to use the gift. We need to be ready to move in the direction the Holy Spirit leads us. If God moves in us to help someone, we need to be ready to answer that call no matter the outcome. If God tells us a situation or person is not right, we need to get away from it. Sometimes, we need to do it while warning others of the dangers. We find that out through discernment as well.
And once we’re awakened to this gift of discernment, life will never be normal again.
By the Book: Have you experienced discernment from the Holy Spirit in your life before? Have you felt the Spirit giving approval to a service or action before? What about Him warning you? What are you doing to stay close in your relationship with God so that you are better able to use the gift of discernment?