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Satan: The exciter of sorrows

Unsplash/Logan Fisher
Unsplash/Logan Fisher

What excites you?

Ask most people today what enlivens them and you’ll likely get the standard laundry list of supposed pleasures with which we’re all familiar.

Let’s start off with the trifecta of money, fame, and power. That gets a rise from just about everybody. But have you noticed that many who get them also have train-wrecked lives?

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Listen to writer Cynthia Heimel: “I pity celebrities…[they] were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful. I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you he grants you your deepest wish and then laughs merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself…They worked, they pushed and the morning after each of them became famous they wanted to take an overdose. Because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness had happened and they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.”

A few wake up to that reality after a while. For example, Lady Gaga admitted, “I have traveled the world and seen the happiest people in the poorest parts of the world. Their values are intact. In the richest homes I meet the saddest and most depressed people.”

What about love and/or sex? Judging by the number of websites and businesses devoted to helping people find both, this one’s also got to be at the top of the thrill-me list.

And yet, today we’re seeing a meltdown of cosmic proportions in the area of love and relationships that has turned what God intended for good into a misery party that grows by the thousands every day.

For example, young women everywhere are now exasperatedly starting to ask, “Why aren’t men ‘wifing’ (i.e., marrying) us?” A recent article took a stab at their question and found that a growing number of young men are confused about their own sexuality, have decreasing levels of testosterone, and can’t form meaningful relationships due to the stimulation they get from…you guessed…porn.

And it’s not just a small number of men who are affected. A study found that many young adults are excitedly pursuing digital intimacy over real-life relationships, with 61% saying they tune into X-rated content “regularly”.

Hard as it is to believe, absent a genuine relationship, some women are now starting to ‘marry’ digital, non-existent men. 

I could give more examples, but you get the point. And so, what’s the result of all the above? Nobody’s happy.

And what’s the result of nobody being happy? According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, although advances in healthcare have driven down the death rate of young Americans, “In an alarming reversal, rates have now risen to the highest level in nearly 15 years, particularly driven by homicides, drug overdoses, and suicides.”

Heavy sigh.

If, like in the movie The Matrix, we could peel back the reality we see, we’d find the actual battle that’s producing all the woe above, which is what Paul described in Ephesians 6: “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” (6:12).

Not realizing the spiritual battle they face, people pursue things they’re electrified by only to be dashed on the rocks of sin’s consequences. And all of it is spearheaded by the one the Bible calls “the ruler of this world” (John 16:11).    

Another very fitting and interesting title for him is found in the Catholic 1614 Rite of Exorcism. It’s one of the most apt names I’ve ever seen for Satan: “the exciter of sorrows”.   

The tempter

Jesus touches on the devil at the end of what we call The Lord’s Prayer with a phrase that has puzzled many people: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).

The confusion in the statement arises from the text seeming to say that God can tempt us to sin, a charge countered by James who says: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “God is tempting me”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13).

The perplexity is resolved when it’s understood that, although there are two phrases in Christ’s statement, they are actually saying the same thing. It’s what’s called a synonymous parallelism in Scripture.

The expression “deliver us from evil” is many times correctly translated as “the evil one” because it is in the singular, masculine form in the Greek text – clearly a reference to the devil. And the phrase of not being led into “temptation” is referencing Satan’s role as the tempter (Matt. 4:3, 1 Thess. 3:5) and his domain being one of temptation.

So, what we have in this petition is the ask of being kept out of the devil’s hands and from his domain of ‘temptation’ – a term which (interestingly) has as one of its synonyms, the word “excitement”. 

We could paraphrase the request: “Don’t let us get excited about the wrong things and keep us from the power of the one from whom they come”.

In his essay, “I talk back to the devil,” A. W. Tozer correctly observes the following about excitedly seeking the wrong things that the enemy offers – what the writer of Hebrews calls “the passing pleasures of sin”: “[Satan] knows that if we continue in this kind of bondage, we will never be able to claim our rightful spiritual heritage. He knows also that while we continue in this kind of enslavement we are not much better off than when we were spiritually dead.”  

Remember, the enemy’s name of Satan doesn’t mean ‘the adversary’ for nothing. His aim for you is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) and that goal more often than not begins with his work in our lives as “the exciter of sorrows.”  

To counter him, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10) and remember: “The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul” (Ps. 121:7).

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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