I have believed that Jesus is our Lord and Savior since I was a child, but as an adult I sometimes asked myself, “What exactly is he saving us from?” As Christians, we believe that he saves us from our sins. Some would say that he also saves us from the devil. Despite the fact that Jesus often speaks of the devil, there are many—even Christians—who are unsure as to the actual existence of the devil. The idea seems old fashioned. Before 2019, I myself was unsure as to the existence of an “adversary,” or an enemy of God. I thought, perhaps the evil that people participate in comes solely from our own thoughts and choices. In May of 2019, however, I became aware of the fact that we have an enemy in spirit form—call it the devil, or someone who works with him, someone was actively trying to ruin my life. I know it sounds outrageous to claim that the devil tried to steal my life from me, but I will share the story with you nonetheless.
For more than twenty years, I had a meditation practice. I was a religion major in college, and it was during this time that I started meditating. I started out sitting in silence for thirty minutes or so a couple of times a week, but by the year 2015 I was meditating much more often. I enjoyed sitting for an hour every day, and my mind was completely clear of thoughts or emotions during this time. I believed that I was focusing all of my energy on God. I received a daily email service that offered spiritual advice, and one day the author suggested that a person begin her meditation with a request to hear the voice of God. I now know that it was a mistake to take this advice, but at the time it sounded like a good idea, and so I made my request of God before sitting in meditation.
I was alone in the house, and I sat undisturbed for an hour. At the end of that time, a voice that sounded like thunder said my name. It was very loud in my head, and I heard it very clearly—just the one word. In fact, the voice used a nickname for me that people who love me sometimes use. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was; my eyes flew open when I heard him speak my name and I jumped to my feet. I truly believed that God had answered my prayer—it seemed undeniable. Who else could speak with a voice like that? It sounded like power itself had spoken, but with an intense intimacy that made me feel that I was known and loved.
I was absolutely elated, and felt like I floated through the rest of the day. Every time I thought of this moment for the next two years, I was filled with joy and peace.
I read Scripture that describes God’s voice as sounding like thunder (Job, John, Revelation). I thought that God had spoken to me, but nothing could be further from the truth. I didn’t know that the devil can imitate the voice of God—or rather, what we might think the voice of God would sound like. The devil can imitate this voice, and indeed any voice. He can also use Scripture to try to trick you, as he did during the temptation of Christ. It would be four years, however, before I realized these truths.
In January of 2018, I was sound asleep in the middle of the night when a very loud popping sound woke me up. I sat up in bed, but could perceive nothing that might have made this noise. I lay back down and just when I had shut my eyes, I heard a man’s voice say my name. Again, it was my nickname that was used. This time, however, it was not the voice like thunder, but a regular man’s voice, sweet and gentle. It spoke my name exactly as you would hear a person talking next to you. In an instant, I knew it was Jesus. How did I know? I understand now that the devil can plant a thought in your head such that you will not recognize it as coming from an outside source. The thought will sound just like any thought passing through your mind. At the time, I simply “knew” that it was Jesus, and I answered, “Yes, Lord, I hear you.” Again, a feeling of absolute joy and peace washed over me and stayed with me throughout the following year.
In January of 2019, I was lying in my bed at night with my eyes closed, when I suddenly felt a surging, tingling feeling like electricity passing through my nose. It felt like I had been hit by some form of lightning. The feeling passed through me and into my heart, and I felt the energy tingling there in my chest. A few seconds later, it was gone. This feeling of electricity passing through me felt exactly like you might imagine it would feel if the Holy Spirit moved through you. This was the devil’s intention—to make me feel in my body the things that a person would imagine coming from a direct experience with the Holy Spirit. I was completely overwhelmed and awed by this experience; it was absolutely surreal.
A month later, I came upon a book by Saint Teresa of Avila, the great Christian mystic. The book details the author’s experience of progressing ever closer to God, and what each level of progress entails. Teresa writes that the spiritual aspirant may at some point have a visitation from all three members of the Holy Trinity. This is what she experienced. It was also exactly what I had experienced. First, I had heard from God, then Jesus, and finally the Holy Spirit. I could not believe what I was reading; it was as if I had confirmation that what I had experienced was real. In truth, it really did happen, but it was not from God. I do not know if the devil tricked Teresa the way that he tricked me, but I know that he used Teresa’s writing to lead me further down his path. By this time, I was completely under his spell; I was convinced to the point of practically being hypnotized. I would have believed anything he told me from that point, and I did.