When I was taking an ecology class in college, I heard an interesting lecture one day about how starfish prey on mussels and how mussels survive their attacks. When a starfish targets a mussel, the first thing it does is to climb up and sit on top of it. Then it starts spilling a poison on the mussel’s shell, while the captured bivalve desperately struggles to keep its shell tightly closed. By the time the poison penetrates the shell, the mussel is exhausted, and the shell starts to crack open. The starfish extends its stomach through its mouth and devours the hapless shellfish at once. Interestingly, many mussels are found inside the narrow cracks of rocks, for a simple reason: starfish cannot touch them there.
This mussel story was a perfect picture of my own spiritual reality at the time I heard the lecture. I had only been a born-again Christian for six months. I was bombarded with little random thoughts here and there. “You are not strong enough, you will never make it through…. Does God really listen to your prayers?” “Why should he care about you?” I struggled much with discouragement and confusion. Often these struggles would last for long, weary days, leaving me feeling hopeless and defeated.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.…” (1 Peter 5) The Bible tells us there is an enemy who stands against us. When we begin a new life with God, we become primary targets for him. His ferocious intent is to pierce our souls with his poisons, with specific thoughts of discouragement, accusation, confusion and so on. With his tactfully disguised voice, he plants thoughts and suggestions in our minds and strives to hinder our progress in God.
It is no use to struggle in our own strength if we are out there alone, like the mussels. At some point, our shells will be cracked open. It is only a matter of time. We do not have power to stand alone against the enemy, any more than mussels can stand up to the fierce assaults of the starfish.
Yet we can win the battle against the enemy. This is possible only through Jesus, the mighty Son of God. Jesus is the place of refuge, the rock that was cleft for us.
Jesus died and rose from the grave. He resurrected in everlasting triumph over the enemy. Because Jesus has conquered the enemy for us once for all, the devil has no right to come against us. His efforts to discourage us fail completely when we take hold of the victory that Jesus won for us against him.
So when you find yourself under a flood of “thoughts,” praise God for the victory. Resist the devil, and choose to be on the Lord’s side with all your might and will. If we abide in faith and perseverance, we will see Jesus on that beautiful shore some day. Instead of thorns on his brow, we will see the victor’s crown on his head.
Yang Soon Cho, Branford ’97
© 1998 The Yale Standard Committee