Every year as October rolls around, I start to get…antsy. An old memory likes to roll to the surface right around the time Party City TV ads crank out that tired Thriller cover: a Halloween night I spent with my family at our pastor’s house as a little girl, cowering behind the sofa in terror of the bloody-faced ghouls, wart-faced witches, and other bug-eyed, creepy fiends.
More than two decades may have passed since the night my family had to coax me out from behind that couch, but every year it’s the same: when plenty of my friends are popping in Hocus Pocus! or IT, I’m counting down the days to November 1st and dreaming of turkey and mashed potatoes. I have a sensitive spirit when it comes to the supernaturally scary—always have. It’s why I can watch a vampire flick but have to turn off The Exorcist. Meanwhile I have friends who can watch those kinds of movies and glean fascinating insight on the subject matter.
I’m not here to pick on Halloween; let’s just say that for me, the spooky season is a more vivid reminder of darkness in the world. It brings to remembrance that not just on October 31st, but every day of the year, peace-stealing, unsavory things knock at the doors of our hearts, wanting to be let inside. Whether you’re a Halloween-celebrator or not, I’m sure there is darkness you 100% to do not want in your household, your life, or around your family.
So what do we do about the darkness around us—the seen and unseen? How do we handle the oppressive shadow of a world under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19)? There are a few practical things we can take into account and do to guard our hearts and minds and to gain ground spiritually for the forces of light. Let’s take a look at a few of them below!
Pray, Pray, Pray!
Never underestimate the power of prayer. Often the darkness we see in this world, however egregious, is a shadowy echo of what’s taking place in spiritual strongholds. While we do our best to purge darkness from our midst, Scripture warns us that the struggle is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world-rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12). This is important to remember, because if we get too hyper-focused on squashing out “symptomatic darkness”, we can fail to address “root darkness”.
Whenever darkness starts to rub your spirit wrong, be sure you cover it in prayer as a first course of action. Tackle the base cause, not just what you see before you. Act in the spiritual as well as the physical. This will ensure you’re not just swinging at the shadows, but making a real dent in what lies behind them, halting the march of darkness both seen and unseen.
Protect Your Circle
First of all, know what your circle is: it’s what you can control, the boundary of what you will or won’t allow in your life. There are things that are dark at their core, and things that simply effect some more profoundly than others. For example, a movie about World War II may not be inherently dark or “evil”, but those who have nightmares due to wartime violence or depictions of military action are responsible for keeping those things out of their own circle.
We cannot destroy every manifestation of darkness we see—mostly because there is a matter of free will, and others are responsible for their circle, too. We shouldn’t go around tearing down our neighbors’ unsavory lawn displays or attack a private business for spider webs and witch’s feet hanging from the rafters; what we control is what we let inside our boundary. This can mean avoiding those houses (or at least not looking at them) if their choice of displays is disturbing; it can mean choosing to avoid the aisles with unsettling decorations or even taking your business elsewhere. For parents, it can entail putting the kibosh on a screening of The Conjuring in your basement or talking to your kids about the inherent spiritual darkness associated with Ouija boards and tarot readings and why these things are not a game to be fooled around with.
Within your circle, you are responsible for what you allow, and the best metric for this, of course, is what God permits. If something dishonors God and/or glorifies His enemy, deeply reconsider allowing it in your circle. Because your circle is your responsibility, you will give an account for it before God; even if that darkness doesn’t “bother” you now, it could have consequences in the future.
Have the Courageous Conversation
I still remember the weird look I got the first time I told an avid Harry Potter fan I don’t like the series anymore because the older I get, the more sorcery in fiction bugs me. It was the same look my family got when we said we didn’t “celebrate” Halloween. I still get that look when I tell people I wish we could skip straight to November 1st!
When you protect your circle, there’s bound to be pushback. Other people with a looser circle or different standards and opinions might question your decision or try to rope you into pushing that line a bit. However, you are still responsible for your space! And the beauty of pushback is it opens the door for conversation.
If someone is willing to test your boundaries or ask you why you made a certain choice on what you allow or disallow in your circle, you have the opportunity to invite them into a conversation that may provoke them to reconsider their own boundaries—how much darkness they want to permit in their own lives.
These conversations can be awkward, and some people are bound to dislike your motives, intentions, or reasoning. But there is always the chance that by explaining your position and why you’ve taken it, others will be encouraged to think twice about what they let into their circles, the ghosts and ghouls and zombies in their yards, the hills they want to stake their claim on, etc.
When you decide to walk down a road of discernment that sets you (and your family) apart from the norm, it can be very easy to feel left on the outside. While there are times this is an inevitable part of life, it doesn’t always have to be!
One way to take charge of the influences in your life and have a say in what enters your circle is to be proactive. Be the one who suggests activities, starts conversations, and guides gatherings in a way that minimizes exposure to darker subjects or matters.
For instance, if you don’t celebrate a holiday like Halloween, but don’t want your child to feel left out, consider hosting a harvest party with costumes (still within your right as host to request no scary or witchy ones!). Or be willing to be the person at a get-together who suggests something on the cleaner or more light-hearted side, even if everyone present is an adult. Don’t let things that rub your spirit wrong be compromises you make just because it doesn’t bother others. God gave you the exact level of sensitivity He did for a good reason, and it’s not to be squandered or seared for the comfort, entertainment, or approval of others.
Ultimately, the fight against darkness large and small is fought on the battlegrounds of both the spiritual and the secular. By covering the former in prayer and speaking in tongues and the latter in wisdom, discernment, courageous boundaries and proactive involvement, we can rest assured we’re fighting the good fight, holding darkness at bay in our personal circles, and winning a victory for God’s side in the spiritual realm!