I spent two weeks backpacking on the continental Divide with several classmates. What beauty to be surrounded by mountains, walking along streams and wildflowers, listening to birds sing, and enjoying graceful deer prancing nearby.
But perhaps the best gift God gave me came with swarms of mosquitoes!
Mosquitoes? How did God use buzzing, biting mosquitoes to bless me?
Let me set the scene. As we hiked 36-miles up and down mountains in the thin air at 9,000 to 11,000 feet, each of us carrying 80 pounds on our backs, we walked through some meadows filled with streams, ponds, and lakes. When we camped at night in temperatures below freezing we were alongside a lake. Wherever there is water in the high Sierras during the summertime there are swarms of mosquitoes!
Of course, the temptation is to be driven crazy by these blood-thirsty pests. It’s easy to become quite agitated and to keep swatting furiously at mosquito after mosquito that dives down to attack you! It’s easy to become grouchy and to complain endlessly—especially when you’re already suffering from altitude sickness as I was!
I must confess I exhibited some of these desperate antics and sour attitudes! I was letting the mosquitoes distract me from enjoying hiking with Jesus and my friends.
I lost my contentment. I let the mosquitoes and Satan get the best of me.
To be content is to be at peace—so deeply serene and happy inside that you accept whatever your circumstances are like, even if they are unpleasant.
Paul is the picture of contentment. He wrote Philippians while in jail. He was falsely imprisoned, persecuted, and mistreated for years and yet he was at peace and joyful. Rather than feeling sorry for himself or complaining he wrote the happiest book in the Bible to bless the people of Philippi!
Was Paul just a naturally cheerful, easy-going personality? Hah! Anyone that has read his letters or his story in Acts knows otherwise! He was intense, driven, and prone to anger and complaining.
So how could he be so joyful in prison? He had a guard. Yes, a jailor (probably a brute thug) guarded him constantly, but he was looking to his spiritual guard: the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He rejoice in his Lord as his “safeguard” and therefore the peace of Christ “guarded his heart and mind” (Philippians 3:1, 4:4-7).
As I hiked into the mosquitoes and got irritated the same Holy Spirit who guarded Paul was praying within me without ceasing and he drew me back into renewing my mind in God’s Word (Romans 8:26). Thankfully, the Scripture meditation I had already been doing long before the mosquitos attacked gave the Holy Spirit something to work with!
I prayed with the Apostle Paul, “Yes, Lord, I have learned the secret of being content—whether swarmed by mosquitoes or standing free in the breeze. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (based on Philippians 4:12-13). Over and over I repeated, “I am content in Christ.”
I was using “the sword of the spirit” (Ephesians 6:17) to overcome not only the mosquitoes but also Satan, who was using the mosquito swarm to tempt me to into self-pity and complaining.
Our attitude is really important. When Satan succeeds in making us sour and negative then it’s easy for him to create more havoc in us and the people around us. Thankfully, the truth of Scripture pushed back the kingdom of darkness and opened up for me the kingdom of light.
God was helping me to appreciate that I didn’t have to be overwhelmed by or defined by the reality of the mosquitoes. There was another, larger reality in my landscape that I could be immersed in and strengthened by: the kingdom of the heavens.
What trial is swarming around you? What problem keeps biting you? Take out the sword of the Spirit. Use Scripture to pray that God would help you to set your heart on the kingdom of Christ that is right at hand (Matthew 4:17).
You can reach out for it now. You can keep holding Jesus’ hand. Praying Scripture will help.
When you hold the hand of Jesus you are safe from sin and Satan.