Sonja Corbitt calls it "the strangest week of my life."
Strange, and bad -- evil -- it was.
First, there was the worst fight with her husband in their twenty-three years together.
"As he ranted at me, all I could get in edgewise was, 'You're totally misunderstanding what I said!'"
His "wild behavior" was unlike him and "weird," she recalls candidly.
The next day, Sonja received a letter from a former high-school boyfriend who said that while he was now married, he still pined for her, even driving by her mother's house on holidays, hoping to get a glimpse of her while she was visiting. The timing, knew Sonja, was "bizarre."
Something dark was at play.
The day after that, her husband's stepfather died of a sudden heart attack. Much going on here, for certain. After his funeral, Sonja's own stepfather had a massive heart attack. There was the "shadow of death." It was like "Tolkien's Balrogs raging up from the pit and whipping us around," she says. "I felt as though I were standing in the center of a tornado while one shrieking wind of crisis after another flew around and around me (literally, in the case of my marital conflict)," writes Sonja in a new book, Fearless: A Catholic Woman's Guide To Spiritual Warfare.
"I envisioned myself standing in the center, being battered and buffeted, while my arms were flung upward to God and I repeated over and over, 'Jesus, I trust in You.'"
It is a worthwhile book, a delivering book, sort of a retreat-study guide.
Tumult in our lives. Failures. Temptations. How do we deal with it? How do we pull out of the kind of "free-fall" Sonja was in? What do we do in our homes when everything is spinning out of control?
There are certainly ways of fighting back, of taking back turf from the enemy. And it goes to the essence of Christianity.
It is this:
Spiritual power and authority rests with humility and love. Those are the final and surefire means of deliverance; simple and hard at the same time, very hard. But, as Saint John Paul II said:
"Man's life on earth is warfare.
"Spiritual combat is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today.
"It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which [we] engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in [our] hearts."
Let us ask: When are we phony? Stingy? Less than transparent? When do we lack discipline? Transparency and extravagant generosity are marks of the Holy Spirit.
So is discipline.
Do we fast?
"Jesus teaches us that 'fasting is as wings, whereby the soul is carried upward to celestial things,'" notes Sonja.
"If you are experiencing spiritual attack or confusion, try adding a fast to your prayer.
"After forty days of fasting on a cold, bare mountain, just when He should be weakest and most depleted, Jesus is most powerful against the enemy."
"If you are experiencing the grief of disillusionment, Beloved, be at peace," she writes. "Nothing has gone horribly wrong. God is not jerking you around. He's shaking loose false ideas you have about Him and about faith and life. Your false beliefs and expectations may be dying, and you may be experiencing the pain of that loss, but if you're honest, weren't your expectations somewhat unrealistic, illogical, emotion-based, projected, or only partly founded in reality to begin with?"
The solution to falsity, to evil attack:
"Learning to love with abandon." Let vacation time be a spiritual summer school. The most simple and natural gestures of love are powerful, notes Sonja, in the "Hands of the Holy Spirit."
Keep those words in mind, always: "love with abandon." It lights any dark. It plows through anything. It makes us fearless. For "there is no fear in love," says 1 John 4:18.