I have always sort of unconsciously skipped over these kinds of Psalms, the ones about deliverance from enemies. I am either incredibly blessed or extremely naive (more likely the latter) to feel that I have had few real enemies in my sphere of life so far.
It has taken me too long to realize that my life’s greatest enemies so far have not been people so much as the one Enemy.
I have been reading Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s book on St. Ignatius’ rules on discernment of spirits, and it has been a merciful revelation to have this new knowledge of the Enemy’s tactics. God gave us a great gift in St. Ignatius, to whom He gave incredible insight into the spiritual discernment of our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts are either from God, or they are not from God, and we can learn how to discern which is which, and accept or reject them accordingly.
Looking back with the help of St. Ignatius, I can see now that discouragement, confusion, fear, anxiety, second-guessing, scrupulosity, and hopelessness I have experienced at different points in my life are all textbook tactics of you-know-who.
Often the Enemy sneaks his evil thoughts into our heads (or draws them out of our own unresolved sin issues) and waits for an outward desolation of some kind to happen so that he can use to jumpstart a spiritual desolation to accompany it. Just like in Psalm 17, he lies in wait ‘like a young lion lurking in ambush,’ ready to ‘cast us to the ground,’ by ‘surrounding’ us with temptation and discouragement and disquiet.
My enemies are not physical armies marching on my kingdom or politicians plotting my death. My enemies right now are the Enemy who sends me targeted spiritual desolations that aim to make me lose my faith.
My friend Fr. Josh always says that we should “never go into our minds alone; we should always bring Jesus with us.” Just like a football team studies game footage to learn favorite plays used by upcoming opponents, learning how the Enemy usually works–and always bringing Jesus with us into our minds–can give us an advantage. We can learn to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:6).