Wasteland Kings

Trading Punches with the heart of darkness. – NEEDTOBREATHE

I heard this line a couple days ago and it landed hard on my heart. This is exactly what we were doing in Albania. Twenty of us charged into enemy territory and went a few rounds with the forces of darkness.

I’m not referring to country of Albania itself as enemy territory. I am referring to the hearts of people. It’s in our hearts where Satan likes to setup his defenses and attempt to block the love of Jesus.

Jesus could knock down those defenses all on his own. He’s pretty cool though and he wants us to join him on this adventure. For this adventure in particular, he invited myself and twenty other young adults from my church to engage with the hearts of Albanians.

I am grateful for this invitation and glad I accepted it.

My dramatic words might imply a somewhat somber experience. The reality was quite the opposite. I had an incredible amount of fun.

The people of Albania are a joy to be around and always ready to take some time for conversation. Their coffee is also pretty great. I needed the energy it provided for one of my favorite activities; dancing.

I am not what you would call a great dancer. I still love it. We danced until we had blisters on our feet and little energy left in our bodies.

Dancing and the other fun parts of the week were some of the most effective weapons against our enemy. You might remember the quote ’the battle in your life is against your joy.’ Satan loves to steal our joy and convince us we have to find satisfaction in the shiny things of this world.

The goal of both efforts is to get us focused on things like alcohol, drugs, and the porn. Satan wants us to think those are the best places to find satisfaction. I know this because I’ve found myself believing these lies on many occasions.

Those lies seemed ridiculous as I laughed and danced in a big circle of Albanians and Americans.

I think our time in Albania had a similar effect on the Albanians. Those teenagers looked up to us because we’re older and we’re Americans. They assumed we have it all together and know way more about how to get satisfaction.

It’s easy for Albanian teenagers to assume we’re connoisseurs of the ‘good life’ because we’re Americans. It surprises them when we show up and act like complete goofballs. We played bumper cars, dressed up in silly clothes, and acted like the kids we all are at heart.

We didn’t seem interested in drugs, sex, or the party lifestyle. We even talked about our past experience with those and how God delivered us from them. I’ll talk more about that in a later blog.

Back to my point, we got to experience real joy with those kids and I am confident it made an impact on both us and them. They got to see those more fortunate than them value the real joys of life; like laughing and dancing in a circle.

This was good for me because my heart gets worn down by daily life. If you’re on the same page, just say ‘amen’ out loud wherever you are. If someone looks at you funny, say hello and start a conversation.

Now, you’ve got a new friend or a topic to help you connect with someone you already know. I’m here to help. We’ve got to get back to the point though.

I get worn down by life. A hundred advertisements a day tell me that my life could be better. None of the earthly comforts and sources of satisfaction last very long.

Ministry is incredible and yet it taxes the energy of my heart, body, and mind. I’ve had days where I wanted to check out and just wait for the next fun thing on my calendar. All of those negatives are the work of the enemy.

He’s trying to steal my joy. He uses the ads to lie, the earthly comforts to distract, and puts obstacles in my ministry. All of them together take a heavy toll on me.

I need pure joy to refresh my heart and give me strength. I need to hit back with the truth of Scripture and the fun of teaching people how to play Spoons. My heart needs the adventure God has invited me into and my trip to Albania was just one chapter of this story.

As for the Albanians, I don’t know the heart of each one. I know they were hungry for the joy and laughter we shared because they kept coming back each day. This tells me Satan is working against them in their daily lives as well.

Scripture is right on the money when it says he comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I am glad God used me to fight back against those efforts. I hope and pray he invites me into more of those opportunities.

I hope and pray I have the courage to accept them.

What are the lies about satisfaction which distract you? Where do you find real and lasting joy? Has God sent you any invitations, large or small, to fight back against Satan’s war on our joy?

Let me know on FB, in the comments, or in an email.

Until next time,


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Matthew Rial