• Fr Christopher Shackelford

Suffering from Deception

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as a Roman Catholic priest ordained almost 30 years ago, I want to thank all of you who participate in this blog with such courage in sharing your pain and struggles with infertility. I confess that I am both honored and intimidated to write a reflection on this topic to you, as a celibate man. How could I possibly understand what you are going through? I confess that I don’t understand what you are experiencing, I only wish to share some thoughts with you as a spiritual father who has accompanied many couples struggling with this painful reality throughout these many years of ministry.


Besides the many physical and emotional effects of infertility, there is an even more insidious spiritual battle that occurs during these difficult struggles. Many of our emotional and spiritual sufferings may actually be linked to Satan rather than to God - please let me explain.


One of my favorite titles for Satan is “The Father of Deception and Lies”. He speaks to our hearts to provoke questions and doubts that cause us suffering. This is the inner voice that speaks within us, raising such questions as: “What have I done to deserve God’s punishment?”, “How can I be the one my spouse deserves if I can’t give them the children they long for?”, “How can a loving God allow good people to suffer?” Such questions as these and many others keep us focused on being victims of God’s wrath or even of God’s unjust treatment of His faithful sons and daughters. Have you ever felt like God has deceived you and questioned whether He really understands what is best for you? If you have, then you are not alone.


We see this happening in the very first book of the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3 we read the familiar story of Adam and Eve being deceived by the serpent to eat of the forbidden fruit. How did the serpent trick them? He convinced them that God had actually deceived them by saying they would die if they ate of this Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent said, “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). Besides the obvious temptation of having the power to rule over themselves without God, the more insidious deception was to convince them that God was the one deceiving them because He did not truly have their best interest in mind. Once they doubted God’s truth and His best desire for their well-being, they were willing to eat of this fruit so that they could be self-sufficient and no longer rely on God and His Word. God’s ways are definitely mysterious and do not always conform to our rational desires, thoughts and feelings; however, God only wishes for us to have the absolute best. We are often convinced that we already know what is best for ourselves.


Another great deception of Satan is to convince us that all suffering is unjust, cruel and could definitely not be a part of profound love. We can easily forget that suffering is often a part of the discipline required for our own purification, or for the sacrificial love for our beloved. All relationships founded on authentic love require sacrifices and sufferings. In Hebrews we read that Jesus, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). Let yourself consider that, in the midst of all this pain and suffering, you will not be led to hurt and bitterness, but rather you might be made more perfect.


During Holy Week as we celebrate the paschal mystery of Jesus’ own passion, death and resurrection, we witness God’s total love for each of us and His complete sacrifice for our salvation. I will be praying for each and every one of you who is suffering as you carry your own unique cross. Please know that Jesus is walking with you and strengthening you with every step. May the Father of Deception and Lies not convince you to doubt God’s unconditional love for you and perfect plan for your well-being. Rather, trust the Word of God: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you - oracle for the Lord - plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I leave you with some questions for personal reflection and prayer.

  1. What is the biggest lie that Satan, the Father of Deception and Lies, has been whispering to you?

  2. How might you combat these lies with truths from the Word of God?

  3. In your own suffering, where have you seen God?

Here are some tools to help you fight in the midst of a spiritual battle:

  1. Read the sacred scriptures

  2. Recite the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

  3. Reflect on Psalm 139