In high school, I had a tight-knit group of Christian friends. We encouraged one another through the pressures and struggles of teenage life. One of my best friends was Thomas (name has been changed).
Thomas and I were in several leadership positions together in our youth group. He and his mom became Christians two years before I met him. His dad wasn't a believer. I remember sitting with him late one night at a big youth rally listening to him cry about how broken he was over his lost father. He told me he'd spend the rest of his life living in his car if it meant his dad would come to Christ.
I always thought there was something beautiful about a kid who would give up everything he owned to have his dad find the love of Jesus. I wondered what kind of crazy things God would do with his life, with that kind of passion for the Lord.
Thomas went to college, started learning things that made him question his faith, prayed for God to get him through the loneliness and hurt he felt as he went through his freshman year...and heard no answer. And he stepped away from God. Completely.
We didn't talk for six years.
Last year I reconnected with Thomas. Over burgers we reminisced about the study halls we spent goofing off, the bands we saw, and the old friends we missed. Finally the conversation turned more serious. Honestly, almost shyly, Thomas asked if I was still "saving myself for marriage" (a big topic from our youth group days). When I answered yes, he whistled and looked down at his hands.
"I wish I still had that. That stuff doesn't mean anything to me anymore," he said quietly. He didn't look back at me for several minutes, but when he did, his eyes were filled with grief. "I'm not the same person I used to be."
My heart and soul ached for the lost boy in front of me. That something once so sacred to him had become so commonplace. The boy I'd done student leadership with, read the Bible with, led worship with, prayed with, laughed with, been big-brothered by...that boy was gone. In his place, a grown-up Thomas sat before me. A hollow shell.
He was trying to do life on his own. His way. And he was coming up empty.
After that day I cried a lot for Thomas.
I cried for how empty he was. Cried for how lonely his eyes had become, for his loss of joy. And most of all, I cried because Satan had taken away his hope.
Seeing Thomas opened my eyes to the fact that this life is a spiritual battlefield. And my fellow soldiers are falling right and left.