A few weeks after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the U.S. army deployed the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, better known at the “Ghost Army.” The unit comprised creative types—artists, set designers, actors, and sound technicians charged with creating deceptions to fool the Germans in order to draw fire and attention away from the actual army.
This Ghost Army used inflatable tanks and recorded sound effects to simulate whole battalions where there was none. Actors entered European towns, enjoyed a few drinks, and purposely “talked loose” to spread misinformation about the Allies’ plans. Audio engineers created what they called “spoof radio,” carrying on elaborate imitations of actual radio operators with the hope that the enemy would listen in and buy their lies.
The Ghost Army was wildly successful, and though it took no lives, it is credited with saving thousands through its deceptions.
Our enemy, the father of lies (John 8:44), is real (1 Peter 5:8), and he deploys ghost armies to discourage and deceive us into believing that all kinds of threats are coming against us. These skirmishes sap our strength and distract us from the actual battles God has equipped us to fight.
Take for example, a pastor who receives criticism with the preface “Many people are upset about . . . ” or “Lots of people are concerned that . . . .” If it is true that lots of people are upset about something, the pastor will probably find out pretty quickly. Yet a single dissatisfied church member often unleashes this sort of criticism to give weight to her own opinion. If pressed, she will not produce any names of others who share it, because she's covering for a ghost army. Still, the pastor internalizes the criticism, and week after week looks into an army of faces that he suspects want to undermine him.
Or take a young mother who hears her baby cough. A little internet research will reveal thousands of possible plagues that may be visited upon her child. The threats grow in her imagination until she feels paralyzed by fear and helpless to protect her baby from the army of diseases, none of which is actually afflicting the child.
Or consider the husband who wants to provide for his family. He wisely saves for the future. Yet even when he has achieved financial security by any standard, his mind is full of different ways he could be ruined. Fear compels him to save more and more, preventing him from giving to those in need because he can never outrun the specter of financial collapse.
Each of these hypothetical examples illustrates a way that Satan might defeat God’s children through deception, by magnifying imaginary evils to the point that they that function as effectively as real ones. In fact, they may prove even more effective, since there’s no way to defeat an attack that doesn’t exist.
In my own life, my ghost army is the threat of every trial that could befall me in the future. I worry about difficulties that I may one day face, but that have no part of my life now.
While the ghost armies in our lives may not be real, the spiritual battle is very real. The right response to a dummy attack is to turn the weapons God has given you upon the real enemy, heeding the words of Ephesians 6:12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
If I can recognize a threat looming on the horizon as a deception of the enemy, the battle is more than half won. Once the scheme is exposed, it backfires by reminding me that I am in a position of strength, armed with the real promises of a victorious God against a skilled illusionist.
The next time you're threatened by a ghost army, tell the deceiver that you have seen through his scheme. Quote to him Romans 16:20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” You’ll find that the sword of the spirit is plenty sharp to pop camouflaged tanks full of hot air