Are angel’s fictitious? Do they protect us, or is it just wishful thinking? Although we can’t see these protectors, it doesn’t mean they’re a fairy-tale.
Anthony DeStefano uses a biblical scope that we are not alone, and the common misconceptions people have of these powerful beings that work on behalf of heaven. There’s a spiritual dimension, protection even in the wake of disaster and heartache. You too can find peace in the midst of the battle.
What are the misconceptions that we have of angels?
I think there are two big misconceptions out there. One is that angels are make-believe; that they’re like fairies or other mythical creatures. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Angels are real. They’re as real as human beings. They don’t have bodies—they’re totally spiritual creatures—but they do exist; they do have lives. As you’re reading these words, an angel is probably somewhere close by to you. Angels are fascinating and powerful, but they most certainly are NOT the stuff of fairytales.
The second big misconception some people have is that after they die, they think they’re going to “turn into” angels. Again, that’s not what any of the major religions teach. People are people, and angels are angels. God created us to be different, and we’ll always be different, even into eternity. Angels are pure spirits, while human beings are both spirit and matter. One day, after we die and experience what Christians call the “Resurrection,” we’re going to have bodies in Heaven—maybe not same kind we have now, but something similar. That’s an important point, because it means that if your mother has died, for instance, someday after the Resurrection, you’re going to be able to see her in the flesh. She’s not going to be a ghost. You’re going to be able to run up to her and kiss her and hug her and feel the warmth of her skin, and hear her voice again. That’s a very consoling thought. Angels can’t do any of that because they’re pure spirits. So while I’m certainly fascinated by angels, I would never want to be one!
2. What has your experience been with angels?
I’m one of those millions of people who haven’t had a whole lot of dramatic, supernatural experiences in their life. I know many believers who have wonderful angel stories—but I’m not one of them. While I’ve always been aware of the presence of angels around me, I can’t point to any one specific instance and say with certitude that “an angel helped me.” Yes there have been times when I have experienced what I consider the “miraculous”—times when I knew God was helping me. And I’m sure angels have been involved in that at different points because of what my Faith tells me and what I know about the mission of angels from Scripture. But I can’t say for sure which experiences they were. And to tell you the truth, that’s one of the reasons why I think my books have been so well received. I know it’s considered more “sensational” when someone makes the claim that they have personally “visited” Heaven or that an angel of the Lord appeared to them in a blaze of light, but I think that, because those things have NOT happened to me, my writing and my arguments and my stories resonate with people more. They just sound more down-to-earth and believable and people relate to that. I really do try to stick to what’s been revealed in Scripture and what traditional Christianity has taught over the course of 2000 years. And the incredible thing is that the traditional teaching about angels is every bit as exciting and interesting as all the subjective stories you read or see on TV. The fascinating thing about angels is that they DO play a big roll in our lives—even when we don’t realize it. One of their “jobs” is to help human beings. And it’s this proximity to us; the fact that they are right here even when we can’t see or feel them, that is so attractive to us.
3. The Bible talks about the war in heaven between Satan and the angels. Are we fighting an invisible war here on earth?
Yes I think we are. People sometimes have a hard time understanding Satan and why he hates human beings so much. And yet, we see the same kind of hatred of God in some human beings, too. When we read the newspaper or watch TV, we see all around us the evidence of people making evil choices—choices against God. Just look at some of the horrible things that go on—the sex crimes perpetrated against children, the senseless and gratuitous killings that take place every day. Evil is real. It’s not imaginary. And human beings indulge in it. Well, if that’s so obviously true for us, then why should it be so hard to understand that certain angels made the same choice to rebel against God? The same choice in favor of evil? The ones who did that are the so-called “fallen angels” or demons. And their leader was Satan.
Now, Satan and his demons hate God and hate everything He stands for. They want to lash out at Him; they want to hurt Him in some way. But they have a problem. What if the Being you hate is almighty? What if the Being you hate is God and can’t be hurt? Well, your only option is to do is the next best thing. You try to hurt that which is made in the image and likeness of God—human beings. Ultimately, the reason why we’re fighting an invisible war here on earth is because Satan and his demons hate God so much that they want to offend him, and the only way they can do that is by hurting us.
4. You talk about the devil’s strategy in your book on trying to deceive man to believe he doesn’t exist. How important is it that we’re aware of this deception?
Oh, very important. It’s been said that if God’s sacred name is “I am Who Am,” then the devil’s name is “I am who am NOT.” Satan would prefer that we don’t believe in his existence, or in the existence of any spiritual realities. That’s the best way of making people atheists, isn’t it? That’s also why I think true cases of demonic possession are very rare today. Yes it can happen, but not so frequently as some people imagine. The reason is that if the devil and his demons went around possessing everyone, people might indeed become frightened, but there would also be a general increase in faith in the spiritual world and in God, Himself. And that’s the last thing the devil wants. It would go totally counter to good diabolical strategy. As C.S. Lewis said in his great book, The Screwtape Letters, the surest road to hell is the one without any sudden bumps or turns—and most importantly, without any signposts. From the devil’s point of view, it’s much smarter for him to stay in the background, quietly tempting people. That’s why the more we are aware of this strategy, the more in-tune we can be to the true source of temptation, and the less likely we will be to rationalize our sinful behavior.
5. What do you mean by the “invisible power” of suffering?
Very simply, this: God is the source of all power. When we’re in union with Him, that’s when we’re at our strongest—because we’re literally “plugged into” the power source of the universe. Well, God suffered a lot, in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, when God saved the world, He didn’t do it by preaching a sermon or writing a book or donating money. He did it by being nailed to a cross and dying a painful death. That’s the method He chose to overcome evil, and to overcome death, itself. So when WE suffer, we’re in union with God in a very special way. We’re being Christ-like in the most intimate and poignant way possible. And that’s powerful. When we’re in pain, and we patiently and prayerfully offer that pain up to God, it’s more powerful than any verbal prayer we can utter, because at that moment, we are most in union with the suffering Christ; we are most “plugged in” to the source of all power.
6. What was the most significant chapter to you?
I would say that this chapter on invisible suffering was the most significant for me. The reason is that I feel one of my main callings as a writer is to use whatever gifts I have to try to bring consolation to people who are suffering and grieving. In all my books I try to do that, but I think that in this particular chapter I may have been most successful. At least that’s what people have told me. Beyond that, I think this chapter was also the most personal in the book. In it, I relate the story of how my grandmother came to America from Italy back in the early 1900s, and all the suffering she went through—including the deaths of three of her children. It’s such a sad story—like an Italian version of the book, Angela’s Ashes—and yet there’s so much hope in it. So much good came out of her suffering, and it was very meaningful for me to put it all down in writing. I really hope it can inspire others who are suffering.
7. How do you want your book to minister to the people in Staten Island, who’ve endured such loss from Hurricane Sandy?
This book is about the invisible world—the spiritual realities that surround us which can’t be seen or touched. So many people don’t pay any attention to that world. And yet, that world is just as important and in some ways more important than this world. What I hope my book does is help to re-focus people on that reality. My goodness, we’re all just a hair’s breath away from death. Whether it’s a car accident, cancer, a heart attack, or a hurricane that finally does us in, none of us has any guarantee that we’ll be here tomorrow. Never was a more accurate line written than the one in Scripture that says the same God that gave us the morning does not promise us the evening. Life is just so fragile. There’s an old, Latin phrase that bears much repeating: Memento mori—“Remember, you must die.” To admit this does not make you a cynic. Nor does it make you an unhappy, depressive person. It makes you a realist. It makes you sane. It’s the healthiest perspective you can have.
That hurricane caused so much suffering. But if any good can possibly come out of it, let it be that we finally get our priorities straight. We can’t ever allow the illusions of this world to blind us to the fact that the most important things in life are still Love and Honor and Kindness and Faith and God. Like the wind itself, these things are invisible—but they’re more real than anything we can see. And best of all, they can never be wiped out by any natural disaster. That’s the lesson of Sandy, and that’s the lesson I hope my book serves to underscore.
8. How do you explain to them that it wasn’t God that caused this?
I wish there was a short, sound-byte answer for this question, but there’s really not. The most important thing to say is that God does not purposely cause anyone to suffer. He’s not some sadistic puppeteer, sitting up in Heaven thinking of ways to inflict pain on us. He hates when we suffer, just as much as we do. But He allows pain—sometimes a lot of it—because the kind of world He has created is not robotic and computerized, but rather, one of free will. The mystery of human suffering—including this recent Hurricane—is tied to the story of the Fall of Man, and the fact that when God created us, He gave us free will and we turned away from Him. Death and suffering were not part of the original plan. Now course, it’s difficult to talk about “theology” during times like this. When you’re going through a storm, you’re usually not that concerned with all the meteorological reasons for why the storm occurred. The important thing to do is get through the storm first. And when you’re trying to get through any kind of suffering, the crucial thing is to try to trust that God has a bigger plan in mind—a plan that we’re not yet in a position to see. Remember, God sees everything from the perspective of eternity. And eternity is a long time! We have trouble seeing past this coming Wednesday! We have to trust that somehow, some way, God will be able to pull some kind of “good” out of the pain we experience.
After all, the worst thing that ever happened in human history was the crucifixion of Christ. Christians believe that Christ is God, so when He was killed, it wasn’t a homicide, but rather a deicide—the murder God. What could be worse than that? And yet, God allowed it to happen because He knew that three days later, there would be a Resurrection. Now, the Resurrection was the best thing that ever happened in human history, because it opened up the gates of Heaven for us, and made it possible for us to experience eternal life. So God was able to turn the worst thing that ever happened—the crucifixion—into the best thing that ever happened—the Resurrection. If He was able to do that, then we just have to trust that he can bring good out of all the bad things that happen in our lives.
9. Do you feel angels were around the people in the Hurricane?
Yes I do. Because while there was certainly a lot of suffering in the aftermath of the hurricane, there were also a lot of very miraculous stories—stories of people who were in great danger but were somehow saved; people who should have lost everything but somehow didn’t. I’m sure that was due—at least in part—to angelic intervention. But more than that, I think angels probably played a role in prompting people to do good. After all, that’s what Christianity teaches that angels do best—they “tempt” us to do good things by making suggestions to our minds. Most angelic activity is actually psychological in nature. And during the past few weeks in New York and New Jersey, we’ve certainly seen a tremendous number of good deeds being done. It’s really been amazing to watch. The closest thing I can recall is what happened immediately following 9/11: All the acts of kindness and generosity. All the examples of bravery and sacrifice. All the instances of cooperation and camaraderie. All the incredible and poignant stories of personal heroism—thousands of them. And there continue to be food drives, clothing drives, people opening their homes to complete strangers, churches setting up special kitchens to serve coffee and food, businesses opening their doors to anyone in need of free wifi service or power strips to charge their phones. In a word, there’s been a marvelous outpouring of love in so many ways by so many people. I’m sure God’s angels had something to do with that.
10. Why was it important for you to write this book?
I wanted to write this book because when I look around today I see so many people caught up in this whole absurd superstition of materialism. That’s the belief that the world is made up of physical objects and nothing else; that everything in life—all our thoughts, our emotions, our ambitions, our hopes, our dreams, our passions, our loves, our hopes, our virtues, our kindnesses, our philosophies, our art, our culture, our poetry, our literature, our politics, our history, our deepest feelings about God and Love and Salvation and Redemption and Eternal Life—that all of this is purely the result of biochemical reactions and the random movement of atoms in an impersonal and meaningless universe. Well, to me that’s just ridiculous. To say that this sublimely beautiful and meaningful life of ours really has no meaning beyond what we can detect with our senses, is contrary to logic and common sense. To me, it’s obvious that the most important things in life are invisible. We can’t see God. We can’t see Love. We can’t see Honor. We can’t see Angels. And yet, all of those things are very real. I wanted to write a book that made these invisible realities more “tangible” and more “visible” to people. My hope was that such a book might help give people a greater sense of the richness of life, and also show them that no amount of suffering—physical, mental, or emotional—can ever destroy the profound sense of inner peace they can experience on a daily basis.
Anthony DeStefano is the bestselling author of A Travel Guide to Heaven, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, Angels All Around Us, and the children's books, This Little Prayer of Mine, Little Star, The Donkey that No One Could Ride, and gift book, I Just Can't Take it Anymore. He has received many prestigious awards from religious organizations worldwide for his efforts to advance Christian beliefs in modern culture. In 2013, two new children's books by DeStefano will be published: A Travel Guide to Heaven- For Kids! and The Sheep that No One Could Find.