Some boxes in life need to be checked.
Some openings protected. Weak spots covered.
One unchecked box resulted in an attack on my blog recently. It also opened my eyes to five valuable lessons about the unchecked boxes in our lives; the open places we can be vulnerable to attack.
First the story.
Noticing Invisible Problems
Last month a ‘subscription attack’ occurred on this site.
In short, that’s when a hacker adds hundreds of real email addresses to your subscription box, flooding you with false sign ups. It happened gradually, daily–false subscribers mixed in with real subscribers–and so it went undetected for a couple weeks.
The result was nasty.
Not knowing about the false subscribers, I sent an email out with that week’s newest post, Coming Clean, and received a slew of unsubscribes and spam complaints.
I scratched my head.
Did I say something wrong? Should I have avoided talking about sin and confession? All these different thoughts went through my head. But I moved forward.
Until it happened again.
I emailed Keeping Faith in God a week later and even more unsubscribes and spam complaints followed. Not just that, but my email delivery service sent a warning that if the complaints continued I could get dropped from their service!
I felt discouraged and insecure. I didn’t understand the problem or how to fix it. I could not figure out why it was happening.
But then I did. A little research and googling made it clear.
Hackers used sites like mine to send unsuspecting people hundreds of email subscriptions, flooding and clogging their inboxes. These people were the true victims, and I felt horrible to know they were inconvenienced. I can totally understand why they unsubscribed and complained!
And yet their complaints became the blessing in disguise. Their response alerted me to something I had missed. It led me to the unchecked box.
Discovering Unchecked Weak Spots
You see, normally this situation would not have happened. There’s a double opt-in box on my site that has been checked for six years (that’s why you have to confirm you want to receive emails even after you’ve subscribed to a site). But during a design change, the box got unchecked accidentally and I didn’t notice.
In that three-week period, spammers found an opening through the unchecked box, adding unsuspecting people. And while this unfortunate hack alerted me to the problem so I could fix it (thankfully), it also made me think:
Are there other ‘unchecked boxes’ in my life?
Are there places where I’m open to Satan coming in and using me to hurt others that I have no idea are there?
Do I pay attention to feedback I’m getting over the course of life from different people, or do I remain stiff-necked, ignoring it and repeating toxic behaviors?
By finding the unnoticed opening, I resolved the problem by checking the box again, deleting the false email addresses and notifying my email service of the issue. But there was something more to be learned from all of this that went beyond the blog.
5 Lessons Learned about Weak Spots Hiding in Plain Sight
What was intended for evil, God used for good because here are five lessons learned about the unnoticed openings we all have…
- Take notice of warnings. Not all negative responses denote a problem—sometimes we have to press through them to keep fighting the good fight—but when we notice repeated negative responses, it might alert us to an unchecked pattern. One we don’t realize is there. Proverbs 3:7-8 says “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”
- Seek out counsel. It’s dangerous to sit alone and mull over details, assuming answers and guessing reasons. The devil is in the details, so bring them to light. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.” By reaching out to friends I received encouragement; by reading what online security experts had to say I found answers; by contacting the email service provider with evidence of the problem I got confirmation and help fixing it.
- Ask God to identify openings. The Bible says that the devil prowls the earth like a lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) and that we should not give the devil a foothold (Eph 4:27). We can ask God to show us the places open to attack, especially our emotions. We’re told to ask God for wisdom when we need it, and we’ll know it’s the wisdom from heaven if it is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, fully of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
- Fix what you can fix and leave the rest to God. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It took hours to figure out the blog issue and resolve it, but I could not unsend those two emails. I didn’t know if more people who hit “spam” or if I’d get dropped from the email service. I just prayed God would protect them and me and that hackers would find the Lord.
- Get the right protection. The Bible tells us to stay protected spiritually by wearing the full armor of God so we can stand against the schemes of the devil. We’re told that the armor is the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, the readiness given by the gospel of peace for our feet, the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming darts of evil, the helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:14-17). For the blog I needed to make sure that double opt-in box was checked at all times to thwart hackers from using it in harmful ways.
Lord, in your mercy and grace, shine a bright light on our unnoticed weak spots, unguarded openings and unchecked boxes—however you choose to do that—so we may see them for what they are, accept that they’re there and receive your healing, protection and cover. Let us not be used by the enemy to hurt ourselves or others, but instead move ahead in faith and courage, in the name of Jesus we pray!