I expect most people know where I am headed with this post, but there is some rough terrain to be covered first. Alone with God is a wonderful place to be, but there are a host of other spirits vying for our attention.
When destructive thoughts come – anger, envy, lust, suspicion, resentment and the like – do they come from our own minds, or do they have an outside source? We are surrounded by spiritual enemies who will test us with such thoughts. And there is something within us, our natural tendency to look out for number one, that sides with these thoughts. Most of us can see where these thoughts will lead us and reject them. Some people become obsessed with them. The more they dwell on them, the more real they appear, causing people to mistrust and withdraw from friends and family. This only aggravates the mental anguish and the belief that it is all true.
At the extreme, such thoughts open the door to thoughts of suicide. Five:15, an online Christian magazine by and for First Nations people, recently carried an article entitled Suicide is a Spirit. The writer tells of her own experience and concludes that suicide is a powerful demonic attack, not mental illness. A cloud of despair, hopelessness and darkness descended on her, bringing pictures of a noose to her mind night and day, showing her just how to tie it and telling her it was the only way out. She prayed, read the Bible and tried everything she could think of to shake those feelings and thoughts. Nothing worked.
One day, she read Psalm 103 and saw a glimmer of hope. Her pastor came over and she shared her struggle with him and what she had found in the Psalm. Still, that night the struggle was worse than ever and she almost yielded. At 3:00 a.m. she remembered a toll free prayer line. She called and a counsellor read to her the same Psalm that she had read during the day. As he prayed, she realized that she was not alone, that God was with her and had directed the counsellor, 2,000 km away, to the same Scripture she had read during the day. The troubling spirit left her then. Others did not find that help and there were 13 suicides by hanging in her community not long after.
I do not want to say that all troubled minds are due to demonic attacks; there is genuine mental illness, often with a physical cause or due to some traumatic event. No one should be discouraged from seeking professional help by well-meaning Christians who believe all such emotional and mental troubles are a sign of a spiritual problem.
On the other hand, we need to be aware that there are troubled minds that are due to demonic activity. As Christians, we need to listen to the broken and hurting people in our midst, pray with them and pray for them. There is no pat, one size fits all, answer. We need the direction of the Holy Spirit to be able to offer help and support, rather than criticism.
Jesus promised that He would be with us always, that He would never leave us nor forsake us. If we are truly born again children of God, we are never alone. Other spirits try to make us forget that, to doubt if it is even possible. At times like that, we need to connect with fellow believers who can bring us back to reality. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.