Spiritual Warfare and Mental Illness
The phrase, "TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN" has been on my heart the past couple of days. You might be wonder why, but let me explain. When it comes to mental illnesses, we often believe that it doesn't concern us. Maybe we feel like we have not/will not have an issue with or be affected by mental illness. Let me start off by saying, this is so far from the truth.
About a month ago, my soon-to-be mother-in-law decided to take her own life. She had been struggling with bipolar disorder for as long as she could remember, and, as the years went on, it began to get a whole lot worse. Needless to say, she was in an extremely dark place in which she felt there was no way out.
The truth is, this world is broken, confusing, dumb, evil, stressful, and downright sinful, but there is overwhelming joy and peace in our Lord Christ Jesus. Here is where the story gets a little uncomfortable, and for the people reading this who know me well, you will probably be shocked and maybe even confused.
Remember how I said that many people believe that mental illness has not and will not affect them? I'm here to tell you that I was in the same boat. The only problem is, I was allowing Satan to make me believe that I was on a cruise ship when in reality I was most definitely hanging on the side of a piece of wood holding on for dear life (Yes that was a Titanic reference).
As I sat in my room only one short week after getting back from a time with family and mourning, I found myself thinking some pretty awful things. While staring at a bottle of allergy medicine, I began to think, "If I wanted to commit suicide, I could right now." In this moment, my heart began to race. We have all had a suicidal thought at least ONCE in our lives. Remember that time when you sat in your room after your parents were arguing and you asked yourself, "What if I wasn't here anymore? Maybe they wouldn't fight if I was dead." or "No one is listening to me, and no one cares about me. No one would miss me if I just ended it all right now." These are all suicidal thoughts, and I am here to tell you that Satan does a great job of getting into your head, but there is hope.
The thoughts that gallivanted in my head terrified me. As my brain began to race, I ended up at a point in which I was actually questioning if I would ever commit suicide.
This brings us to the idea of spiritual warfare. In short, spiritual warfare is a time in which the devil REALLY doesn't want you to talk to God, spend time with God, or even think about God. It feels like he is spending all his time on you in order to make you fall, or in this case, stop the testimony that God has so blessed you with.
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (2 PETER 5:8)
I don't know about you, but that verse is just a little scary. The devil is literally trying to EAT YOU! The devil is trying to get into your thoughts in order to kill you! This is something that we as Christians cannot take lightly! I have realized that when we allow sin to enter our lives, whether it be lying, unforgiveness, sexual sins, murder, lust, etc., we allow Satan to have a foothold in our lives. YES--as Christians we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, but if we do not allow God to work in us, then who are we following? When we spend all of our time in sin, then why expect anything less than sinful thoughts and actions?
The beginning of the verse stated "Be self-controlled and alert." God commands us to prepare for the day in which the devil will attack, meaning it is inevitable that the devil is going to attack. Do not, for a second think that you are going to go through life without spiritual warfare, because I am here to tell you that you will. Better yet, you are more than likely going to go through a type of spiritual warfare that you never even expected. For myself, I never once thought that suicidal thoughts were going to be my spiritual warfare, yet here I am telling you that it is.
So often, our society feels that the talk of suicide should not be shared. For our society, suicide is like taboo. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2014 suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Did you know that almost 43,000 people die by suicide in America each year?
Let me help you get one thing straight--This does concern you! This will always concern you. This has always concerned you. We are a body of believers who are called to stand together.
For those of you who are struggling through emotional stress (anxiety, depression, grief, you name it), let me tell you a little secret. If you stay in your Word, if you confess your sins to the Lord and to people who are trustworthy, if you forgive those who you have been holding a grudge against, if you bring yourself to a place where you NEED people and you NEED God, you are going to be okay. You are going to realize that your testimony is just getting started. You will see that the Lord who you gave your life to so many years ago IS most definitely working through and for you.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (PSALM 23:4)
In 2011, a close friend of mine showed me this verse in a way that will stick with me forever. The author, David, uses a word that we so often find little meaning to. He says, "Even though I walk THROUGH..." God will and has always brought his children out of the darkness. My Father in heaven has always brought me out of the pain and suffering. Your Lord and Savior has always brought you out of the things you thought were going to take a lifetime. You need only, but to wait on him.
"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (PSALM 27:14)