When we read in Acts 8:7 of unclean spirits crying out, the Eastern (Aramaic) text reads: “Many who were mentally afflicted cried out”. This is because, according to George Lamsa, “”Unclean spirits” is an Aramaic term used to describe lunatics” (3). It should be noted that Lamsa was a native Aramaic speaker with a fine understanding of Aramaic terms. He grew up in a remote part of Kurdistan which had maintained the Aramaic language almost unchanged since the time of Jesus. It’s significant that Lamsa’s extensive writings indicate that he failed to see in the teachings of Jesus and Paul any support for the popular conception of the devil and demons- he insisted that the Semitic and Aramaic terms used by them have been misunderstood by Western readers and misused in order to lend support for their conceptions of a personal devil and demons.
Chuck goes on to explain that any time there is a ‘demon’ mentioned in Scripture, it’s actually mental illness at fault.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
David talked about green pastures, still waters, and restoring our souls, which are all images of rest, Psalm 23:2-3:
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
The author of Hebrews talks about a rest for believers. All of Hebrews 4 is good, but I’ll just quote 9-11a:
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest…
How does this rest work? Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This rest, this peace, works through prayer and spending time in the presence of God. When I say ‘prayer’, I don’t mean a mechanical, rote prayer, necessarily, but a personal prayer. I have said before that the most holy prayer that I know of is the simplest: “Lord, help!” I believe that that kind of simple, honest prayer is God’s favorite kind.
Note that this peace, this rest, requires some action on our part in every case. Jesus says in Matthew 11 to come to Him for rest. In Psalm 23, we have to let the Lord make us lie down in green pastures, to teach us how to rest. In Hebrews, we’re told to be diligent in entering that rest. And in Philippians, we’re told to pray.
Practically speaking, here are a few things you can do to stay in rest and peace:
Spend time in the presence of God. If you’re not sure how, get a copy of The Practice of the Presence of God (it’s available everywhere for free or cheap) and read it slowly and prayerfully, asking God to reveal it to you. (I have a couple of posts on this book here and here.)
Pray. When an anxious thought comes up, give it over to God in simple prayer.
If you know how to pray in tongues, pray in tongues in addition to spoken prayer. Prayer in tongues builds up the inside man (1 Cor. 14:4) and, in my experience, often gives me peace where before there was none.
Be patient and know that you’re growing, even when it doesn’t look like it! This is something that has been on my heart a lot lately, being patient that God is teaching me and guiding me in his own time.
The next time you receive a bouquet of flowers or see a plate of fresh produce, take it at more than face value. Thank God for the meaning behind it. Reflect on the soil in which it grew, the seed that started it all, the sun and water that nourished it, and the Creator who designed it to begin with. Think of the hands God equipped to plant it and the time it took to grow. Apply it to your life and see just how God has grown you from a tiny seed to the flourishing person you are today. It is only by God’s grace. (Maddie Dumas, ‘God’s Green Earth’)
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)
Know that you’re being taught by the Holy Spirit, little by little. You’re not behind, you’re right on time.
“To whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from the milk,
those taken from the breast?
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.” (Isa 28:9-10)
I hope these suggestions will help you reach more peace in your life. Along with Paul, I pray…
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (Eph. 1:17-19)
Yesterday afternoon, I was catching up with some YouTube sermons of a preacher I used to follow, when a scripture he was teaching out of really caught me, 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
The Mirror has it thusly:
In the light of your co-inclusion in his death and resurrection, whoever you thought you were before, in Christ you are a brand new person! The old ways of seeing yourself and everyone else are over. Acquaint yourself with the new!
I reckoned at that moment that my thinking had been wrong: I had been thinking that my life had ended five years ago, when I had a mental breakdown, and that I would never get past that–something along those lines. The shame of having broken inside was something from which I could never recover.
But I am a New Creation. It remains to be seen what I really am–but I know what I’m not.
I’m not crazy. I’m not a mental case. I’m not a hopeless wreck on the side of the road, doomed to rot. I’ve been born again. My life isn’t over–it’s just getting started. I’m new inside–a kainos creation (new in quality and kind).
Therefore I can move on. And since you are part of the new creation too, so can you.
One of the biggest problems that people with mental health issues have is their perception of themselves. The Church hasn’t been of much help in this, focusing on sin and depravity more than focusing on how God actually thinks about us. We think many thoughts daily that are unworthy of our grand position in Christ–and this goes for both believers and non-believers, for ‘God is no respecter of persons’. His opinion of us stands, no matter what.
I’ve collected a few quotes here that may help with this.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139)
I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of. For to have been thought about—born in God’s thoughts—and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, most precious thing in all thinking. – George MacDonald
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. – C.S. Lewis
Edit: I may have a partial solution to this problem, which I’ll write about soon.
I hope in the last post that you didn’t think that I have it all together now, because I don’t. Today I’m going to share with you something that I don’t have a solution for, just a partial answer. I post what I’ve found here in the hopes that perhaps we can find an answer together.
One of my chief difficulties lately has been dealing with the memories of past events–embarrassing things I have done and said from my childhood up until now. The embarrassment is just as acute as when I first did or said whatever it was. I can’t get it to go away easily. I kick myself around for a while. In Charismatic fashion, I’ve tried ‘binding’ the thought and ‘casting it down’, which doesn’t work.
Something that has helped me this week is this little phrase. I don’t know where it came from, because I can’t find an attribution:
I have sensations, but I am not those sensations.
I have feelings, but I am not those feelings.
I have thoughts, but I am not thoughts.
This has helped me let go of the thoughts a little easier: I have thoughts, but I am an observer of those thoughts, and those thoughts do not dictate who I am or how I live. They’re just noise, and I can be an impartial observer and just let those thoughts go, because they are not me.
This has helped me a little. I think that ultimately I am going to have to come to peace with myself and my past, and I don’t know how that will go. I am slowly learning to look inward and accept myself, but in the meantime, I press on and do whatever helps me get through the day. Sometimes getting through the day is the best you can do, and there’s no shame in that.
My teens and twenties were dominated by an obsession with music. At one point I owned over 1,000 compact discs. I would carry the huge binders in my car, ready to punch up on the stereo system in my old Buick (where the stereo system cost more than the car was worth).
Then I hit a religious point of zeal and get rid of all my ‘secular’ CDs. Anything by non-Christian musicians was out. I destroyed most of my music collection, believing that God wasn’t in the music and that he was unhappy with me.
They say that every man has a ‘God-shaped hole’. My problem was that I had some very large ‘God-absent’ holes in my life, areas where I was convinced that God would not go. I was afraid that if I listened to ‘secular’ music, that I would drive away the presence of God, so in order to please him, I needed to listen to Christian music only. This eventually narrowed to ‘worship music only’, so Jars of Clay was out and Hillsong was in. This made my world narrow and unpleasant! But God was happy with me in my misery, or so I thought.
The problem I constantly experienced was that I still loved the music that I had thrown away. Artists like Yes and Peter Gabriel and Genesis and Gentle Giant were ‘bad’, but I still missed their music terribly. I wasn’t supposed to miss it–after all, I had given it up ‘for God’, but I still did miss it. This caught me in a trap: this music is ‘evil’, I love the music, therefore some part of me must be ‘evil’.
When I finally got the revelation of grace and started emerging from legalism in 2010, I slowly discovered–very slowly discovered–that God was not absent from any place in my life. John Crowder talks about this bipolar idea in a post from today:
There are no unbaptized parts of our lives that are out of His range. Drop the double-minded polarity. It never occurred in the mind of God that creation would be something separate from Him. As soon as we wall God off from certain areas, we jump to a place of insanity – a religious schizophrenia. Delusional separation anxiety. He does not exist in this area of addiction, my finances, my health, my dysfunctional family relationships. Before you know it, we are locked into this false pagan mindset that is based entirely on a lie. We start forming personality disorders founded only upon smoke and mirrors.
God was always here – and is shining right now in the midst of the darkness. Even the darkness is as light to Him. Plato and Aristotle could see a dualistic split between light and darkness. Good and evil. Right and wrong. But the apostle John throws us a brain scrambler in the first chapter of his Gospel when he tells us that the light is shining in the darkness! (John 1:5). There is nowhere you can hide from the inescapable love of God.
I like that ‘there are no unbaptized parts of my life’, because that leaves me free to enjoy listening to Yes or the Beach Boys and enjoy that music as much (or more) than that of Hillsong United or Jesus Culture. Whenever I get in my car, I’m free to whatever I want: I can cue up a sermon or a podcast if I’m curious about something, or just toss in a CD by whatever artist and enjoy it.
That freedom took years for God to work into my life. But the good news is, the freedom is there, and always available.
Allow God to set you free. Allow yourself to love the music. There is no secular-sacred divide any more. No part of your life scares God away. If you’re in sin, stop! But you’re not in sin when you’re just living your life.