Demonic Influence vs Regular Mental Illness
I’m not about to assert here that all mental illness is demonic, however, in secular psychology it is left out entirely. Even among Christian’s we find the idea that certain mental health disturbances being related to the unseen and invisible as preposterous. Mainly most likely because of our American culture we believe such occurrences seldom exist, but in other parts of the world this idea is not as outlandish.
In Christ’s day and in Biblical history it was recorded however, so if it happened then, them why would it not now?
Paul exhorts believers to gear up for battle against these unseen spiritual enemies and forces of wickedness.
Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readinessfor the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith,and with it you will be able to extinguishall the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit,which is God’s word. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
The thing about evil spirits is throughout scripture they seem to have a reoccurring pattern of tactics. I do not for one moment think all mental illness is physiological, but many cases can be spiritual.
Take King Saul as a prime example, his jealousy and disobedience opened him up to such attacks and the later part of his reign was marked by paranoid fear and jealous rage.
1 Samuel 18:10-11 The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.
The king had no need to despise David, David had been loyal and faithful to king Saul in spite of David being told he would be the next king. Yet as the scriptures say, “Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”
So one way evil spirits can influence the mind is paranoia. Sometimes people attack those who care about them the most only out of ill suspicion and a misguided hunch.
The name Diabolos where we get the name devil means “slanderer”
The devil loves to slander and stir up suspicion and ill will among people. Not only so, the devil most enjoys slandering God to us and us to God.
Job 1, Zechariah 3:2, Jude 1:9
Lets take a look at a troubled man whom Jesus set free:
Mark 5:1-15 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
What were the characteristics of this man?
1.) Self destructive and abusive
2.) He thought Christ had come to “torture” him. – We see the evil spirits influencing his life lied to him about the character of Christ and God. Jesus had no intention to destroy the man but set him free.
3.) This man isolated from society. – Satan loves to isolate people in bondage, even Christians, in fact he would delight to see a Christian isolate from fellow believers out of, shame, fear, guilt, or a list of other reasons. Like a lion that tries to isolate its prey from the strength of the herd so the devil and his angels seek to isolate us.
Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Isolation and darkness cause problems, often many psychiatric problems can be traced back to guilt. Guilt can weigh heavily on the mind and heart and eventually drive a person mad, in Edgar Allen Poe’s classic story the “Tell Tale Heart” the man in the narrative murders a man because of his strange eye, and if he was not a lunatic before that the guilt of murder was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Proverbs 28:17 A man burdened by blood guilt will be a fugitive until death.Let no one help him.
Psalm 38:18 So I confess my guilt;I am anxious because of my sin.
A guilty conscience can drive people literally toward insanity.
Paranoia or evil suspicion or over possessiveness can be a drain too, ever heard of a story with a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend who seems to snap and stalk or go crazy in suspicion their lover is cheating, even if it is unfounded or false. They will get sick over it, overly clingy or fly into jealous rages as eventually sanity exits the building entirely. To be so possessive to such a level that you begin to be suspicious without any probable evidence shows both a serious rationale issue and heart issue.
On the mental level the overactive out of control imagination creates fictitious incidences, and from a heart level fear has strangled the life out of the individual so as to make them place their entire trust and security in a human being as the end all be all for life, hope and security. This is idolatry and I wish I could say I do not struggle personally with these temptations but I can certainly to some degree acknowledge how strong they can be.
Not all these things are directly related to evil spiritual forces, some just spring freely out of our fallen nature and sinful brokenness. However, lets consider sociopaths or psychotic twisted killers as an example: Some individuals thoroughly enjoy torturing people and animals and get an intense thrill out of such maniacal behavior, most often the regular garden variety sinful human being does not stoop that low, but it makes you wonder if people that do go that low are no longer just feeding normal sinful tendencies but rather have given themselves so much over to their sin that they are being influenced by demons themselves.
I believe opening up doors can allow evil into people’s lives such as the occult, or unresolved anger as Ephesians 4 speaks of, as well as other sins. Unforgiveness is another terrible prison.
Strongholds can develop if we do not deal with them. Lust can be a terrible stronghold, fear, or unbelief. These all can build fortresses if we are not careful.
If we were computers, when we sin we indeed go into the unknown of the internet of life, as you all know on a regular computer you can get certain viruses from certain types of websites. Now imagine if that were true for humans, demonic influence is like computer viruses that affect our thinking and deceive our minds and hijack our thoughts.
We must as Christians not fear demons or Satan but rather have a healthy fear of God, but we do not want to mock the enemy in our arrogance either, arrogance and a prideful attitude is just an open invitation to temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.
Matthew 26:41 Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Luke 11:4 And forgive us our sins,for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. And do not bring us into temptation.”
We must pray and fight against such things whether they are sins of the flesh (the fallen nature) or whether they are attacks of the unseen.