I remember the feeling constantly haunting me.
I was certain I was going to die young.
I was certain I would never get to experience marriage or pregnancy or motherhood or any of life’s monumental joys.
Not only was I sure I’d die young, but I was relatively certain I would be the one to take my own life.
Since the moment I had stared at my dad’s body on a morgue table with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his chest, a spirit of death had come upon me and, from that point forward, consistently sold me vicious lies, packaged to look and sound like truth.
I was a Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-filled, ministry-leading young woman who was regularly plagued by thoughts of suicide and inescapable feelings of oppression and death. Not because it was anything I desired, but because my soul was the battleground for a very real degree of spiritual affliction that I was completely ill-equipped to recognize and fight at that point in my faith journey.
Nobody had ever taught me about true spiritual warfare. Nobody had spoken up about the reality of unclean spirits and the doors we often leave open for the enemy to maintain jurisdiction over areas of our hearts and lives.
I didn’t grow up in a denomination that taught much about deliverance, so I assumed it was my responsibility to do my best to cope.
To cope with the feelings of oppression I just couldn’t quite shake.
To simply cope and focus on my desire for happiness.
When I opened the Holy Word of God, I frequently read of Jesus casting out demons and the power of God to break the chains of bondage to unclean spirits in our lives, but nobody around me was talking about how I could practically be set free of my own struggles. So I assumed I was supposed to quietly find balance between both, faith in Jesus, and the need to somehow keep my restless and anxious thoughts in check.
But Jesus didn’t take the cross and rise from the grave, conquering sin and death -- overthrowing darkness and bringing a new administration of mercy and grace -- in order for us to cope. Jesus came to set the captives FREE. To deliver us from evil and give us the Holy Spirit as our Guide and our Helper so we can move through this fallen, oppressed world reigned by an enemy who is slick and deceiving (2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31), with great authority, power and victory over the dark spirits that delight in our self-destruction.
You see, in John 10:10 Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come that they may have LIFE, and have LIFE in all its fullness.”
Jesus was never apprehensive about addressing the realities of spiritual warfare and the prevalence of unclean spirits. He came to make us aware of who our true enemy is (Ephesians 6:12), and to equip us to recognize the schemes of darkness (2 Corinthians 2:11).
It’s why one of the very first things Jesus did when He began His ministry was cast out an unclean spirit (Mark 1:25-28). It’s why one of the first instructions Jesus gave the disciples when He sent them out was to cast out demons (Luke 9:1-2). It’s why, in Jesus’ final message before ascending to Heaven, He noted that one miraculous sign that will accompany those who believe in Him will be the authority and power to cast out demons in His name (Mark 16:16-18).
Jesus spent His ministry educating us to the reality that the affliction we face in this life is not simply a matter of mental health, or physical health, or emotional health. No, the reality of the battles we are fighting are of spiritual health. And He has given us the ability, through the power, love, rescue and restoration offered by the Holy Spirit, to armor up and fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).
IF WE TRULY DESIRE TO MAKE HEADWAY IN THE ARENA OF MENTAL HEALTH, THEN WE MUST BEGIN TO SPEAK OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH.
I will never forget when I was delivered from the spirit of death that had afflicted me for so long. I was speaking at a church in Colorado and during a gap in our itinerary, the leadership team invited me back into their offices. They were so full of lovingkindness and so earnest in their care for me.
They sensed in their hearts that I was wrestling with something and explained that they were passionate about seeing people set free from spiritual affliction. That was where I first learned the power of simply speaking about the affliction we are enduring. We take ground from the enemy who is shaming us into silence when we find courage to articulate our struggle.
I began to open up about this nagging feeling of death and doom that was haunting me and without missing a beat they began to pray some of the most powerful and specific prayers I had ever heard. They led me through warfare prayers that broke generational curses, claimed victory over the enemy in Jesus’ name, and reclaimed jurisdiction in my soul from the grip of unclean spirits.
We repented of sins, prayed God would search my heart and draw to mind areas of unforgiveness in my life, areas of deceit, areas of disobedience. We prayed and repented and asked God to cover even the sins I could not draw to mind (Psalm 19:12). And then we praised and trusted. We praised God for His faithfulness to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), we prayed the blood of Jesus over my life -- that I would be sanctified by His love (Hebrews 10:10-14).
I was amazed. And speechless. And couldn’t quite wrap my head around all that had just happened, but my spirit felt instant relief. The next morning, I woke up feeling legitimately renewed and from that day forward I was never again afflicted by fears of premature death, thoughts of my inevitable capacity to commit suicide, or doomed feelings of oppression or tragic loss.
I was truly free. In Jesus’ name, I was loosed of that unclean spirit and God’s power was put on display in my life in a miraculous way.
There were definite benefits to the ways the world had offered me help up until that point, but no grief counseling or anti-depression medications had been a complete prescription to the affliction of my soul. They had treated the symptoms, but never uprooted the cause. I needed Jehovah Rapha, the Great Physician, the One Who is mighty to save, to do surgery on my suffering spirit.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy our society is beginning to address mental health. It is very real, very important, and a layer of our wellbeing that is essential to nurture. However, mental health issues are not the sole answer to the cause of suicide. It is one layer of the problem, but it’s not the exhaustive answer to the strangleholds we are wrestling with in growing proportions.
We must recognize that there is spiritual warfare that is real and tangible and we must fight for those around us who are afflicted and don’t know true deliverance or the hope of healing. We must become warriors of intercession. Part of the reason Christ came was to show us how to set the captives free, how to cast out demons, to heal, to love, and to move in power and authority. If we truly desire to make headway in the arena of mental health, then we must begin to speak of spiritual health and the Holy Spirit’s power to completely transform us from the inside out -- leading to the complete and transformative renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2).