When I was a young teenager, I was really into reading these books for teens on spiritual warfare. The books followed the lives of a brother and sister who had spiritual encounters with the occult, the demonic, witchcraft, etc. They were written in a way that showed God always overcomes evil and the importance of the Armor of God, however they scared me to death. So much of the book was written to help the readers see that the occult is nothing to delve into while the brother and sister and the power of God didn't overcome evil until the climax of the book - as every good suspense book is written. But as a young teenager, this made me VERY afraid of the devil.
I had read the scriptures and grown up in Bible teaching churches and a Christian family. I knew the devil was out to kill, steal, and destroy. He is the accuser of God's people. He isn't someone to poke a stick at. After reading those books, I had nightmares. Terrible ones. I could tell you story after story of nights when I woke up paralyzed by fear, hardly having a voice to pray and ask for help. This waned for a time, but shortly after I moved to an area that was inundated with witchcraft the dreams came back. The overwhelming fear came back. The spititual oppression came back full force. I would wake up and feel like my voice disappeared. I would wake up and feel a presence in my room. If my voice came back, I would just starting worshipping and saying out loud, "Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord." I felt like the darkness was haunting and taunting me.
Listen. We are NOT meant to live this way. We are NOT meant to be afraid of the dark, afraid of the demonic, afraid of the enemy. We are NOT meant to hide and cower until he goes away and leaves us alone. We are NOT meant to look for the devil hiding behind every bush in every circumstance. Let's not give him that much credit. He doesn't have any power over us unless we hand it over to him.
I began to understand this about 8 years ago, but God has been showing me some new things about where I stand with the devil.
I have heard it said so many times by believers, "greater levels, greater devils." Maybe that's true, I can't say for sure. I don't see much of a biblical precedent for that, but circumstantially speaking, the statement seems to carry some weight. "Greater levels, greater devils" is a statement which implies that the closer we get to God, the more the enemy is going to attack us. The attacks will get greater and greater, harder and harder as we draw near to God and his plan.
I don't know that I fully subscribe to that statement. I think sometimes that may be true, but I don't know if that is a steadfast rule for every believer.
There is a verse in the New Testament (1 John 3:8) that says Jesus came to "destroy the works of the devil." So if I think about it beyond Jesus' 33 years on earth, I have to understand something very important. The devil is still prowling the earth looking for who he can devour, he is still the prince and power of the air, he hasn't been thrown into the lake of fire yet. Jesus ascended into heaven and gave us his Spirit who gives us access to ALL of God's power. ALL of it. Not just some of it, but ALL of it. Did we get that? The power that raised dead men to life, healed the sick, and made blind people see clearly is LIVING INSIDE OF US. And we have FULL ACCESS to that. On top of that, we are made to walk in the footsteps of Christ, fulfilling the mission he has put before us. Our lives and paths may look different, but we are purposed and equipped to DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL, just like Jesus. We aren't on the defense y'all! We are offensive players. We are STALKING the darkness.
I think each time we submit more fully to God and begin to fulfill our purpose, we come up against a spiritual wall. We enter into enemy territory and we are purposed to DESTROY the enemy in that territory. That territory belongs to God and we are the ones to TAKE IT BACK for God. We walk in a constant state of victory because our brother, Jesus, extended all of his power to us. We have full access to the resources of heaven and perfect victory, but it's up to us to go to God and receive it.
We are not made to be afraid of the enemy. We are made new in Christ so that he is AFRAID OF US. We are made to stalk the darkness, take back territory, and reign as sons and daughters of the most powerful, most loving, most righteous, most holy, most gracious, MOST HIGH GOD. El Elyon.
We have nothing to fear for our God is with us. Emmanuel. He provides the resources to secure the victory. Jehovah-Jireh. We have ranking over the enemy because we belong to the Almighty God. El Shaddai.
So let's stop cowering in fear. Let's stop doing what keeps us safe and start doing what we were purposed to do:
STALK the darkness. DESTORY the works of the devil. TAKE BACK territory.
I'm about to say something that is probably going to bother you, but hang tight...
It has become a fad for people, most commonly millennials, to label themselves as suffering from a mental illness e.g. anxiety, depression, panic attacks, ptsd, etc. Can I just say this... if you have not been officially diagnosed by a mental health professional (i.e. a DOCTOR), you most definitely should not attribute any of those labels to yourself. I do not care how sure you are that you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder or that you are clinically depressed. If you really believe you are suffering from a mental illness, please, for your own wellbeing, go see a mental health professional and begin treatment, let your church family surround you in prayer and support, find a healthy hobby, stay connected to other people, take all your burdens to God as often as you feel their weight. Don't go this alone. Don't wait for things to calm down. Don't talk yourself out of it. Don't think for even one moment that you don't need help. But labeling yourself without a diagnosis only belittles those who are suffering horrific pain and increases some of the stigmas surrounding mental illness.
I have had several diagnoses over the past decade concerning my mental health. Initially, I was diagnosed as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder and severe Panic Attacks. A few years later, we added Major Depressive Disorder to the list along with Insomnia. A few months following that, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was also on my diagnosis sheet. After seeing my doctor and therapist a couple times a week for several months and changing medication after medication trying to find something to help ease the pain of these mental illnesses, we made a sobering discovery. I wasn't just depressed. I wasn't just anxious. I was Bipolar.
I. WAS. BIPOLAR.
Let me just tell you, coming to grips with that label was one of the scariest things I have been through in my life. If I accepted the label "bipolar", what would that say about me? What would that say about my faith? The story behind this journey and diagnosis is for another time, but tonight, I just want to share with you a truth God revealed through this time that altered my world and the course of my life.
Our words become worlds.
I came to know that truth in some very painful ways, but I'm a better woman for it. Proverbs 18 tells us that our words have the power of life and death in them, James 3 tells us that our words determine the course of our lives and if not carefully guarded, it can start a fire that will burn our world to ash around us.
Unfortunately, for a time in my life, I let the term "bipolar" become the focus of all my thought life and conversations with myself and a select few. It consumed me. I was speaking death over myself day and night. Because of my agreement with the enemy that I would never find balance, I would never feel free again, I would never find peace, I burned my world to the ground. I was on the brink of losing everything good in my life. The words of hopelessness I had spoken over my life had become the world in which I was living. The atmosphere inside me had become the atmosphere around me.
Whether it is because of a very real diagnosis or the trend of a generation, we make mental illness our friend. We invite it to come hang out with us day and night. We give it much more attention than we give the God who heals. We agree with our lack, so much so that I would dare say we revel in our lack. We wear it as a badge of honor instead of embracing the truth that we were not made to be broken. We were not created to carry a design flaw. Brokenness entered the world through agreement with Satan in the Garden of Eden. Why are we still agreeing with him???
I have been diagnosed as Bipolar. It is a mental illness I live with, but it does not define who I am. You won't hear me talking all over Facebook about the anxiety it produces, posting article after article about the debilitating depression or funny memes about the insanity of a full blown manic episode. Why is that? Because I do NOT agree with that destiny on my life. Yes it's so important to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness, but it is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT to introduce hurting people to a healing God! It is so much more important to inject HOPE into a hopeless diagnosis.
I agree with the destiny God himself laid out for me before time began. I agree with the HEALER who promises by his wounds I will be healed physically and spiritually. I agree with the God who created me for HOPE and FUTURE. I believe that death and sickness have no place in Heaven and I am a citizen of Heaven! I am a child of the Most High God. I don't have the time or the right to agree with the enemy that I am doomed to suffer, that I will always fear social situations, that answering the phone will always be a nightmare to me, that I will never overcome crippling depression, that I will always fear losing control during mania.
MY GOD IS BIGGER THAN THAT. Yes, He has allowed me to walk this portion of my journey, and perhaps the rest of my journey on this side of Heaven, with a diagnosis, but HE provides my stability and HE provides my hope. Instead of focusing and glorifying the pain I carry, I will focus on and glorify the One who takes my pain and bears my burdens. He can and will heal our sickness. He can and will bring strength into our weakness.
So friends, can we stop labeling ourselves "ANXIOUS PERSON" and instead take on the label God ascribes? Can we quit making our sickness more important than the Healer? Can we quit drawing attention to ourselves and our sufferings and instead draw all eyes toward Heaven to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine?
Let's put our faith to the test and start agreeing with God. I WILL NOT live a life defined by anxiety and fear. I WILL NOT live a life defined by depression. I WILL NOT live a life defined by a diagnosis. No matter how true it may be, the TRUTH is my God supplies all my needs. His resources are endless and He has and will move Heaven and earth for me.
If the things we say have life and death in them, I'm going to start speaking some life into my circumstances. If the words we say can burn our worlds to the ground or alter the path of our lives, I'm going to set my eyes right on Jesus, not my problems, and start agreeing with what He says about who I am. So, friend, are you with me?
I love shooting stars. They feel magical. Seeing one is like seeing a hidden treasure in the sky. In the blink of an eye, the magic comes and goes. You may have been the only person in the world to see the magic. There's something that feels so special about shooting stars to me.
When I was a kid, I used to wish on shooting stars. Part of me knew it was just a wish and there was no real magic attached to it, but I was also the kid who believed in Santa until I was 12 so... I was hanging onto hope. I wanted so bad to believe in the magic.
Finding out that shooting stars were more equivalent to space trash than a star was a huge let down. Just chunks of rock and dust hitting the atmosphere and burning up. I couldn't go looking for a star imbedded in the earth. Light didn't really fall from the sky. There was no magic. No treasure. Those wishes were never coming true.
Sometimes, I think we treat hope like a shooting star. We put our hope in things that are fleeting. They come and go in the blink of an eye. Things that seem so magical, but in reality, most of the time it's just space trash - a meteor - in comparison to a real star.
For instance, this morning I had a revelatory experience. During my quiet time (which is laying in bed with one eye open, reading my devotional, hoping my children don't know I'm awake yet), God showed me some real truth. I've been putting my hope in space trash instead of the star. I've been putting my hope in a new house, the next step in life, moving forward in my career. If we could just get out of debt, I would feel so much better. If we could just get into that house, things would be so much easier. If I could just get this job, I wouldn't feel so stuck.
All of that stuff is space trash. Those things are fleeting. They are beautiful, but so so temporary. The Lord showed me that in those areas, I was hoping for something instead of someone. I was hoping for fulfillment in accomplishments or acquired things instead of finding fulfillment in Him, regardless if we get that house, I make that career move, we get out of debt.
Don't get me wrong, those are all good things to hope FOR, but not to put hope IN. I had subconsciously begun to believe that in acquiring those things, I would find happiness. I would be content. I would be fulfilled. Reality check: I've had those things before and I was still searching for the next thing. Something else to fill a hole.
It seems so "following Jesus 101", but if we aren't careful, we can so easily fall back into that mindset without even realizing it. Putting my hope in Jesus, which I think means giving my hope to Him to hold and manage, gives me peace no matter where I'm at in life. Putting my hope in Jesus' hands gives me the ability to enjoy and love the stage of life I'm in without feeling rushed to get to the next level. My hope placed in Jesus means I have the presence of mind to see all He wants me to see, learn what He is teaching, love more easily, trust more fully, and be filled with joy and contentment.
So, friend, is your hope in space trash granting your wishes or our eternal star, giver of light and life, Jesus? Is your hope in acquiring certain items, gaining status, a specific image, or accomplishing goals or have you placed your hope firmly in the hands of Christ to hold and manage?
I have some work to do.