When Demons Rule People

by Julie Anne Fidler, BB Weekly Contributor

   1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 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. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 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!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

   “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

 11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 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.

 14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 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. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:1-20

I have often wondered about this demon-possessed man. The image is striking – he was held captive by demons, and yet no earthly chains could hold him. His behavior sounds familiar to many of us who have lived in the grip of mental illness. Crying out? Cutting himself? I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Is this a story about mental illness before anyone could prescribe drugs to treat it?

I think the wording of this story is especially interesting – the Bible here refers to the demons as “impure spirits.” The King James Version refers to the demons as “unclean spirits.” It seems to indicate that Satan is much more than horns and a pointy tail. “Unclean” and “impure” could mean so many things.

The first time someone suggested I might be dealing with some form of demonic oppression in my life I thought they were crazy. Horror films have made us believe that people who “have demons” always kill people with their minds or cause things to catch on fire by pure will. The Bible includes some scary images of demons, but Satan does his best work by being subtle. It’s a lot harder to believe in demons if they’re not spitting blood directly in your face.

Satan uses daily life against us. He uses our professional struggles to make us think we’re unworthy of success; he uses our financial problems to make us believe we’re not as good as other people; he uses our painful pasts to make us buy the lie that we will never be able to overcome who we used to be.

Mental illness alters the way we see ourselves and the world around us. It makes everything seem dark even though there is reason to rejoice. It robs us of stability and even the ability to reason. I truly believe that mental illness is the enemy’s way of fighting against everything that Jesus really wants us to be. What could be more impure or unclean than that?

The King James Version of verse 20 uses the word “publish” instead of “tell”. The man began to publish in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. I can relate to the demon-oppressed man’s pain but I can also relate to his healing. Jesus might drive all of my demons into the bodies of pigs someday, but for now He has quieted my unquiet mind with the right medications, counseling, and a support system. I rejoice in that, and I publish how much Jesus has done for me.

That’s how we can kick the devil back – by being thankful that help is available. I am thankful that Jesus Christ has quieted the stormy seas in my soul. I know that Satan wants to use mental illness against me, and knowing your opponent is half the battle.

Get grounded in the truth, draw close to God, and let Him cleanse the impure and unclean things that have kept you bound but crying out for so long.

Julie Anne Fidler is a contributing writer for Brokenbelievers.com.  She comes with a humble and understanding heart for those with a mental illness.  Her writing gift is valued greatly.  Look for her post weekly, on this blog.   She keeps a personal ministry blog at www.mymentalhealthday.blogspot.com.  Read more there.

Getting Down and Dirty

by Julie Anne Fidler, BB Weekly Contributor

I have a confession to make: I used to avoid church. It wasn’t because the overhead lighting gave me migraines (even though it did.) It wasn’t because my lazy cat had more pep than the worship team, or because I always managed to find a pew filled with screaming children throwing Goldfish crackers. In reality, I have been a member of two churches over the past ten years and both of them were great, Bible-believing churches.

It’s just that everyone in church is so darn perfect, you know? Look around you. Everyone has it all together. Sure, those kids may be throwing crackers, but they’re destined to become evangelists. The women have great hair and impeccable fashion taste and are obviously dream wives. The men never struggle with lust and have never been guilty of spending too many hours at the office.


But this has been my impression of church for as long as I can remember. The older I get, the more I realize how crazy that is, but I do battle with the concept even now. Church is supposed to be the one place where we get really honest with God, others, and ourselves.  It’s the place where you are supposed to show up with your dirt and your bruises. We are supposed to reach out and say, “Life is hard; help me.” Too often, however, we wear our best, not just on the outside, but on the inside. We want to blend in, look content, and seem overjoyed with the life we are leading.

Even if I never had a mental illness, I would struggle. The fact that I do have one makes it that much harder because I know that a couple of pills mean the difference between being OK and all my engines completely shutting down.  I know that being obedient to Christ becomes a million times harder when I’m sick. I also know that if I shared this part of my life with everyone in that sanctuary, I’d be met with suspicion and disappointment – not by everyone, but by some.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Oh, but I definitely struggle with fear. I know I shouldn’t. I know there’s no good reason to, but I do. I fear the reaction of others. I fear I cannot measure up to the standards of others. I fear looking like a fool.

I deal with these fears by facing them. Don’t get the wrong idea – I’m not trying to frame myself as a martyr.  Some people willingly jump out of airplanes. Some people get as high as the clouds, freak out, and have to be coaxed out the door. I have to be coaxed, but the more I do it, the easier it gets.  I want to be the real me when I walk through those church doors, when I go to a small group, when I sit down with a Christian friend for coffee. Jesus went to the dark places. He knelt down in the gutters. He got dirty. I don’t want to spend my life wearing a lily white uniform.

I want the Church to understand mental illness. As it stands, I think the Church is afraid of it. Of course you are going to be afraid of something you don’t understand. If I want the Church to understand mental illness and effectively reach out to “the least of these” who are suffering with it, I have to introduce them to it. I have to get dirty. I have to be honest about my own time in the gutter, my own days of wandering, if I want them to understand and respond in love.

I may run into resistance and fear, but even if I educate one person in the process, that’s one more voice speaking the truth and cracking the façade. I take a point away from the enemy, who is the creator of fear. Don’t be silent about who you are and what you battle. Trade in your spotless uniform for some dirty rags. Let’s get the Church a little dirty. Let’s love them into loving those who are lost and alone.

Julie Anne Fidler is a contributing writer for Brokenbelievers.com.  She comes with a humble and understanding heart for those with a mental illness.  Her writing gift is valued greatly.  Look for her post weekly, on this blog.   She keeps a personal ministry blog at www.mymentalhealthday.blogspot.com.  Read more there.

Beauty Sleep

by Julie Anne Fidler, BB Weekly Contributor

Sleep is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Of the many bipolar symptoms I’ve dealt with over the course of my life, sleeplessness has been the toughest. Until I started taking a med called Seroquel, I never slept… ever. I remember telling my doctor that I had no recollection of a full night’s sleep. For nearly two years, Seroquel was sedating enough to provide me with rest. Rest isn’t the word for it. I was semi-comatose because of it, not that I’m complaining.

But the sedating effects wore off and for the past few months I have been stuck between three different kinds of insomnia. There are nights I can’t fall asleep at all and I spend the next day feeling like I’m battling the flu. Some nights I fall asleep only to wake up in the wee morning hours, long before the sun has even decided to wake up for the day and I can’t fall back to asleep. And other nights, I can’t fall asleep until the wee morning hours and I end up sleeping during the day.

Last week I could not sleep at all. I tried an over-the-counter sleep med that did squat. I cut out all the caffeine in my diet (I have a pretty bad coffee habit), and nothing would work. The result was a few days of relative instability. The rubber met the road for me, so to speak. I was feeling miserable, both physically and mentally, and the last thing I wanted to do was praise God or crack open my Bible. I didn’t want to do anything. I have a lot of hobbies but none of them appealed to me.

But I knew that if I wanted to pursue this ministry of helping others with mental illness, I had to do the things I told everyone else to do. And, so, I did. Reluctantly. Little bits at a time. I called a dear friend and mentor of mind and she prayed over the phone with me and I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Tears still fell, but I knew “mourning may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Of course, I knew I needed to do more than that. I knew I needed to solve my sleep problem. Man, everyone likes to make fun of Michael Jackson, but I get it. Not that I would ever inject Propofol into my veins, but I understand the exhaustion and frustration he must have been feeling. It’s hard to be human when you feel like a walking zombie.

I am now the proud owner of a bottle of Ambien. I was a little scared when my doctor prescribed it for me, because I have a friend who once hallucinated on it and thought her bed was surrounded by fairies. (At least it wasn’t ninjas, Taliban, or Chuck Norris.) I kept thinking, wow, the last thing I need is to hallucinate. Here’s one symptom I haven’t had yet, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I’m happy to report I have not hallucinated. I’m also happy to report that for the past three nights, when I go to bed, I fall asleep quickly and stay that way until morning. I’m even happier to report that I feel like a real person again – not a zombie, not emotionally unstable, just me. You know – normal crazy.

Far be it for me to leave you without a lesson, so here it goes.
Sleep disturbances are very common in people with mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder. If you’re waiting around for it to get better or avoiding having to take another pill (I’ve been guilty of this), give in. God made separate days for a reason. When you can’t sleep, they all blur into one big, never-ending day and it’s hard to see the newness and fresh hope of morning when every day is just an extension of the last. It makes sense that a malfunctioning brain would make for a malfunctioning body clock.

God wants you to have rest and hope. So, if you are not experiencing that today, make plans to get your life back.

Julie Anne Fidler is a contributing writer for Brokenbelievers.com.  She comes with a humble and understanding heart for those with a mental illness.  Her writing gift is valued greatly.  Look for her post weekly, on this blog.   She keeps a personal ministry blog at www.mymentalhealthday.blogspot.com.  Read more there.

Coffee, With a Shot of Truth

by Julie Anne Fidler, BB Weekly Contributor

I am sitting across from one of my best friends in a trendy little café, sipping coffee as we always do. We have been good friends for years; we can tell each other things. We can screw up and make amends. We know each other’s heart. We both love Jesus and came back to our faith after an extended period of wandering away. She is single and wants to be married. I am married and want to have children. There is a lot we can relate to, except for one issue.

My friend is depressed. I have never known her not to be. I’ve never known her to be suicidal, but she suffers from mild depression most of the time. It permeates her life and while she doesn’t see it as a nagging issue, I do. We have never had a conversation in which she does not bring it up. To her credit, she handles it well. In fact, I’d say she handles it better than I do a lot of the time. She is a social bug who constantly thrusts herself into activities, whereas I am more of an isolationist when I’m depressed.

No, the issue is not how she handles her depression. The issue is that she does not want to acknowledge her depression is an illness. She is stuck in the place I was in for so long – believing that if she could be a better person spiritually, she would not be depressed at all.  We’ve had “the talk” many times. I’ve told her about my own trials and tribulations and I’ve gone so far as to look up and explain the brain chemistry behind depression. She always insists she can handle it on her own.

It’s a free country and we can’t force anyone to take medication if they don’t want to. I would even go so far as to say that while I think my friend is suffering needlessly, the fact that she is able to “maintain” and lead a productive life shows that medication might not be a dire necessity. I’m hoping that one day she realizes that 25 mgs of something won’t make her any less of a person or any less of a Christian. But it’s not my place to force that pill down her throat.

When does mental illness go from being a nuisance to a life-snatcher?
Throughout my life, I have had my share of strongholds and I would even venture to call some of them addictions. At one point I realized that whenever I was depressed, stressed, or angry I would automatically reach for the wine bottle. 2 Peter 2:19 says, “…people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” That single verse influenced me to change my behavior, and I believe it can be applied to mental illness, as well.

Jesus Christ came to free us of our sins, but also to free us from all the things this world uses to hold us back and keep us down.  That is the beauty of Christ – we don’t have to wait until eternity to reap the benefits of being Christians. Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. That abundant life is, however, a choice.

There are different severities of mental illness. Not everyone needs the same thing. I need insulin for my diabetes, but my husband doesn’t take anything at all. Some choose not to seek help for their problem and that is their prerogative, but when does it cross over into foolishness? When someone asks me how I knew it was time to get help and seek a mental health diagnosis, I tell them I knew it was time when my problems ruled my universe and I lost just about everything and everyone I had. I had become a slave to bipolar disorder, and it had mastered me.

I used to believe that mental illness was in no way a spiritual issue, but I’ve come to realize that it is very much a spiritual issue. God never promised that life would be easy for believers. Come to think of it, the Bible tells us the exact opposite.  But if you examine the Word of God, you will see that the Holy Spirit gives us gifts and abilities that enable to us to have inexplicable joy in the midst of painful circumstances. Are you facing your circumstances with a sense of hopelessness and despair? That’s not from the Lord.

Does your entire life feel hopeless? Do you despair when you should be having joy?  Take a look at 2 Peter 2:19.

“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are not free. They are slaves of things that will be destroyed. For people are slaves of anything that controls them.”

Are you a slave to hopelessness and despair?  Then maybe it’s time to reexamine your views on seeking help.


Julie Anne Fidler is a contributing writer for Brokenbelievers.com.  She comes with a humble and understanding heart for those with a mental illness.  Her writing gift is valued greatly.  Look for her post weekly, on this blog.
She keeps a personal ministry blog at mymentalhealthday.blogspot.com.  Read more there.
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