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.