HEALING OF THE MIND
We hear occasionally about people who have had very dramatic changes after coming to Christ, such as an ex-alcoholic not having even the slightest desire any more towards alcohol. But what we see usually is that such people go through a long battle to get over their addiction, initially going through withdrawal symptoms, and then having to learn new habits that will protect them from going back. It is not just about alcoholics. Many of us are familiar with long struggles in different areas of our life as we pursue freedom and conformity with the nature of Christ. As children of God, we wish we could be free from all our sinful behaviour and become like Jesus instantly. But that is not the way God deals with most of us. Sad to say, some who have not experienced major struggles in their life look down on those who are struggling, and accuse them of lack of faith or wholeheartedness.
We know that our natural birth gives us a sinful nature (Psa.51:5,6), and we need to be born again from above to become children of God (Jn.3:5,6). Then God begins to work in our life, giving us new desires and new ability to carry out His will (Php.2:12,13). This seed which God plants in our life has to be nurtured through feeding on the word of God (1Pet.2:1,2), and prayer and fellowship with other children of God (Acts 2:42). When spiritual progress does not take place smoothly, what many leaders tell us is that we should pray more, perhaps along with fasting, study the Bible more, etc. But sometimes one of the reasons may be that we are carrying some baggage from our past that slows us down. If we try to go forward without discarding such weights, it can lead to frustration and confusion. As many more families suffer from some level of dysfunction due to different reasons, the number of the people of God who face such hindrances in their spiritual growth will only increase.
Why Are We Like This?
What we are now is partly due to the nature with which we were born, and partly due to the nurture which we have received as we grew up. We can refer to ‘nature’ as our temperament which makes us outgoing, friendly, reserved, secluded, etc., and gives all of us some natural strengths and weaknesses. Our ‘nurture’ has come through all the experiences (good and bad) which we have gone through, especially in the early formational years of our childhood.
As a result of the Fall, all of us have a ‘sinful’ nature with its inclination towards sin. Our thinking has become warped, not always able to understand the truth and not always logical in the way we analyse things, our feelings tend to become negative very easily, and our will has become distorted, leading us to make choices that will give us pleasure rather than what is good for us.
From the time we were born, painful and disappointing moments we have experienced, rejection and abuse by our parents and others, and a general lack of affection and acceptance from the world, have all left some trauma on our psyche. We may remember some of these, and we may have even managed to repress some memories into the deep recesses of our mind. But all these have affected our thoughts, emotions and will, and need to be dealt with so that we can be healed in our mind.
For example, imagine if a parent or someone important to us has ‘cursed’ us in our childhood saying we were useless and never to succeed in anything. The chances are that we have believed them. We did not have the ability at that time to analyse it and conclude that it was not true and that it was their fault talking like that. But we get the impression in our mind that we are only going to be failures, and we find ourselves unable to have any boldness to take initiative or risk, or to put our mind into doing anything well.
Think if our father was always abusing and scolding us, and finding fault with everything we did. Because this has shaped our thinking, we find it so difficult now to take strength from the fact that we have God as our Heavenly Father, even though we accept it in our mind as a doctrine.
Many experiences such as these affect us even now, even if we are no longer facing such situations. Even though we want to make quick spiritual progress, something seems to hinder us always. A part of our mind seems to have got locked on to certain paths, and we find it difficult to break away even when we know the truth and want to change.
Another thing to look at is any past exposure to demons either through ignorance or by choice. The Bible warns us that if we continue in any sin without repentance, we may give demons access to our life (Eph.4:26,27;2Cor.2:10,11). If we have got seriously into occult practices or idol worship (which have direct connections with demons), it is possible that demons have got some hold over our life. These holds do not go away automatically when we come to Christ, unless we renounce them. This is not the same as demon possession that implies ownership and near total control, which is not possible for believers. But demonisation (Gk. daimonizomai meaning ‘troubled or vexed by demons’) implies that some demon(s) may be strongly influencing certain areas of our life because we have granted them permission by our foolishness.
When Faith Comes
When we put our trust in Jesus, God causes us to be born again, and the Holy Spirit begins His work of sanctification in us with an aim to make us like Jesus. As we get to know God’s word and through it develop a closer relationship with Him and an increasing knowledge of His ways, it begins to change our way of thinking, feeling and making decisions (Ezek.36:25-29). We get an increasing desire and ability to do His will. The more we follow Him in this way, the more we grow in every aspect of spiritual life.
We understand that not only did Jesus die for our sins, but our ‘old man’ was crucified with Him (Rom.6:6,7). This essentially means that our mind now begins to hate sin and in that sense we can now reckon ourselves ‘dead to sin’ (v.11) and alive unto God. Now we have a new desire to overcome temptations and to be pleasing to Him (2Cor.5:14,15). However, it does not mean that we are not going to be tempted to sin anymore, because our ‘flesh’ with its lusts is still alive in us and it needs to be constantly put to death (Gal.5:24;Rom.8:13).
Jesus has come to proclaim liberty to the captives and to set free those who are oppressed (Lk.4:18,19). Sometimes He sets people free instantly from bondages, and sometimes He wants us to cooperate with Him. He healed the blind sometimes instantly and at other times by asking them to do something (Matt.9:27-30;Jn.9:1-7). Whichever way He uses, the healing comes from Him. When He asks us to do something to receive His victory, perhaps there are things He wants us to learn through that experience and then share that with others so that they too can be blessed.
There are a few things that may be involved in the process of getting rid of the baggage from our past:
1. Recollecting the past. Unless we identify what caused the bondages in our mind, we cannot deal with them. Sometimes the pain of remembering past incidents dissuades us from looking at them. But as we remember them, let us also realise that our Saviour was watching over us with compassion in His eyes, knowing that one day He was going to turn that evil around into something good for us as He did for Joseph (Rom.8:28;Gen.50:20). Some people try to protect their parents’ reputation pretending they were good parents. Perhaps some parents did things out of ignorance, or they themselves were struggling with their nature. However, some parents were evil, and it is good for us to face reality and deal with it in our mind. As we go over these incidents from our past, remember how we felt, what we thought and did, and how we responded in our mind. Then we can recognise the connection between what happened to us and how we behave now.
2. Forgiveness. This has to work in three directions, towards those who hurt us, towards ourselves and towards God. If we have received grace from God, we would also need to show it by forgiving others who have sinned against us. When we forgive those who have caused us pain, we cleanse ourselves from the defilement of our mind, from bitterness, hatred, revenge, etc. We do not even wait for them to repent first, just as Jesus forgave those who crucified Him (Lk.23:34). We ask God to forgive us for the wrong ways in which we reacted.
We must not think that others who did evil towards us or demons who oppressed us were responsible for our wrong responses. We also ask God for forgiveness for the complaints we have held against Him for allowing us to go through such situations. When we go through these acts of forgiveness we can almost feel the cleansing.
3. Breaking demonic footholds. If we have identified areas in our life which we have opened to demons, we can repent before God, confess them, and renounce every connection with those areas. Having been justified through the blood of Jesus and accepted by God, we can stand on the authority Jesus has given to every disciple (Lk.10:19) and ask demons to depart from us. Satan and all his demons have already been defeated by Jesus on the cross, and we can exercise His victory boldly in His name.
4. Fill ourselves with the word of God and prayer. The way God has created our brain, even though we cannot delete our memory of unpleasant things, we can write new things into it and make them more powerful than the old memories. The more we read the Bible, meditate on its truths and follow them in our life, our mind will get renewed to think, feel and will differently, in godly ways (Rom.12:2). Then we keep praying for help to overcome when temptation comes again.
These are some things we can do to receive victory from Jesus, in case we are suffering from the repercussions of traumatic events in our past. His grace is sufficient to free us from every bondage and set us free.