Spiritual Symptoms

You might remember a while back when I talked about all of the various and seemingly unrelated physical symptoms I had that I started trying to target in prayer.  If you don’t, you can read about it here.  After a season of consistent prayer and improvement, God impressed upon me a course of action that completely healed all of my symptoms.  This course of action was to eat all organic food, at which point they all disappeared.  But what the course of action was is really insignificant to this post.  It is the process I want to talk about.

I am a Christian, and I have eternal life because of Christ.  However, I am still spiritually sick.  This is evidenced by symptoms such as confusion, anger, fear, impatience, depression, selfishness…the list could go on.  Anything that cannot fall into the categories of one of the fruits of the spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), is a symptom of the sickness.  As with my physical symptoms, my initial reaction is to medicate.  Only not with pills, but with things and personal effort and self-help-type mindsets.  This does not work.  The symptoms continue.  My second reaction, as with my physical symptoms, is denial.  Ignore them.  If I just keep plugging along maybe I will be able to limp through and no one will notice that something is wrong with me.  This does not work either.  Eventually, they get bad enough that everyone can tell, and you are never really fooling yourself so you are miserable the whole time. 

With my physical symptoms, I eventually came to the place where a) I asked for help and b) I stopped denying the symptoms and started trying to target them in prayer, which all led to God providing a complete cure. 

I started recognizing yesterday that this is a great model for doing the same thing with my spiritual symptoms.  If every time I feel discouraged, frustrated, afraid, etc., I immediately begin praying against these things, God will work a change in my life.  And these are all things that we can know are not of God.  God gives us promises in His Word that He didn’t just stick in there as cute quips.  Promises that mean things and that mostly I pass over instead of recognizing them as true because He said they were true. 

And I believe part of the process is finally realizing that I can no longer hold up the banner of “I’m OK,” and have other people believe it…which is the same point I got to with the physical symptoms.  I wasn’t OK and it was starting to show.  The same is true spiritually…I had to get to the point where I knew I couldn’t fool people into thinking I was great all of the time.  And then to the point where I knew I could not fix that under my own power.  I have no idea how.  The bottom line is that I tried everything my self-sufficient nature could think of and it usually makes it worse.  So, the only thing I have left is to turn to God and ask Him to fix me when I am behaving in a manner contrary to what I know God has called me to.  I find that even asking Him to fix it somehow gives me the patience to step back and evaluate what I am doing, how I am acting.  It’s a constant check on me. 

 If I say to myself in the morning, “Today, every time I feel those negative feelings, whatever they may be, I am going to ask God to help me fix it, overcome it and change it,” then my first realization is how much I am having to ask God to help!  I found that I am very good at the “denial” part of this…just like when I started trying to target my physical symptoms in prayer, I was amazed at how many I had.  I tried to ignore them for so long that I hadn’t even realized how bad they had gotten. 

But however bad our symptoms may get, they’re no match for God when we just let Him have at it instead of trying to take it over ourselves. 

Virtually Symptom Free

I realized yesterday that I had not written to update the status of my physical state since I discussed the acknowledgement of God’s power over the physical as well as the spiritual.  If anyone wants a reference for what what we’re talking about here, check out my Technical Difficulties  and my Last Lesson from “Captivating” posts. 

When writing those posts, I had been battling overwhelming physical symptoms in a lot of random areas, to the point that I was worried they were about to become debilitating.  A few of my symptoms at that point had been going on for years, but this year a lot of fun additions had been occuring, and rapidly worsening for several months. 

Through the lessons mentioned in the other referenced posts, I had started treating each physical symptom as a spiritual attack, immediately claiming the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the authority that He gave us over evil, in addition to praying to God for healing.  I know this sounds crazy…especially if you’re not a Christian.  But Christ did give His followers authority over evil, and our skeptical society has caused even Christians to roll their eyes at this kind of talk.  When you begin to speak of demons purposefully causing people pain and suffering, people start dismissing you off-hand.  Well, dismiss me if you like, but I know what I know.  I know that before I started rebuking the power of evil in Jesus’ name and asking God for healing, I had been feeling worse and worse for months.  And I know that after I started doing this, my symptoms went on a dramatic down-swing, and are now all but gone.  I no longer have the shooting pains in my head, the terrible headaches, the dizzy spells, the blurred vision, the tremors, the twitches, the fatigue, the random other pains or any of the many other crazy things I had going on.  The only lingering symptom is one I have had since I was a teenager (general body aches) and it’s even decreased. 

I know that there is an extreme this can be taken to, and someone could read this and take it to mean that if we just had enough faith and prayed enough, we could get rid of all of the bad things in our lives.  It could be interpreted that I’m saying there’s a demon under every rock, hiding our keys from us and making us sick.  I don’t think this…I think that discernment is gained through prayer and intimacy with God.  Only through maintaining a relationship with Him can you know if something is a spiritual attack or just plain life happening.  I think most of us take this to the other extreme, though, and treat nothing as a spiritual attack.  When we do this, we deny God’s power and allow Satan a stronghold to get working on.  We just live in our trouble, not realizing we have been given the authority to get out of it.

I’m feeling like I’m saying words that are not strong enough to convey how important I think this is, and like I’m not really getting my point across or like I’m leaving something out.  I’m not sure.  I just wanted to give God the glory publicly for my healing.

I also want to say that I think there was a lot that went into this healing.  My boyfriend had been praying for me rigorously, and had been encouraging me to do the same for months before God opened my eyes to the spiritual implications of my physical problems.  I also wrote my Technical Difficulties post before I came to this kind of understanding.  I think there were many factors necessary for all of it to occur.    I’ll mention things that I know were definitely all necessary, but I cannot exclude the fact that there are probably tons of other miniscule things that had to happen.  Consider this a skeleton list.  First, someone else praying for me with a belief that I did not have at that point.  Second, my opening up about my difficulties and being humbled by asking for help.  Third, listening to God’s voice when urged to read a book that I did not have any interest in reading, which led to the breakdown in my mental blinders to God’s power.  Fourth, acting on this newly rejuvenated faith with constant prayer.  And the fifth, I believe, is no less important…giving God the props for it. 

Here’s to You, God.

Last Lesson from “Captivating”

OK, so we’re almost done talking about this book.  I think.  The third major perspective change I got has to do with spiritual warfare as it pertains to the physical world.  I know when you start talking about spiritual warfare, some people tend to look at you crazy…the thought that there could actually be demons attacking and angels defending us seems a little out there.  I’ll just say that I am a firm believer in it, and think that the devil is out to thwart our growth and God’s plan for us at every turn.  I think I’ve had this mental block, though…a block that made me think that only spiritual things are attacked spiritually, and physical things are just, well, as they are.  So, I would generally only pray spiritual prayers.  “Lord, teach me patience.  Guide me in my decisions.  Show me how to be like You.”  Rarely, if ever, would I allow my prayers to overlap into the physical realm, as in, “Lord, help me find a new job.  Give me more energy today.  Heal me of my sickness.” 

A compartmentalization of God…I guess I forgot all of the miracles He worked both in the persona of God in the Old Testament and in the flesh of Jesus Christ in the New.  Well, last week I mentioned all of my physical symptoms in my Technical Difficulties blog.  I won’t list them again, but my point is that I had never seriously prayed about them.  My boyfriend has been trying to get me to see it this way for a couple of months…to see my healing as something to pray diligently for; even that this is something God has allowed in me in order to teach us how to pray as my symptoms have worsened.  I had been praying about it at his prompting, but I don’t think I had much belief that it could affect a change.  I think he started me down the road, and that is why I asked for prayers last week.  But the real shift in my mindset did not occur until after I wrote that blog, as I was finishing up “Captivating,” by John and Stasi Eldredge.  Stasi is writing at this point, and talks about a book on spiritual warfare that she was reading.  The book was called “Bondage Breakers,” by Neil Anderson.  I don’t know anything about that book except what she says.  She says that in the book she was reading, it tells a story about a woman who had dizzy spells.  This woman began reacting to her dizzy spells as if they were a spiritual attack, commanding authority over them in Jesus name, and her dizzy spells stopped.  Stasi says that when she read this, she told her husband that she had dizzy spells, too, which he did not know as she had never mentioned it.  She decided to begin responding to hers in the same way this woman did.  She says that at first they worsened, but she kept praying every time.  And then she had one so bad that she fell down, and she prayed anyway.  And it was the last dizzy spell she ever had. 

It really was like God put this story in here just for me.  I don’t even think if He had used any other symptom, it would’ve had the same effect.  My dizziness is the newest severe symptom…I never really had these dizzy spells until this year.  It’s also the one that seems to be getting the worst the fastest.  A couple of weeks ago, I had one while I was driving and had to slam on the brakes (there were no other cars) because I thought I might drive off the road if I didn’t.  That was the worst one I’d ever had, and it really worried me.  How could I make a living if I couldn’t drive?  Two days later I read this story.  My dizzy spells a spiritual attack?  This was a new concept to me.  It broke down the mental block I mentioned earlier, relegating God to His spiritual realm in my mind.  It reminded me of something I should already know: that just because something manifests physically does not mean it can’t have spiritual roots. 

I’ve heard a fable before about a man who was drowning.  The man began to pray for God to save him.  Just after he prayed, a boat came by.  They tried to help, but he waved them on, “No, I’m waiting for God to save me.”  Then a rescue helicopter flew up.  “No, I’m waiting for God to save me,” he said.  This man prayed for God to help him out of a physical situation, but then expected supernatural means.  If I were the man, with the mindset I was hanging on to before this shift, I would have been praying, “Lord, help me be OK with drowning.  Help me handle it with grace. ”  Not a bad prayer, but just a little incomplete, if you actually believe God can keep you from drowning at all. 

After I read this, I was discussing it with my mom.  She, in turn, told me a story about a woman who was going to volunteer where she works (a Christian non-profit agency).  The lady had gone through her volunteer training, and was scheduled to start her weekly volunteer shift, but she woke up that morning, and her son had a 104 degree fever.  He didn’t have any other symptoms, but they still rushed him to the emergency room.  The doctors didn’t find anything wrong with him.  They sent them home, and, in a couple of hours, the fever was gone.  Her son was fine the rest of the week.  At least until the next time she was scheduled to volunteer, and then suddenly, her son came down with another 104 degree fever.  No other symptoms.  Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong.  Three weeks in a row this happened only on the day she was supposed to go volunteer.  After the third week, the woman directing the center at the time told this lady that she thought it was a spiritual attack.  She told her next time, just to pray, and come on in anyway.  The following week, the son did have the fever again, but the woman prayed, and went on to volunteer.  The fevers never recurred.  Clearly, Satan will use any method he believes effective in keeping us down, keeping us immobile, keeping us inert. 

I am not pronouncing God a magic charm for healing or for anything else, but I am now acknowledging His power in all areas.  I think that sometimes it is beyond our comprehension why we may not get prayers answered, but I don’t think He ever meant for us to not pray them, whatever the subject.  I have been praying, since this, every time I have a single symptom, for God to protect me, to heal me, and for Satan to stop trying to defeat me.  And I’ve felt better.  The symptoms have not disappeared, but they have been noticably more infrequent and less severe.  You can say whatever you want about placebo effects and the power of positive thinking.  I’ve tried the power of positive thinking before and it didn’t do a darn thing.  God’s doing something…not the least of which is teaching me about His power and His love.