The final means by which we have succumbed to these afflictions is by spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10-12 clearly tells us who our enemy is—“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” NIV
We Christians know that we have an enemy who wants nothing more than to break our faith, especially if we are a threat to him. He will exploit any weakness we have. Those who have a tendency for alcoholism are attacked through the bottle, those who are prone to sexual immorality are attacked through sexual temptations, and those of us who have allowed our bad mental habits to overcome our faith are attacked through fears and anxieties.
Praise the Lord that we are also taught how to defend ourselves against the enemy in the continuation of that passage! “Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” NIV
We are told that the shield of faith will put out the flaming arrows that the enemy shoots at us. We know that faith is one of the first things to be tested through our afflictions—why do you suppose that is? Because that is the way that we would normally defeat the enemy! But he sees in us a weakness, a doubtfulness, that he instantly tries to exploit to disarm us. If we are weak then we are not a threat to him. OCD is called the “doubting disease” because those who have it “doubt” everything—whether they locked the door, whether something is safe, etc. Doubt also accompanies panic and chronic anxiety. If we doubt simple, everyday issues, then how much more will we be prone to doubt deeper spiritual issues.
We have just discussed the “how”’s, now let’s talk about the “why”’s. Everyone has spiritual issues occasionally, everyone has “bad thoughts” occasionally, everyone has worries occasionally, so why did these every day occurrences produce in us obsessions, panic or chronic anxiety? We have touched on a few of the reasons earlier. This is a combination of spiritual, physical and mental factors, rather like a predisposition to heart disease. A person might have the genes that are favorable to heart disease. If they eat right, watch their cholesterol and exercise, they dramatically reduce their chances of having a heart attack, though they have a higher risk because of their genetic makeup. However if that person ate junk food and smoked and sat on the couch all day, they have GREATLY increased their chances of a heart attack.
For some reason we have spiritual, mental, and physical issues that predispose us to OCD, panic disorder and chronic anxiety. We have taken our predisposition and have gorged on unhealthy thoughts. We have developed detrimental mental habits, and have not used the equipment God has given us to exercise our spirituality. It seemed like these afflictions just “happened” to us, but that is not the case. We were unknowing, unwitting accomplices. There was a predisposition, a spark, that we did not have control over that started the fire, but we fed it until now it is blazing through our lives, charring our joy, our peace and our freedom.
A fire needs three things to exist: oxygen, fuel and a heat source. If we take out any of those three, then a fire cannot burn. We are going to take them ALL out. We will learn mental discipline, exercise rationality, and gain spiritual maturity. Through mental discipline we will remove the fuel from the fire of our affliction. Through exercising our rationality, we will remove the favorable environment of our fear and anxieties. Through spiritual maturity, we will be equipped to put out the flaming arrows that the enemy shoots at us.
Right now you are ill spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. The next several sections are going to focus on recuperating in each of these areas. We will rehabilitate each area of our lives so that we will be stronger than we were before we were ever afflicted.
Let me remind you again that this might take time. Like a credit card balance, there are things you can do to help pay it off, and things you can do to harm it. If you have a big balance, a dollar here or there might not seem like much, but it is. Every dollar of effort you put toward this will pay off. Every dollar of effort you spend on bad mental habits will put you back. This is a working solution, not a “sit back and let it happen to me” solution.
Let’s get down to business…