As Christians we live in a spiritual world. That is how it should be. However, we must be careful to avoid spiritualizing things that are not spiritual. Especially when doing so gives Satan an opportunity to pound his chest in victory.

Serious mental illness (SMI) is a case in point. Because demonic activity is evident in the scriptures, and because SMI individuals exhibit strange behavior that often mirrors our stereotypical concept of demon possession. Such activities include unnatural physical agitation or illogical shouting at invisible others, and the like. The kinds of things that movies show as symptoms of demon possession.

While, because spiritual warfare is real, demon possession does exist. However, mental illness—the result of a sick brain, or chemical unbalance—is far, far more prevalent. Because of our spiritual bent, we sometimes go there first. But, any encounter with a person exhibiting signs of unbalance, assuming they are possessed is probably a wrong assumption, and, in that case, VERY HARMFUL.

In a case with which I am directly familiar, well-meaning, loving, selfless and dedicated Christians spent hours in “deep healing” prayer, counseling and caring. Nothing changed, visibly. However, the long-range impact has proven to be, actually, adverse. The constant attempts to heal spiritually has reinforced the afflicted person’s belief that the voices are demons. This leaves them with a spiritual dilemma that does not really exist. Being convinced that the illness has a spiritual resolution means that God is not helping, and Satan’s angels are winning.  Equally important is that, because it is spiritual, doctors and medication are devalued.

So, Christian brothers and sisters, should God grant you an occasion to encounter a dear one whose mind has taken leave, please approach them in that light. Do not assume irrational behavior to be spiritual. Pray for and with them, not as in a exorcism, but as you would pray for any injured or grieving friend. And seek professional medical assistance. 

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