Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Spiritual Warfare and Suffering
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. "That's one way to look at times of hardship; pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move along. Hang in there. Or there's another way to look at difficult times of suffering and setback: "God works out His good purposes in our lives through unjust difficulties we endure." That's the biblical way of dealing with suffering and problems of this life (see Romans 8:28). Be assured: Anyone who follows Christ will experience pain and suffering. The suffering comes at the hands of the devil, our own sinful practices, and the world itself. It's part and parcel of what it means to serve and love Christ in a sinful, lost world bent on following falsehood. Nonetheless, though Scripture clearly warns us of suffering, persecution, and illness in this world, the devil perverts this truth by telling us that we should never suffer or go through hard times as Christians. If we are, it's only a sign we don't have enough faith, or that we've sinned in some way, or even that God is angry with us for some reason and is punishing us. Counselors see Christians in a steady stream who believe their emotional and spiritual problems are a result of sin, when in reality they're often a result of the lies of Satan meant to stymie and subjugate them in spiritual misery. What is the truth about suffering-mental or physical illness-and how does it relate to spiritual warfare and Jesus as our first and final friend? First, recognize that all Christians, even those walking closely with God, can and will suffer. The great deceiver will tell Christians that they should never suffer, be ill, or experience deep pain if they're living a committed Christian life. This teaching is prevalent and common in the church today, even from respected teachers and preachers. The problem with such teaching is that Jesus Himself provided ample proof that this cannot be true. He experienced every kind of persecution possible during His life and on the cross was subjected to the worst forms of torture, mental and physical. Yet He certainly had no lack of faith or spiritual sin that could account for His troubles. About our bodies. We should also realize that much of the suffering we have from physical and emotional disorders is not the result of unbelief, worry, sin, or failure to trust God. We have human bodies that malfunction. At times we need medicine and the help of doctors. A psychiatrist can often help people with "mind" sickness-not mental illness, but a sickness of the thoughts and mind that debilitates them emotionally and spiritually. It's true that psychiatry, like other sciences, contain truths, half truths, and pie-in-the-sky fantasies. But with Spirit led-discernment, there are times when we must seek a competent psychiatrist's or psychologist's help. AS common example is found with clients experiencing psychosis. I have seen psychotic believers who, after being prayed over for weeks, go to the hospital and with proper medication function with a clear mind in forth-eight to seventy-two hours. This is also true with more common maladies like depression, anxiety, food disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many others. About God's wonder-working power. But say you have no problem visiting doctors or believing that Christians, like everyone else, will face real suffering in this world. It's here that Satan provides an opposite lie that is just as sinister.He spreads teaching that says there can be no supernatural physical healing in this present age. These preachers and teachers do not believe God heals or can heal today, and thus they and their followers rely only on human intervention. This can be as sinister and evil as calling on God alone for healing and forsaking all medical help. In these matters I find that balance is needed. On the one hand, God tells us that suffering happens to all in this world for many different reasons. It can't be avoided. On the other hand, God encourages us to seek Him when we are ill, for He is capable of supernatural healing and does so in some cases. It's possible to have a biological brain malfunction that has nothing to do with demons, faith, or obedience to God. Frequently, medication or some kind of chemical therapy heals these people quickly and completely. Extremism is Satan's byword. But through our friend, the Lord Jesus, we can find the balanced way to real peace. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.