Spiritual Self Defense

Today a lady who has been getting her spiritual house in order sent me a note asking how she could keep unclean spirits away once she had identified them and invited them to leave. She said she had read Healing and Remembrance, Healing Chronic Pain and Spiritual Strongholds but wasn't sure where to go from there. Since it's a good question, I thought the subject might be of more general interest.

So the question is, once you've gotten some space between yourself and the unclean spirits that beset you, how do you keep from being overwhelmed again?

Part of the answer lies in awareness and analysis. The influence of unclean spirits is most often experienced in emotions - fear, anger, shame, lust, envy, etc. Under the influence of a spirit every emotion can become an unhealthy intensification of some facility which God has given you. So the normal desire to improve your situation can be pushed over to covetousness and envy. The normal interest and attraction between men and women can be pushed into lust. Regret and repentance over a wrong behavior can be pushed into shame and self-condemnation. A love of good food and eating can be pushed to over-eating and gluttony. And so on. Since Satan doesn't create, everything he does must involve a twisting of something God has already made.

The first step then is awareness. When you find yourself in a familiar emotional pit, recognize that you may have had some spiritual help getting there. Ask yourself some questions. Is my emotional state proportional to my situation? Do I find myself wanting to do anything that is contrary to Scripture? Am I able to snap out of this, or am I continuing to spiral downward? Is this pit such a familiar place that I've begun to decorate the walls? The answers to such questions will give you clues as to whether you are reacting in a healthy way or are under adverse spiritual influence. Since honest answers to such questions are difficult, it can help to ask a prayer partner, trusted friend, pastor, etc.

The next step is to trace back your thoughts and actions to figure out the path that got you into such an unhealthy mental/emotional state. Your path into the pit is well traveled and, whereas the event that puts you on it may be different each time, the path itself is very familiar and its destination is always the same. To give a concrete example, imagine that you routinely wind up feeling isolated, lonely and angry. Further imagine that the thing that triggered the most current episode was someone turning away from you and talking to another during a conversation. From there you went to feeling slighted, then to a feeling of rejection, then to anger and finally to isolation and self-pity. The point is that there are lots of situations that can set you on the path, but the path itself and its destination are familiar. That familiarity is both the trap and your key to freedom. It is a trap because your spiritual feet know the way and walking it has become a habit which requires no thought on your part. It is the key to freedom because, once you recognize the sequence, you can interrupt it.

How? Consider the conversation example above. When the person to whom you're speaking shifts his attention to another, your immediate reaction might be to feel slighted. This initial reaction is normal and can't be avoided, but the next step is what's important. Since you now know that this is the first stepping stone on the path, you can choose to do something different. My personal way to handle the beginning of one of my negative paths is to mentally (or verbally if I'm alone) say, "Stop. I know where this leads and I'm not going there." I will also say, "Spirit of [anger, bitterness, lust, resentment, envy, despair...whatever], take a hike. In Y'shua's name be gone. I'm not going to entertain you." (My authority in doing this is Mark 16.17 among other places.)

This DOES NOT fix the external problem of having been cut off in the conversation, but it does take back the control over your emotional and spiritual walk. Without doing something like this, other people and unclean spirits wind up pulling your strings and all you know is that you feel rotten or are doing rotten things and don't seem to have any control over your own life. Learning to watch your emotions and decide which ones you allow to go forward is the final step in spiritual self-defense. With time and attention, you will get good at deciding which emotional paths you want to walk. You will also get good at interrupting those you decide are unhealthy. As you progress, unclean spirits will learn that you're no fun to play with any more. As that happens the probes will get fewer and fewer.

So to recapitulate:

  • When you find yourself in a spiritual or emotional pit, take the time to retrace the steps that got you there.
  • Recognize that the first step on that path - your emotional reaction to some event - is incident-specific and can't be helped. (You don't want to become emotionless.)
  • Identify the second step in the path - that's where you can make a choice.
  • The next time your emotions are triggered make a conscious choice not to take the second step. (Not making the choice on the second step means that making it on the third or fourth will be progressively harder.)
  • Use your God-given authority to rebuke the spirits that are urging you to go down to the pit again.