God is Longing For My Freedom

Freedom has been on my mind recently.

I posted recently about some of my past experiences with spiritual warfare, but I’m feeling the need to share what I am presently experiencing. Because it’s been bothering me so much, I’m thinking I must not be the only one, and it’s an important message to share.

But I like sharing in past tense better. I guess my pride likes to make it sound as though I don’t struggle with stuff anymore. Ha! We’ll remedy that by being painfully honest here…

The truth is, I’ve been challenged over and over and over again this past winter to gain control over my thought life. You may have noticed the theme of “worry” coming up often on my blog, the reason being I struggle with fear and anxiety and worry running away with my thoughts so often, you’d think I’d be exhausted and sick of it.

Actually, I am. I was reading books about it, praying, and struggling through it, trying to fight the good fight against all those thoughts, without feeling like I was making much progress.

One night my emotional upheaval reached such a climax, it suddenly struck me that I was feeling completely frazzled, worried and stressed….without a single reason for it. I tried to think of why I was feeling so incredibly worried, and my mind kept trying to come up with a reason for being worried.

That scared me. Searching for a reason to be worried? That’s just out of hand.

When I described to Ben how I was feeling, he immediately said, “We should pray about it.”

Oh. Good idea. Funny how I didn’t think about doing that….

So he prayed, and immediately, it was as if a weight was lifted off me. I felt completely different.

I wish I could say it lasted forever. But that’s not how it went.

Sometimes, the worries and fears build up until they almost overwhelm me, and I pray like crazy to fight them back down.

And then things go back to normal, and I slack off, thinking it’s all fine, and then it all comes back. Part of me wants to get discouraged about it, but part of me knows (from experience) that I need to keep at it, it takes time, but it will get better.

I want to get stronger mentally. I want to be able to take every thought captive. But that doesn’t happen overnight. So I keep plugging away.

I went for a walk last week, and as usual, spent all my time looking up to the tips of those evergreens. It doesn’t matter how heavy my spirit feels, when I look way, way up to those tree tops, I feel like my soul flies high and free.

As I walked along, with my soul flying, some words came back to me from a new Beth Moore book I started – Breaking Free.

God always cares more for our freedom than even we do. He initiated the saving relationship between the people and the Liberator. “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows” (Exodus 3:7) God is intimately acquainted with the sorrows and suffering that result from slavery. He also has a remedy. He is the meeter of our needs….Christ sets us free by the power of His Spirit; then He maintains our freedom as we learn to live from day-to-day in the power of His free Spirit.”

I walked and thought over and over, “God cares more for my freedom that I do. God cares more…” Praise the Lord, He pursues me. That boggles my mind.

I so desperately want to be free, and to be strong in the joy of Jesus, and I fight, and strive, and beg God for it. But sometimes I forget that He wants it more for me that I do.

I read somewhere that this struggle is what’s meant by “working out your salvation”. We need to learn to live from day-to-day. Our human nature tells us it’s better to worry, fear, and be anxious. That sounds plain ridiculous, and yet it’s the age-old lie of Satan’s that we fall for every time we sin. As if anything could possibly be better than God’s glorious, right way!

Ann Voskamp writes,

Sometimes, too often, I don’t want to muster the energy. Stress and anxiety seem easier. Easier to let mind run wild with the worry than to exercise discipline. (p. 147, One Thousand Gifts)

Really, you could put any sin in there. It’s always easier to give in to the areas of weakness. Often, we even see the weakness as freedom. Who wants to burden of changing something we’ve grown comfortable with?

But then the Holy Spirit starts to open our eyes to where the true bondage is, and Ben always tells me this is the first step. I need to feel truly miserable and desperate before I will want to change.

I guess this, then, is the part where I’m working my way past miserable and desperate. I’m slowly rising.

Because God longs for my freedom more than I do.

Because if worry is a sin, and Jesus says “Fear not!” more times than there are days in a year, then surely, these habits, this sin, this bondage, can be overcome.

Demons and Flying Objects and Eyes Glowing in the Dark, Oh My!

I can clearly remember the day I was introduced to the idea that spiritual warfare existed.

I was an innocent girl at camp, sitting at a picnic table with my friends, and my camp counselor took it upon herself to educate me.

I sat there frozen to the wooden bench, my eyes probably the size of saucers, listening in horror as she told the story of a young boy who had felt a presence in the room, and turned around to see yellow eyes glowing in the dark. Somewhere in there, either he was thrown at the wall, or an object from his room were thrown at the wall, I don’t remember.

Maybe I was on overload at that point, and things start to get a bit fuzzy….

Anyway. I heard the odd story through the years after that, but I didn’t really face the idea of spiritual warfare until I was in college.

At that time, my mom gave me a copy of The Bondage Breaker, because she felt it would be helpful to use during my summers at camp. I never did come across anything crazy at camp, and I didn’t spend much time reading the book at that point.

One of my friends borrowed it from me, however, and had a really life-changing experience as a result.

After that, another chunk of time past without the topic coming up.

Until the fall Ben and I got married, and moved into our first home, a cozy little apartment.

We had only been married for about two months when really strange things started happening to me. It started very subtly at first – weird thoughts would suddenly zip through my mind out of nowhere. Not “normal” thoughts – thoughts unlike anything I usually thought about. Or sometimes just the same thought, over and over and over again, until I felt like I would go crazy.

I didn’t understand what was happening to me, and decided to try and wait it out.

But rather than going away, the problem got worse. The thoughts going through my mind got increasingly dirty and sinful, thoughts I had no desire to be thinking, but couldn’t seem to stop. I also started having nightmares – worse than anything I’d had before, about extremely dark, violent things. Sometimes when Ben and I were talking in bed before turning out the light, I would have a very real sense that a presence was behind me, and I’d be terrified to get out of bed.

Because the thoughts I was having were so dirty and awful, I felt very ashamed. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but something inside told me that no one must find out what was happening to me, because had become evil and dirty.

So I kept it all a secret from Ben for as long as I could. But one night, I couldn’t take it anymore, and broke down in front of him.

I was petrified that it would destroy our marriage. I spilled it all out, and then waited in silence for what seemed like forever, terrified to hear what Ben’s reaction would be.

And after that silence, which probably wasn’t all that long, Ben reached out to me, and said, “Kendra, that’s not you.”

He suggested we go see our pastor, because although Ben didn’t know a lot about it, he felt quite sure we were dealing with some kind of spiritual warfare.

I made an appointment, but in the meantime, I remembered my copy of The Bondage Breaker.

One night while Ben was at work, I settled down to do some reading. At the end of the book are many different prayers to use when dealing with spiritual warfare. It is recommended to say these prayers aloud, which I fully intended on doing.

However, every time I tried to say the prayer, I would begin crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t get any words out because I was crying so hard.

I must have tried five different times to say the prayer, only to have my body break out into these violent sobs. I didn’t feel sad, I had no desire to cry, it was just happening to me.

Finally, I managed to get the words out, and could calm myself down. It was an incredibly odd experience. I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Ben and I prayed those prayers together regularly, asking for cleansing for me and for our apartment, until we went to see our pastor.

It was so good to talk with him, because he explained to me how it was not sinful to have those thoughts enter my head, but it would be sinful to choose to dwell on them. Satan is often tempting us with wrong thoughts, and it is possible for him to introduce the thought into our head, and making us believe it’s our thought, and that we do  want to think about it. Our job is to resist.

We went home feeling better equipped to deal with the issue. I started memorizing all kinds of verses about thoughts, purity, the Armor of God, anything to help me fight against the thoughts that wanted to set up camp in my head.

Ben and I also prayed over every room in our little apartment, even the storage room, every day for a month. We prayed every night for protection from awful dreams.

But there was one little problem – in the suggested prayer from The Bondage Breaker, there was a line that said something like, “May the thoughts I chose to fill my mind with during the day, continue to fill my mind at night.”

That assumed the thoughts I had during the day were pleasing to Jesus in every way.

And most of the time, they were, but Ben and I were quite liberal in what we chose to watch on TV. Nothing too crazy, of course. Just the usual stuff.

But every time I prayed about the thoughts I’d had that day, my conscience bothered me. One night, I was in bed, reading my Bible and praying, while Ben was in the living room, watching an episode of Friends on TV.

I loved watching Friends. But when I wasn’t actually watching it, and the lines I overheard were interrupting my devotions, suddenly all the funny stuff wasn’t so funny. I realized how desensitized I was to all of the negative joking, references to sex, and many, many other comments we had come to accept as “normal”.

Well, we decided to clean things up a lot after that. People we talked to about it thought we were ridiculous, but we found that as we regained our sensitivity, our desire to watch stuff we would have in the past…got a lot weaker. I still had twinges of desire, but we kept each other accountable, and stayed strong. Now we don’t miss it at all.

It took a long time (a few months?) to really get control over the thoughts, dreams, feeling just a weight of depression/anxiety/fear that seemed to settle on me for no apparent reason. But eventually, it did get better.

Since then, I haven’t really had much trouble with dreams, but sometimes my thoughts or that old heavy weight type of feeling come back. Then we know we’ve slacked off too much with praying for protection, and haven’t noticed little thoughts or attitudes sneaking up.

So that’s my story. I’m not saying that it’s evil for everyone to watch Friends. Here’s what I am saying:

1. Find out what you’re dealing with. There are good books out there on the topic. Read them.

2. But don’t get into the habit of thinking that everything is spiritual warfare. I heard someone say once that it gives Satan way too much credit. I don’t want to focus on him all the time. I want to focus on Jesus. I would rather pray hard, keep my thoughts clean, be smart, and live a free and joyful life. I really don’t like it when people think every little thing is Satan out to get them. We live in an imperfect world. Junk happens. Pray hard, and carry on. Let’s not get overly dramatic.

3.Take a good hard look at what you give access to, mentally. I have heard sooooo many people say that movies or TV don’t affect them! At all!

But they should. If you’re desensitized, it’s not a good thing. Numb to seeing pain, violence, and sex, and hearing tons of filthy language? I wouldn’t think that would be a desirable thing. I’m not saying we should stick our heads in the sand, and be all legalistic about this. Just be smart. Make conscious choices. Don’t watch junk just because everybody else thinks it’s okay, or because you paid money for your movie ticket. Walking out sucks. It’s humiliating. But very freeing.

4.There is no need to be afraid. Take it seriously, yes. But through Jesus Christ, we have all the power we need. Telling lots of freaky stories to small children is not advisable. Teaching them about the power in Jesus’ name is much more beneficial.

5. Memorizing verses is a very, very, very good thing to do. It is your weapon. Use it.

And that is all for now. If you read all 1500 words I just typed, you deserve an award!

Any other thoughts out there? No scary stories needed, but other comments are welcome!