Thoughts we don’t have captive (aren’t in control of) fall into two categories: compulsions and obsessions. A compulsion is a force that causes us to act against our inclinations. It comes from within but is not under our control and drives us to unpleasant behavior. These often take the form of a ‘ritual’ or tradition to be superstitiously followed. It can be an extremely detailed preoccupation with minor, every-day tasks or be a besetting sin we are unable to conquer. It feels like a force greater than self is driving the person.
An obsession is a thought which forces itself into conscious thought against our will (usually something unpleasant and/or sinful) and can’t be dismissed by ones our free will.
Demons can and do cause mental illness: they can make a person be not in his ‘right mind’ (Mark 15:15), they can cause screaming and convulsions, foaming at the mouth (Luke 9:39), they can cause self-destructive thoughts and actions (Mark 9:22), they can make a person appear to be ‘raving mad’ (John 10:20), and they can cause immoral, anti-social behavior that makes the person seem not right mentally (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35).
It cannot be said that all mental illness is demonic. Other factors are involved such as chemical imbalances, birth defects, damage from injury or drug usage, etc. However demonizing must always be considered until completely ruled out. One way to tell if it is demonic or not is the person’s willingness to listen or talk about Jesus. If they fall asleep, change the subject constantly, don’t seem to be hearing you, get violent, want to leave in a hurry, etc., you have good reason to suspect demons are involved.
One of the most severe psychological disorders is schizophrenia. In general it is characterized by a loss of interest in life, withdrawal and varying degrees of thought disorders. Among the symptoms most frequently observed are: secluding ones self and withdrawal from society, irritability, excessive daydreaming or preoccupation with thoughts and fantasies, delusive thinking characterized by self-pity and feelings of persecution, bizarre behavior and/or language, and over-sensitivity to criticism and comments of others. I am no expert in these things, but in every case I have seen this has been demonic (Mark 5:6-7).
Some today explain cutting and other self-mutilation activities as purely psychological. They say it is a way of refocusing pain, of using physical pain to alleviate emotional pain. While that may be true, I believe there is a deeper cause to these things. From my experience and the Bible I am convinced that self-mutilation is contrary to our natural desire to ‘love’ ourselves and the natural drive to protect self and survive at every cost. Mark 5 tells about a demonized man who was continually cutting himself (Mark 5:5). Then there is the demonized boy who keeps throwing himself in the fire to burn or water to drown (Matthew 17:15). Satan loves pain and death. They are his tools of trade. He would have all of us dead if God would not forbid it. So the best he can do it to try and get us to harm ourselves. The ultimate of this is suicide. The prophets of Baal regularly used cutting as a means of appeasing their demonic gods, as seen in their encounter with Elijah on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:28). Accounts of suicide in the Bible also show close association with demonization. Saul killed himself after his encounter with the witch of Endor. Judas’ suicide came after being indwelt by Satan and betraying Jesus.
What kind of ungodly thoughts do you most struggle with? Is there any particular time they hit you most, any reason you can see for when they come? Do you get thoughts of harming or killing yourself or others? What do you do when you get these kinds of thoughts? Ask God to help you recognize their source – Satan and his demons. When you get them quote Scripture, that is the way to victory.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)