You groan: it’s way too early to be awake, and it feels like someone is sitting on your chest. Or you walk into work and avoid eye contact because, all things considered, you just can’t muster the emotional energy to do more than keep your head above water lately. Slumped shoulders. Shallow breaths. Constricted vision (maybe physically, but definitely spiritually). Foggy feelings of “something’s not right.” Defeat follows you like a slug’s shiny trail, and has someone dangled weights from a rope around your neck?! The more you consider, the more you panic.
This is a space to close your eyes, inhale slowly, and let the calming presence of the Lord of hosts enfold you in warmth and safety. The demons cannot reach you on His lap. The cramped grey skies roll back to blue, trembling before their Maker. And those weights drop to the foot of His throne with no more power left.
I heard a theory once that there are territorial spirits, demons that claim a location and prey on the inhabitants in a specific way. I don’t know how true that is, but if it were, I would bet that one of the spirits most at work in New England is one of heaviness. It manifests in depression, anxiety, fear, apathy, hopelessness, and anger. I’ve seen it at work in this town and in this church, and it even made its home here with me for a while. But the sweet power of Jesus will only endure slavery for those He bought for so long. He created that holy discontent deep in my heart, and it cried out for truth and light and life and, well, more. The season that followed has been one of slow progress back to His throne of grace.
It’s hard for a fish to analyze the water he lives in, and it’s hard for a believer bound in heaviness to recognize her need for freedom. If you were personally struck by any of the ways heaviness can manifest itself, spend some time asking God if He sees any bondage you’re stuck in. He is wise and good, and no one is more capable of setting free the captives and speaking light into the dark. That’s the whole reason Jesus came.
As I studied Philippians last year, I came across an interesting commentary’s note. To understand it, let’s first look at Philippians 4:6-9. (I’m emphasizing a couple of phrases to help.)
v 6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.
v 7: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
v 8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
v 9: What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
The commentary said, “As the Philippians make progress by practicing what they’ve seen Paul doing, they will find that it is not simply the peace of God (v 7) but the God of peace (v 9) Himself who will be with them.”
This is really good news. It’s nice to have Santa Claus give you a gift, but it’s infinitely better to have Santa Claus live with you in your house. (For those of you who have seen the movie Jingle All the Way, the kid gives up his toy because his dad is “the real thing.” Sorry for the spoilers.) Sure, we can appreciate what God gives us, but the best part isn’t the gift; it’s the Giver. His presence is with us no matter what.
Listen, I know that depression is a force to be reckoned with. But so is God. Your panic attacks are powerful. But so is God. The anger just keeps on coming. But so does God. Maybe you need to stop telling God how big your problems are and start telling your problems how big your God is.
Isn’t it time for the chains to drop?