The mind is often our worst enemy
-It’s about midnight on a Saturday and I am sitting in the living room of our duplex in Billings MT. My stepfather—a 6’8” truck driver, former bull rider and cowboy—comes home drunk, nothing unusual there. For some reason my mother is not there, I think she was out looking for him— again. He walks in and stops at my chair, towering over me he commences to berate me; “Look at you, just sitting there watching TV, you’re worthless and lazy, you have always been worthless and lazy and you’ll never amount to anything.”
I was barely 16, going to school, working part time cleaning a clothing store in the evenings and often working on a ranch during the weekends but that didn’t matter— I was worthless and lazy—and for some reason, in my heart I believed it. Perhaps because I had heard exactly the same thing for five years from my former stepfather.
A couple of years later after leaving home and school to go into Job Corps where I would learn the construction trades I would get a visit from another Father. Around midnight as I was lying in bed on a Saturday night in a dorm room surrounded by other snoring guys about my age, far from home and family —I was having a melt-down. I don’t even know why, extreme cabin feve
r in the midst of one of the worst winters on record, fear of the future and my own ability to face it? Looking back with a little more understanding and wisdom I know now that I was most likely in the grips of depression, an ailment that runs strong in my family.
But this time the Father who showed up had a different tone. I couldn’t see him, he wasn’t towering over me with whiskey on his breath, he was just a presence of love and peace so strong that I could feel it. I was having a close encounter with the Lord himself who revealed to me in the anxiousness of a dark winter night in the mountains outside of Anaconda—his love for me. Suddenly my childhood long, unending longing for a loving fulltime father, to be a real part of my life was gone, and I realized that I did have a Father who loved me and was proud of me.
It finally started to sink in that what my real Dad and my mother had been telling me was true, that I was a good person, and though it would take many more years for that to really sink in and bring me to a place of real healing— on this night in Anaconda, far from all of my family, the anxiousness that was consuming me as I was sinking into the death grip of depression and codependency was gone as my heavenly Father whispered to my heart that he was there for me, and would always be.
I heard him because I had cried out in desperation and opened my heart to hear. I had received Jesus years earlier but now I had accepted my adoption into the family of God, and though it would be a few years before I started hanging around with the Lord’s family in a church, at least now I knew who my true father was and that he loved me and was there for me in my darkest hours, not to berate me but to comfort me, to let me know that I was someone worth loving.
This realization is peace—this is happiness.
16Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy. Ps 94
Though this psalm starts with a need for deliverance from enemies, the focus of the psalm soon shifts to a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from inner demons so to speak. The writer (David) felt himself slipping into darkness, even the darkness of death— perhaps literally—as he feared the arrow of an enemy could find him at any moment as he was living as a refugee from the King and then as a King with many enemies who would like to see him gone— or the death like silence of a heart that has given in to total despair.
I believe David felt himself slipping into a despair from which death may even have been seen as a relief, a desperate and undesirable relief especially in light of the fact that the Hebrew notion of the grave before the doors of heaven were opened by Jesus, was a place below the earth, hades, where the dead waited for the resurrection, totally cut off from the living.
A heart that feared it was on a slippery slope of no return to the silence of death was an anxious heart indeed while at the same time an anxious heart that longed for the silence of death was a heart that was already in a kind of living death, either way, it is a bad place to be— it is a place with no love.
An anxious heart, a heart of despair, a heart that either fears or longs for death is a heart that has no love. David is plainly thanking the Lord here for delivering him from a heart issue. His heart was hurting, his heart was empty, his heart was about to give in and give up. It was perhaps a despair that was brought on by the relentless persecution of his enemies, but the real enemy soon became his own mind.
Then he receives consolation, and what is that consolation? The love of the Lord.
I believe the heart, the soul, the mind and the spirit are intricately
woven together in such complexity that only God can unravel and bring health and it is only by his word and by his Holy Spirit that we can even begin to understand it, and only through him that the damage that this fallen world and the sinfulness of the human heart has inflicted on it.
Love is the answer
We need love, we were created to be loved, and to give love. A heart that does not perceive itself as having love will not last for long, at least not in any kind of sustainable form. The ultimate deceit and victory of the enemy of our souls is convincing us that we are unloved— that we are unlovable—and that even God does not love us. He delights in isolating the human heart from any and all love but ultimately the love of God because then he has succeeded in not just destroying our lives, but also our eternal souls.
But rest assured, you Father loves you and he has a plan for you—A plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11
Look to him, he is waiting, he understands— he really does.