It is not unusual for us to discern oppressive spirits that have attached themselves to women who come into Titus 2’s women’s residence. These women’s histories of self-indulgent, unboundaried, and many times reckless activities have placed them in horrific situations of evil presences which give evidence of their presence once the women come into the house. It can be manifested in nightmares, attitudes like resistance to instruction, anger, fearfulness, paranoia, hearing voices, smelling odors, inability to gain relief from anxiety or to experience peace and contentment within the home that continues beyond the usual three to four week adjustment period, as well as other manifestations.
I was initiated into the reality of spiritual realm activity beginning in 1993 after an encounter with a woman I knew who was tormented by hearing vile voices, paranoia, and extreme fear. When she took me into her confidence she was hysterical and unwilling to see mental health or medical professionals due to a religious dogma she had embraced and fear that family members would have her committed to a psychiatric hospital. On the afternoon that I first identified an evil spirit present oppressing her, she had come to my house in tears, tormented by the voices. I felt a check in my spirit as we sat down on my sofa together. What I felt was like what I have only been able to describe as a “blue steel rod in the core of my body” that made me sit up straight and I heard a voice in my spirit say, “Be careful.” I was suddenly aware that I was in the presence of an oppressive evil spirit. I asked her if it was possible that she could be being oppressed by an evil spirit. Her tearful reply was, “Yes.” I talked to her calmly and reassured her that, as a believer in Jesus, it could not continue to harass her. I prayed with her and gave her encouragement to see a primary care providert. She had some physical symptoms that gave me reason to believe that she had medical issues that needed to be addressed as soon as possible, then we could work on the mental health and emotional issues further. In a few weeks she had been diagnosed with glaucoma, diabetes, and arthritis and began treatment for all three chronic conditions. She had been a practicing Church of Christ, Scientist for about 20 years and felt that she was being unfaithful to her chosen religious tradition, although she had been raised Baptist. Once we got beyond that hurdle, I was able to provide additional emotional support and prayer and eventually she settled down into a less anxious, less tormented, and less fearful state. She still had some paranoia and social phobia and would have probably benefited from mental health evaluation and medication, but I could not get her past her fear of mental health professionals for fear of what her two siblings would do to her. They had battled her over family property inheritance issues after their mother’s death and had pressured her into surrendering the house she inherited and coerced her into moving into an old trailer on adjacent family property that one of them had inherited. It was a very contentious situation, the pressure of which had clearly taken a toll on her in multiple ways.
About two months after I went through this with her, I began smelling stale tobacco smoke at random times. No one in my family smoked. No one smoked in my car or around my home, so I was at a loss to identify a pattern or cause for the odd coming and going of the smell. I figured if I had a brain tumor, which can be the cause of olfactory hallucinations, I would have other symptoms. And even though the smell would come and go for the next 4 years, no other symptoms occurred. I did come to realize that it would come upon me at times that I was relaxed and unfocused. When I would “tune in” to its presence and put up a mental guard, seeking it out, it would disappear.
Then came March 1997 when I experienced a sudden onset of hearing voices, paranoia, mania, visual hallucinations, and other phenomena. I was not so much in fear of what was happening, because I knew God was present with me, but I was confused as to why it had started and why it was getting more insistent and pressing. Initially the voice was very affirming and included biblical references which led me to read and study, trying to understand the meaning of the voice and its instructions. I prayed for God to make it clear what was wanted of me and to give me relief from its pressing distraction . At one point several weeks into struggling with it, there were clear indications that the voice was not altogether “holy” as it began to ask things of me that I knew God would not ask. The voice seemed more and more determined to confuse me, which I knew was not from God, as well. Finally, I was worn out from battling it all and fell into a semi-catatonic state and was hospitalized unable to carry on activities of daily living. It was then, in the safety of a psychiatric hospital, with a kind psychiatrist, that I felt free to share what had been happening to me. I knew that I could not handle what was happening alone and I felt relief to be getting psychiatric care. But, as I told the professionals, God was present with me and would get me through it and restore my mental and physical health. They, thankfully, agreed. Although my family had been told I’d be there two to three weeks, I was only there six days, as I responded well to medication and counseling I was referred to intensive out-patient counseling with a Christian counselor In the weeks and months that followed, as I began to tell her about some of what I had experienced, I shared with her that each of my five senses had been affected, beginning with the random smell’s onset four years before, which had coincided with my prayers and emotional support for the woman who had experienced a much more dramatic, fear-inducing, and physically debilitating “attack.” I told the counselor that I had come to understand just recently that she had been tormented by a spirit of fear and, that having identified its presence and having helped her get beyond its clutches, it had come after me to harass me. But I had not been as easy to frighten because of my confidence in God’s presence and care for me. She asked me why I thought I had been able to smell the demonic spirit. I told her that just a few weeks before the encounter with that woman, I had experienced a serious spiritual encounter over the course of a retreat weekend that had led me to a much deeper relationship with Christ and I was changed in a moment in some ways that I had no explanation for except through the presence of the Holy Spirit and that I believe the Holy Spirit had warned me about the spirit of fear oppressing this woman and had given me the equipping to detect its presence through the odor, although I didn’t realize what the smell was at the time. It had only been AFTER the onset of the full-blown attack that challenged my ability to trust every one of my physical senses that I realized I was being spiritually attacked. My counselor’s wisdom, faith in God, and support for me during what became a counseling relationship of several years, helped me gain confidence that I was being equipped by God for something that had yet to be revealed. It would be nearly ten years later, during 2006-2008, that I changed careers, returned to graduate school for counseling and began to work with people with mental health challenges, socio-economic difficulties, addictive dysfunctions. It was then that I began to have a clue what God had prepared me for and prepared for me…….
As I have worked over the last thirteen years in the mental health and addiction field, I have been confronted with a variety of “spirits” oppressing individuals…… fear, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, rebellion, offense, and others. Unlike some who seek to heal through faith using an entirely religious approach, I do not set out to “exorcise” the evil spirit or engage in “deliverance” rituals. Instead, I have sought to help the individuals themselves understand how these spirits have come into their lives and have gained the power to oppress them. I work to help them overcome the fear, to educate them and teach them to trust God and embrace the power of the Holy Spirit to help them banish the spirits from their lives. I pray with them, give them life recovery and addiction recovery education and directive instruction, use cognitive behavioral techniques and acceptance commitment therapy (both of which I think are terrifically biblical!) Our program nurtures learning coping and self-care skills, biblical literacy, healthy boundary setting, emotional literacy, self-evaluation and effective decision-making, and a variety of other developmental skills. About a third of the women we have served over the years acknowledge psychotic phenomena like various sensory hallucinations, delusions, and contact with spiritual beings, either demonic or angelic. Many others manifest generalized anxiety, paranoia, depression, bipolar disorder, and more.
There is not always clear evidence of demonic oppression, but when it is suspected or manifested, we deal with it directly and matter-of-factly, with an expectation that God will assist us and the oppressed individual. We approach it from an education, equipping and prayer standpoint with the student. It has been my observation that unless one is in agreement with the reality that she is under influence of an “outside” malevolent influence, she will resist attempts at change. It she acknowledges the possibility to me in counseling or experiences insights from God arising from study and prayer that bring her to recognize that possibility herself, that a malevolent outside influence is oppressing her, then her decision to “evict” it, replacing its presence with the Holy Spirit’s power and equipping can bring about miraculous changes in a matter of minutes or hours! It has been a privilege to watch some of these transformations as they realize what it is that has brought them torment and pain and are ready to participate in sending it packing.
In a recent experience, a woman came with over a decade of substance abuse, repeated unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation, a prison term, family chaos, and finally coming to the conclusion that she could only find recovery through a faith approach. She had had several spiritual experiences that had prepared her for what we would help her discover. We quickly recognized the presence of several spiritual oppressions present. But we could also see how desperate she was to know true freedom from addiction.
After a month in the program she confided some secrets to me about past behaviors and about a family member who practiced occult practices with whom she had been in conflict for many years. Then one day she told me she felt that she was being harassed by a spirit that wanted her to leave the program. She felt anxious, and it seemed to be centered in her sternum area. I talked to her about the things she had confided to me, how I believed they had affected her. I prayed with her and gave her some Scriptures affirmations and promises to embrace for healing. I also gave her a deliverance prayer to pray over the next few days. She told me that God had led her to understand that she had a “spirit of offense”, although she wasn’t sure what that meant. I explained to her that it meant that she was easily goaded into being offended by the words or actions of others. We talked about how that had been evidenced in her relationships with family members, friends, and others. She was able to describe specific things that pointed to this being true. With her acknowledgement of this spirit’s presence, I prayed with her again and encouraged her to continue embracing God’s Word and prayer to build up her guard over her heart and mind.
Two days later we had an extended counseling session that ended about noon. When we finished she told me she had begun repeating a particular word while praying that she didn’t know…. ‘babasu’. She didn’t know what it meant and was using a dictionary to try to figure out what the word was that seemed to spontaneously come from her lips as she prayed. The word was vaguely familiar to me, but didn’t immediately come to mind. I looked the word up in a Hebrew dictionary and also checked it online. The word “babassu” in Hebrew and Arabic (and also Spanish) refers to a particular kind of palm tree, its oil, or its fronds. It is associated with worship, joy, and deliverance. (Recall how the people of Jerusalem used palm branches to welcome the Messiah, whom they believed would deliver them from the oppression of the Roman oppressors!) Once this information came to light I told her that I believed God was giving her that word as evidence that she had been anointed in her personal worship with the Holy Spirit’s presence and this word was further evidence that she had been delivered from that spirit of offense that she had been led to recognize. (The other instructor and I both believed there had been several others that had been present when she came in but were now gone, as well. This was just one that was hanging on and had to be “evicted” by her own volition as she was led in prayer to recognize it and wanted it to be gone.
I had begun some time ago to ponder Jesus’ words to his disciples when they asked him why they had been unable to cast out some spirits, “These can only come out by prayer.” It caused me to ask, ‘whose prayer?” Jesus’ prayer, which we all have as he is continually intervening before the throne of God on our behalf? The prayer of an intercessor, like myself, praying for one who is in distress from an oppressive spirit? Or the prayer of the oppressed person herself for deliverance? I had come to the conclusion that it was, quite possibly, all three! Is it possible that this is one manifestation of the “cord of three strands” that cannot be broken???? Is this the case of two or three being gathered in his name assuring Christ is present with them? Is this the fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous person that availeth much??
By 5:30pm, another instructor observed that the student had a whole new demeanor…. more relaxed, no anxiousness, more joyful and content, better able to set aside distractions and in trusive throughts that had occupied her mind. There were some family issues that she said would have made her extremely distraught before but now she was able to cope with them and allow God to work them out in his time and his way. She looked and acted differently. She told the house supervisor she had had a good day. Yes, I believe she did.