“The devil is talking to me.”
Her lips shaped words but her voice was like a robot.
My gorgeous tall black thin framed model-bodied patient looked at me with a face that barely moved. Almost flat. Her eyes rarely blinked, with orbs that seemed to jump out at me when she spoke.
This is Talia, a 3.8 GPA college grad last year who just started her first job in marketing. She has been a Jehovas Witness for about ten years and is passionate about her God and religion. She has been attending church related meetings lately about 6-7 days a week and loves to read her Bible for hours. However, over the past six months when she reads the devil and his minions cuss loudly in a cacoffany of foul persecutory language. She is afraid all the time and has high inner tension.
Talia cannot sleep any longer for more than a few hours at a time. She has been losing weight. She has lost her job, and is panicking, terrified to read her Bible or go to church.
Her family says she is talking to herself, and has “crazy eyes”. They do not know what to think. Maybe she is possessed as well as crazy. Maybe both.
Is Talia possessed by the devil? Is Talia crazy?
I was in Los Angeles this summer with my kids, walking on Hollywood Blvd. We passed several people who were responding to internal stimuli. One extremely saddening lady was slumped against a shadowed corner sitting in her own piss leaking down the street, her shirt half open, as she spoke to various targets. My kids were afraid. We were all, frankly, sad. My kids did wonder, too, were these people possessed by the devil?
Have you ever wondered if the devil was talking to you? Or working on you?
The question is, if you want to ask this, rather ask, “What does this say about the character of God?” Included in all the biology explanations and psychosocial intersections, we bring the magical and spiritual. If you ask about the devil, ask rather about God. What does this say about God?
Talia had been adhering to her treatments and now celebrates that she is able to read her Bible again, go to her religions meetings, and has even driven around a parking lot once with a family member in the seat beside her. She is sleeping through the night, able to enjoy life, the simple and large things like the touch of shower water or taking a walk.
When Talia hears voices, she no longer believes the voices come from the devil but rather demonstrate that she has missed something bad inside of herself that she hasn’t yet surrendered. I asked her, “What does that tell you about God? The character of God.”
We are so quick to assign nonbiological causality to emotions, thoughts and behaviors. It turns out that when the brain gets sick, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors generally go the direction of bad, rather than “good.” Naturally we ascribe moral value to what we are culturally primed to believe has moral value – emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. The question becomes, “What does it say about who God is when we do this?”
I like to think about the character of God. It is a picker upper. When I get enmeshed in some line of thought that demonstrates a poor reflection on Gods character, I figure at some point that I’m not seeing things clearly. It’s always a relief. I don’t know it all. If it says horrible things about God’s character, than I must have some misinformation or misinterpretation.
Others may say rather, I am misreading Gods character as good. That’s not a perspective that is friendly to me in the end. One of the reasons I reject it.
Self care tip: Ask yourself, “What does this say about God’s character?”
Questions: Have you ever wondered if the devil was talking to you? Or working on you?
Do you ascribe moral value to emotions, thoughts, and behaviors?
What does it say about who God is?
This article is excellent! I know for years that I avoided therapy or other medical “support” because I received the message from my parents while I was growing up that “Jesus is enough”. While I still believe that Jesus is enough, I now understand as you said: “…when the brain gets sick, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors generally go the direction of bad, rather than “good.” Naturally we ascribe moral value to what we are culturally primed to believe has moral value – emotions, thoughts, and behaviors”. This is such a freeing message!!!
I’m smiling all over, hearing from you.
It is great to get back in touch. It’s an age since I’ve posted, but I’ve been really really blessed to have Dr. Silvet on board. She’s amazing.
I’d really love to hear more from you on this topic. I have been struggling with articulating it. There is so much here that needs to be said.
Please tell me more about your experiences. And would you be willing to explore also the question as to what all this says about God’s character?
Thank you! I’ll work on it. Best to answer here? Or in a separate email?
I’m pleased to share if you are comfortable here. I invite others to comment as well of course.
Hi Louise. I’m sorry it’s taken me forever to respond. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for your comment and important engagement. It’s a super tough concept for me to get around and I need help! Keep on.
A person plagued with these voices needs treatment of some sort determined by a professional. For the rest of us that may hear Satan in his many forms now and then a defense is not to listen. Then he is foiled. He will be cast out through the Holy Spirit if our hearing attuned to Him. .
Hi Carl. I am so grateful for your insights. Thank you. You know I look to you as a mentor in so many regards.
May I ask more about this? We all need discussion on this. The interplay in physical with spiritual is bewildering when the brain gets ill to the community who looks on, assuming brain health in them :), let alone to the patient suffering.
I read in your comment an opinion that there is a degree of separation between illnesses. There is the floridly psychotic. Those whom have brain biology education may be able to say, “This voice they hear is from brain illness and not the devil.” It is, one may say, one complete slide over on the spectrum of what’s considered as influenced by the devil. As near as possible to “zero” as any human could determine.
Then there is the rest…. In these other spectrum illnesses, the devil may be the one bringing on the symptoms? The devil may be the one pressing the human into unfortunate behaviors? And if so, if the person does not listen, and through the Holy Spirit, then will be able to stop having these difficulties/emotions, thoughts, and behaviors?
I’m sure I’m not saying this as you would say it but I’m pressing in because it’s so good! 🙂 This is great stuff for us and others. Thank you again.
What does it say about the character of God, if this is so?
Our God is light. There is no darkness in Him.
He is love. He lavished His love upon us. As an artist, I see this love in colors, flowers, and faces. There is incredible beauty in these things. Beauty that was created due to His love for us and Him wanting us to have a beautiful place to live. He surrounded us with amazing, fascinating landscapes.
This landscape changes every day. Our God is a living God that wants us to be interested in the beauty of our surroundings.
He is a creator of order. Just look at a pine cone, a shell, or the face of a sunflower. How I love spirals and their depth.
He is fair, kind, just, and patient,. He also gets mad.
Thank you oliver. I enjoy the messages of God’s kindness through nature and appreciate remembering it with others. Keep on.