“I was so desperate; I would have done anything they told me to do, even if they had told me to stand on my head in the corner of the room for a week straight. I would have done it—anything to be free.” My sponsor shared her own story of recovery with me the first night we met. She had been sober from alcoholism for over ten years, and here I was, a newbie to the whole thing. At the time, though, I had not quite reached that level of desperation, and it would be two more years of addiction, bitterness, depression, mental illness, and overall internal misery before I experienced freedom from such things. In other words, I had to get to that level of desperation, that level of desire, before an authentic lasting change of behavior could take place. Until I reached that point, I continued in a “double-minded” state of living, oscillating between what I knew from God’s word and what I actually experienced in my day to day life.
And I’m not the only one who has experienced this tragic tug-of-war over the mind. Often, the mind is far more willing than the heart. Unfortunately, the two must meet in agreement in order for a real transformation to take place. And by transformation I don’t mean a temporary lapse of obedience to God’s word, but a true sustained inner peace that passes all human understanding. A peace that is characterized by freedom from entanglements that exudes through one’s countenance, which brings us to:
The Countenance Test
You can learn a lot about a person through their countenance. Luke 9:28-36 recounts the events surrounding Jesus’ transfiguration, and in verse 29 we’re told, “As [Jesus] prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered.” Even the Son of God was changed when in the presence of His Father through prayer. Much the same, when we wear the person of Jesus Christ (spending time listening to Him and believing what He says about us—experiencing life to the full) our presence (how we carry ourselves and how we express ourselves) will be affected.
When my family spent a day at Disneyland for our daughter’s fifth birthday last September, we had to cram as much in as we could in one short day. We arrived when the park opened and stayed until they closed the doors. We only sat down to eat one time during the entire day. No joke, folks, it was brutal. At first we entered the park practically skipping along with excitement. We were all smiling from ear to ear; we could hardly contain our enthusiasm. But by the time midnight rolled around we were exhausted, sore, hungry, and sunburnt. It wouldn’t have taken a psychologist to figure it out, either. One look at us would have told the story.
Most Christians have that sort of skip-a-long attitude when they first come to Christ. They’re excited and full of energy, “I’ve been redeemed! WOOOO!” But over time, as the reality of life kicks in, the believer wears down emotionally. Sometimes having to drag themselves to church through the doubt and discontentment they feel on a daily basis. The same is true for those who have experienced a personal revival or rededication to Jesus. The excitement eventually wanes and things go back to “business as usual”.
Week in and week out believers are walking into churches with saddened countenances. Their body language and facial expressions tell a far greater story than their words. And that story is not exuding peace, joy, and contentment. Instead, the countenance says, “Jesus, your burden is so heavy and your yoke is more than I can bear. You want too much from me. I want to give up. I’m tired.” How sad that Christ-followers are settling for this kind of existence!
When Truth Doesn’t Set You Free
I recently received an email from a stranger who had stumbled upon my website. This person was desperate for freedom (or so they said). But I had an uneasy feeling from the get-go, and in my correspondence I tried to pay careful attention to the responses I received. It became apparent that the struggling person was not, in fact, even a Christian (one who has trusted in Jesus alone for salvation). They were dealing with demonic interference and had dabbled in the occult/Satan worship.
When I presented this person with the gospel, their whole demeanor changed. They became angry and aggressive, even switching personalities and claiming to be someone else. At one point they told me the original author of the email was no longer allowed to communicate with me.
I assured this person that they could be set free, but only through Jesus Christ. But that wasn’t the answer they wanted to hear and submitting to Christ was not an option for them. In fact, it enraged them every time I mentioned the name of Jesus.
I’ve had experiences of a similar nature with other believers who come to me with their struggles. While they are willing to read books—especially the Bible—do studies, attend conferences, and join groups, they are unwilling to believe what God says about them or their circumstances, and they are not willing to allow God to circumcise their heart and purge the things that are holding them back from a full experience of freedom. Many times these individuals also get angry and defensive when presented with the truth. Unfortunately, they want the result (peace) without the effort (choosing to believe and live by the truth despite circumstances).
The only truth that will set you free is the truth you are willing to apply. <<<(Click here to Tweet this!)
If you want to experience a freedom that exudes through your countenance (in other words, it’s infectious to those around you), you need to reach that point where you’re willing to stand on your head to get results. You’re willing to choose not to be a victim, not to have rights (because your rights are in fact God’s, not yours), you’re willing to be humbled, you’re willing to admit your way isn’t producing the fruit you’d like it to, you’re willing to listen to truth without defensiveness, you’re willing to embrace the relationships God has placed in your life—even the tough ones (some of my biggest spiritual epiphanies have come through the voice of my accusers); in other words, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to be free. You’re willing to believe God’s word and live by faith.
Are you weary, worn, tired, fearful, anxious, depressed, despairing, discontented, embittered, angry…? Are you tired enough to let God change it? Will you stand on your head if He tells you to? You can experience life to the full but you need to ask yourself how willing are you really?
If you are willing, but need help with the “how” of all of this, feel free to email me (RebeccaAarup@mail.com) with your questions. Please, don’t settle for anything less than perfect peace.
Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.
Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha. You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.
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Mental illness, spiritual warfare, addiction, bullying, rage, hopelessness, physical sickness, abuse, emotional torture–Graham Aitchison divulges the deepest secrets of his life’s journey with startling transparency in No Way Out But Through.
Anyone who has experienced the pain of the above mentioned issues will find themselves nodding in agreement as they read Graham’s story. The text is refreshingly real—as if you are sitting in a living room listening to the author tell you his story first-hand. It’s rare that a book is written from the view of “sharing” rather than “preaching”. Along with the “realness” of the authors journey is a manuscript packed with spiritual truth.
I found this to be a fascinating read once I got into the meat of the story. So much of Graham’s life reflects my own struggles with mental illness. Often the journey through mental/emotional sickness leads one into isolation, misunderstanding, and intense loneliness, but knowing others have suffered as you have brings great comfort. Even for the reader who has not experienced such things, there is much to learn from No Way Out But Through. Graham’s book provides a resource for the confused family members and frustrated friends of those who do deal with these issues. All around it’s a book many people could benefit from.
What I found most interesting was Graham’s discussion of Christianity and mental illness. No doubt this is a subject of much debate in the Church today leaving the mentally distressed guilt-ridden and most everyone else critical of such “mental” experiences.
“Throughout everything I was learning to break through, there was one essential factor to the whole process that I became more and more aware of over time – the great love and endless patience that God has for people, especially those who struggle with any form of mental illness.”
Graham acknowledges the spiritual warfare at play within his mind as well as how God brought him through overwhelming, debilitating darkness. Much of his journey to healing started with honesty within himself and before God. Many of the points he makes throughout the book remind me of what I learned in the 12-step programs I’ve been through. I especially appreciated his conversation regarding change within the heart rather than change in one’s circumstances.
“Change for the better starts from within, and will then eventually be followed by external change – not the other way around. We will never solve our own problems through trying to blame others for what are actually our own responsibilities, nor will we solve our problems through continued disregard of our own emotions and hearts, and through listening to an increasingly shallow and self-serving society.”
“Modern society in many ways tells people to look for peace and happiness in external circumstances, hence the abundance of consumerism. Christ’s way of thinking, which He passes on to those who follow him, encourages the individual to seek out true, lasting peace and understanding through looking honestly into the mirror and journeying with God through the parts of themselves they would rather avoid.”
Admittedly not everyone will relate to Graham’s story, but plenty of people will relate or know someone who can. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the mind of someone suffering with mental illness such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, severe anxiety, anger, or bullying, then you will learn much from Graham’s story. No Way Out But Through reads like a journal–raw and real.
“God’s way of thinking is a total contradiction to the world’s way of thinking. The world’s way of thinking encourages dishonesty, shallowness, irresponsibility and pride. God’s way of thinking encourages honesty, depth, personal responsibility and humility.”
Thankfully, this is exactly what Graham has done—spoken with depth, honesty, responsibility and humility.
For a limited time you can purchase Graham Aithchison’s book, No Way Out But Through from Amazon.com for only $2.99. Click HERE to buy the book now.
(I purchased this book with my own money and did not receive it in exchange for a good review. The opinions expressed here were my own.)