Is emotional stability synonymous with spiritual conversion? With the new birth? Are emotional complexes, defense mechanisms, all the problems of the personality resolved when a person becomes a Christian? Is the emotional infant, the psychologically immature adult suddenly made stable through this spiritual experience?
A number of questions plague the Christian facing frustration and conflict. And how confused many Christians have become as they have been given the impression that the infilling of God's Spirit should automatically ensure perfect personality functioning. Discovering that the problems still exist, Christians usually face them in one of two ways.
First: The Christian may severely repress his inner problems, crush them the moment they show themselvesboth inwardly and outwardly. Far from facing them and trying to resolve his problems, he may deny they even exist. So they are driven deep within himself, but not to lie dormant; rather, to reappear in disguised form. Countless health problems plague his life, or a terribly unhappy marriage situation develops. He becomes a defeated Christian and may even break under the severe strain as the years go by and the problems multiply.
Second: The Christian troubled with maladjusted impulses in his life (even after he has tried to give himself completely to God) may honestly recognize their continued presence and become disillusioned with his Christian experience. He begins to doubt. Spirit-filled living seems an unreality to himsomething to be longed for, but something that just doesn't work in everyday living.
Let's turn to the Bible for help in understanding how to face emotional and psychological problems. An incident in the Bible can bring us to a clearer understanding of a real solution. We read, "There was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself."1 What a tremendous description of some of us! The woman not only had an infirmity, but "a spirit of infirmity." This is not a case of demon possession, for Jesus laid His hands on her to heal her, a thing He never did in healing any demoniac. He did say, however, to the ruler of the synagogue who criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, "Ought not this woman ... whom Satan hath bound for eighteen years be loosed from this bond...."2
Like an iceberg which lies largely below
the surface of the water with only a small
part showing above, the conscious mind is
only a tiny segment of the whole person.
How true! Satan uses these kinds of emotional problems to bind us down and to defeat us. To Jesus, any kind of illness or problem was a part of the Kingdom of Evil which He had come to overthrow. No, this woman did not have a mere physical infirmity, not an evil spirit, but a "spirit of infirmity." It appears as though some appalling sense of inferiority, had deeply affected her body, too. She was bent over, always looking down; she tried, but she could not straighten herself.
I believe this is an accurate description of what I call a "damaged emotion," a marred area in the personality. Yes, this woman was a "daughter of Abraham." And the same is true, often, in children of God. Satan has taken a damaged spirit and used it to frustrate and defeat the Christian. The very structure of the human mind makes this possible. Like an iceberg which lies largely below the surface of the water with only a small part showing above, the conscious mind is only a tiny segment of the whole person. With the conscious mind we accept forgiveness from our sins; we ask the Holy Spirit to take control of our life. But what happens to that greater part of us, our subconscious mind? Here are stored the long-forgotten memories and experiences of childhood. Add to this our physical inheritance, our temperaments and it complicates matters even worse.
Because we live in a sinful, irrational, and imperfect world, every one of us comes to adult life with some damaged areas in our personality. We all bear emotional scars. True, some carry many more or deeper scars than others, but all of us bear these damaged areas in our personalities.
In today's world, emotional disturbances have increased greatly.The rise of divorces and broken homes; our tragic overemphasis on sex to the point where it has become almost a national obsession with us; the increase of illegitimate births; the growing use of alcohol and drugs; the breakdown of discipline and personal responsibility; the specter of parents who are too busy or preoccupied to parent; these are some of the results of and factors contributing to the development of damaged personalities in our society.
Continued on Page Two