October 31st, Halloween; a season of scary ghost stories, freakish costume parties, timeless horror movie classics, culminated with the annual tradition of trick-or-treating with our kids or grandchildren. Whether you are a willing participant and victim of the many haunts waiting for you at local Haunted houses or you are more likely to turn off the lights and refrain from the chaos, it is a holiday hard to escape from. But after tonight the costumes will be put away for another year, the houses of horrors will close their doors and the candy will be devoured to assure job security for all dieticians for another year. Halloween will go back to its resting place only to be reincarnated next October.
However, for many people Halloween is nothing compared to the constant haunting from the ghosts, the memories, the regrets, the voices inside each head that are inescapable. Unlike costumes which can be put on and taken off at our whim, the real haunts inside us never give us any relief and they are much more real than any Hollywood production with all their special effects. The night terrors that come in our sleep, the monsters under our bed or hiding in the closet don’t go away simply by turning the lights on. In a twist of irony, these haunts become the real person hiding behind our everyday masks or costumes of normalcy. They can be entirely overwhelming.
Each year we hear of successful, intelligent, enlightened and even spiritual people who are driven to the unspeakable act of ending their own lives. We scratch our heads as from all appearances the person had everything going for them that we deem stable-wealth, power, fame, success. But we were never allowed into their world of haunts and torment and are shocked to learn only after the fact that they faced severe bouts of depression, addictions and suicidal tendencies. Their silent tears and painted on smiles hide the most authentic of haunted houses, the prison of the brain victimized by false voices of condemnation, self-worth and inadequacies. It can be more gory than any Halloween tradition.
Just last night I viewed a movie on Russ Taff, a Christian Music legend. His credits are unmatched-18 Dove Music awards, 6 Grammys, a three-time inductee into Christian Music’s Hall of Fame and beloved by anyone who has ever heard him or had the privilege of performing with him on stage. And yet at the pinnacle of his success, he was haunted by the voices in his head telling him the awards meant nothing, that he was a phony, that he deserved the physical abuse he suffered as a child, that he would never be good enough to merit his father’ approval. He would leave the Grammys and fall immediately back into the haunted house of his mind even while clutching his latest award in his hand. The voices drove him to drink because only when intoxicated did he find silence from the voices in his head. It was a downward spiral that nearly cost him his marriage, his family, his career and his life. He hid it well until he lost all control and appeared on a Christian music show completely and obviously intoxicated. He hit the bottom.
Truth be told, many of us are confronted by similar haunts or voices. In fact, I would suggest that the stronger you think you are the more vicious the attacks and schemes of our internal warfare. And the attacks are relentless! You are where you are because of your own inadequacy. You are broke because you are a poor employee and no one values your contributions. You are unhealthy because you are lazy and a slob. You lost your business because you didn’t have the business savvy it took to succeed. You failed at marriage because the real you wasn’t worth loving. You are single because you are not attractive to anyone and no one sees any value in a relationship with you. You never hear from your kids because they still think you were a lousy parent and you can’t ever change that. You are so flawed that even God can’t look upon you without disgust and contempt. Night and day the voices inside your head terrify you. There is no secret door to escape the room, no safe passage or panic switch to stop the ride-you are powerless to the suggestions of failure, of worthlessness, of insignificance that abuse you mentally without relief.
Sometimes the severity of these mental disorders require professional treatment. Surrendering to seeking help is not a sign of weakness but in fact the first step to recovery. For others, it may be a matter of reprogramming your brain, or resetting it to the original default spiritual setting through a therapy of scriptural reminders, of which there are plenty. Christ was no stranger to the tricks and schemes of the enemy of the mind. He was taunted in every way and we should expect no less. However he fought back with the knowledge of scripture as his weapon. It seems too simplistic to assert that quoting Bible verses can reprogram a haunted mind, but it remains our most effective defense.
Romans 12-be transformed by renewing our minds;
Philippians 4-think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable;
2 Timothy 1-the Spirit gives us power and a sound mind;
Proverbs 4-guard your heart and mind;
Ephesians 4-be made new in your mental attitude;
2 Corinthians 10-take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ;
Colossians 3-set your mind on things above, not earthly things;
Psalm 46-be still and remember that I am God.
Hauntings can be fun when we know the blood is fake and the chainsaw is just a prop, or that we can clearly see the escape doors for the faint of heart. But the haunts of the mind play for keeps and the prize is our soul, our very lives. There is not a single person walking this planet who has nothing of worth to offer another. Even a recovering alcoholic who has lost everything to the battle of the bottle can be a sponsor to another addict upon their own recovery and sobriety. Regardless of what the voices in your head want you to believe, we all have value in God’s eyes-we can all contribute something to someone-we can all find love, purpose, meaning to our existence. We don’t have to succumb to the numbing through intoxication, the escape that a high offers, the relief that suicides seduces us with. Through prayer, through grace and through retaking control of our thought processes we can expose these mental haunts for what they really are-a fake scary costume that we can take off and put away like any other Halloween costume. The only thing more relentless than the haunts of the enemy is the relentless love of Christ which chases us down the darkest of alleys and surrounds us in protective layers of his mercy and compassion. When that happens and we can put on the cloak of Christ, we become the haunts to the dark forces who now run from us.