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SAVED FROM THE MAW OF THE LION. TESTIMONIES OF SPIRITUAL DELIVERANCE IN CASES OF COMPLEX TRAUMA
by bruno sebrechts
3/11/2021 / Testimonies
Near the beginning of my ministry, our pastor invited me as an elder to assist him pastorally with a woman we will call Marilyn. She had recently come to Christ in a dramatic way after having been badly traumatized for most of her life, including thirteen years of chronic mental illness, which included frequent, forced admissions for extended periods to psychiatric hospitals.
Although Marilyn’s story is unusually dramatic, it provides important insights for pastors and laypeople alike. Marilyn’s testimony can help better understand the struggles some people experience on their way to deliverance. People with different backgrounds can experience demonic infestation in a variety of ways. This is just a single story, but it is authentic. It is one of many stories that confirm the spiritual dimension of the biblical worldview. While many people are helped by medical care and by mental health programs, there is still the possibility of other factors troubling a person, which may be healed only by the deliverance Jesus Christ offers.
Here’s the story of Marilyn:
My earliest childhood memories are filled with fear, for there was nowhere I felt safe. I still shudder when I think back to when I was six and became the victim of a traumatic occult ritual. It left me with physical scars, but also with many more emotional wounds. (This may sound bizarre to most readers. For some general info on this kind of extreme abuse, see Appendix).
My whole world changed, leaving me feeling different from all other people I knew. From then on, I lived in the shadow of an oppressive spiritual entity. Afterwards, I was threatened with death if I ever told anyone about it, and my fears increased even further.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. My father was an alcoholic, which imprisoned everyone in our family in his world. Whenever dad came home, the whole family was scared, for whenever he was drunk, he would go wild, with a look in his eyes that haunted me all the time. Even at school I would suddenly become sick with fear at any memory of that look in his eyes, so sick that sometimes I was sent home—to be with my father!
Sometimes, I would hide in the closet, but even there I was not safe because he knew where I was, and he would force me, through the door, to open the closet. Because I never knew what to expect, I was constantly tense and anxious.
The kids at school noticed my uneasiness and my tendency to isolate myself. But they knew my father was an alcoholic, which was reason enough to avoid me. So, I built my own world, in which the only person I had contact with was a friendly, understanding imaginary woman. I often just heard her voice, but I had seen her several times in real life as well. Because I had met her in unusual circumstances, I never wondered who she was or why I was connected to her. It just seemed she understood me. I could tell her anything, for she seemed to know me better than anyone else. She even knew of things I’d never told anyone. Her presence assured me that I needed no one else besides her, not even friends of my own age.
When I was eleven, I was the victim of an even more horrific ritual, which was so painful and horrible, it’s still hard to describe. This abuse left me with many wounds, with physical and psychological scars that I had to carry for the years to come. So, when the female voice told me to put an end to my life, I agreed with her. Anything would be better than continuing to live.
I will not explain all that happened in our family, but tragedy compounded my injuries and my sense of bondage, when, on his eighteenth birthday, my older brother and his friend died in a car accident. Our grief was unbearable. It was then that my epileptic seizures began.
My father could not handle the death of his son, and, to make matters even worse, he discovered he had developed throat cancer. Knowing he did not have long to live, he kept threatening to kill us before he died. I lived somewhere between fear and desperate hope. I begged Saint Mary to put an end to this nightmare, and I kept praying for either my father’s or my own death.
Then, one evening my father came home drunk again, but this time he actually tried to murder my mother and me. The neighbors called the police, who arrived just in time to rescue us. I was taken to the hospital, and my father was sent to jail before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital. My mother was in shock, but returned home. I will never be able to express what it means to endure the worst possible kind of attack—of a child almost killed by her own father. My father’s eyes have haunted me for years. I could not erase from my mind that look in his eyes when he struck! Eventually, my father died by an act of self-destruction.
When I was eighteen years old, I married the man I loved. I thought that was the solution. But so much in me was infested and damaged, and I was unable to talk about all I had gone through.
A year later, our daughter was born. We were delighted with her. But shortly afterwards, I began to feel terrible and became ill to the point of dehydration, so that I had to be hospitalized. For a month, I was on a drip, but because none of the tests showed any physical causes, I was eventually sent to a psychiatrist. I can still remember our first conversation. He asked me if my husband drank or was seeing other women. I reacted sharply to these questions, for I knew how much my husband loved me. But when the psychiatrist inquired further back into my youth, the ball started rolling.
I told the psychiatrist about my father’s drinking problem, and for the first time, I spoke of the fear I had endured because of him. I did not mention the traumas or the inner voices, but it seemed like the psychiatrist was satisfied with the information about my father. He agreed my hatred toward my father was quite normal behavior, and he prescribed more medication. He assured me everything would turn out fine. I would be better in no time!
But the strong medication turned me into a zombie-like person. I preferred to stay in bed, but this was of no help. I talked to no one about what really went on inside me, not even to my own husband. He wanted to listen, but I had not learned to express myself, and he was not used to talking about inner feelings. So, I kept listening to the inner voices, which seemed to be more numerous than before. I could tell them everything, and I thought that at least they understood me.
Because of all the medications, I became paralyzed. With no control over my muscles, I could barely move or even speak, and I could not stop drooling. But worst of all was the lack of understanding from certain doctors and the nursing staff. I could no longer hold my fork to eat, which made the nurse angry with me, and she threatened me with a transfer to the psychiatric ward. I heard a noise on my lips like the moan of an animal, but I could do nothing to stop this sound, which came from deep within me. It was horrifying!
They gave me more injections until I stopped moaning, but the paralysis increased. Ultimately, my family transferred me to another hospital, where I was diagnosed with “paralysis due to overdose of medication.” They told me it could have been fatal, and I had to stay in the intensive care unit for several days. Then, as if I were a small child, I had to learn to eat again, to write, and to deal with the basics of living.
After some time, I was discharged. But a short time later, I had to be re-hospitalized, this time in the psychiatric ward of an academic hospital. I thought it strange to see patients walking around in regular clothes instead of pajamas. But then I realized I was the only one in a nightgown, and I had nothing else with me. Worse yet was that all the doors were locked, as if I were in a prison.
My therapy included conversations with the psychiatrist, but they were mere repetitions of my earlier conversations with other doctors. The inner voices continued. At first, I thought these voices might offer me support and understanding, but I began to find that if I did not obey them, they would dominate me, becoming more and more intrusive. The voices warned me not to talk about them, and assured me again it would be better to end my life. Oftentimes, I heard I had been doing destructive things in a state of unconsciousness. Such a state could continue for several days or weeks, and resulted in huge memory gaps. My sense of helplessness was complete.
My husband was told I suffered from severe schizophrenia that would only get worse, and I would receive better care in an institution for chronic patients, never to go home again. Fortunately, he never agreed. He wanted me to be home as much as possible. But my epileptic seizures were also very hard for him to handle. Many, many times I was hospitalized, where I felt my opinion and my sense of self-worth was not important.
As long as I agreed with the hospital staff, everything went on as usual, but if I expressed my opinion or did not cooperate, I risked being put into solitary confinement. This was a room with bare walls and bare floor, with only a bed bolted into the floor, and a night bucket to take care of your toiletry needs. There I was, naked in a cage with a glass window. Everyone could stare at me from a safe distance outside, as if I were a wild, dangerous, and untamable animal. This all happened many years ago, but this is how patients were treated there at that time.
I remember once being locked up because I refused to take medication. If I was under its sedation, I could hardly think, and I had no control over myself. Fearing this, I tried to flee, but I was soon caught and put in solitary confinement where I was fully sedated. I had to be “corrected.”
Each day, a doctor or psychologist came by to ask if I was finally ready to take my medication and if I’d promise not to run away. My inner pain was wrenching.
After a week, I swore they would never see me cry. My grief wasn’t noticed anyhow, and I didn’t want them to see my pain when they had no real interest in me. In fact, they completely ignored it. Eventually, I sat in a corner of the room, completely broken. I remember banging my head against the wall, as if I were trying to break my skull. When the doctor, the psychologist, and the nurse came in and asked me again if I at last wanted to do what was expected of me, I agreed, and I was allowed to go back to my room. From their perspective, this week of “therapy” had worked!
With the inner voices encouraging me—even trying to force me—I tried to commit suicide about twenty times. After one attempt, I was comatose for ten days.
My hospital stays were increasing in frequency and duration, but the “therapy” made me feel lonelier and more broken than I had ever been. I wasn’t taken seriously by anyone, because I was considered insane, and this agony lasted for about thirteen years. I don’t wish to discredit general mental healthcare, because I realize it can be wholesome or a road to recovery, but this was not the case for me.
Looking for Spiritual Escape
I had not been in the psychiatric hospital for very long before a doctor advised me to start practicing yoga. He told me it would be a good relaxation therapy. I joined in as much as possible, and from the beginning, we were advised to practice it for half an hour to an hour each day.
Eventually, I moved from yoga to transcendental meditation and mindlessness. First, we learned to relax in the lotus position. We had to think of beautiful things, like flowers, wavy water, etc. We learned to empty our minds of all thought— “like you are entering the darkness,” said the teacher, “or as if you are falling asleep.” And we had to hold on to this darkness, not only when our eyes were closed, but also when our eyes were opened.
Few were able to hold on to the darkness in this way, and I was one of only two in our group who could—despite my terrible condition. The teacher invited the two of us to proceed to a more advanced level, as he said we had a special gift. This gift would enable us to go much deeper, even to leave our bodies, which would be very helpful in handling our problems. This really appealed to me. The thought of leaving my body sounded like a wonderful way to cope with my problems, for I could escape when those inner voices would try to dominate me. “At last,” I thought, “I’ve found the way out!”
Unfortunately, as I later realized, this just led me even deeper into trouble. It took a lot of effort to reach the point of being able to “transcend” my body. It took training and discipline and certain secret practices. We had been given a personal mantra, and later we received a keyword to enter the spirit world. When I brought forth a certain sound, I had to wait for an answer that would provide me with “contact” when a certain power came over me, so I entered a trance.
But eventually, I found that the spirit world could manipulate me, when the spirits took the initiative. Oftentimes, it was as if I were sucked out of myself without being able to resist. I began to notice that when I was in the darkness of the spirit world, I felt I was meeting my father’s spirit. And, though I no longer wanted to go there, I was unable to stop it.
The Turning Point
My turning point came when I was thirty years old. This was during one of those times between two hospitalizations, when I worked as a house cleaner with a family of Bible-believing Christians. They spoke about their church like it was one big family, and everything they said about Christ resonated with me. I felt they had something I did not have, although I regarded myself as a Christian.
Through them I came to know more people that really wanted to live as followers of Christ, and they showed me true compassion, love, and friendship. But I did not dare tell them about my problems. I was afraid they would drop me if they found out. This secrecy could not last, however, since I needed to be hospitalized again. I begged my husband not to tell them about my stay in a psychiatric hospital, but he felt this would be wrong, and he wanted them to be notified anyway. I agreed to let them know that I needed some rest. I never expected them to come to the hospital to visit me, but they did, and their visit struck me so deeply. They were not ashamed of me, and they kept me as their friend!
When I told them a little of my past, they gave me a booklet about trusting God. I devoured that book, although I was under strong medication. They promised me they would visit me again, but I had a very tough week. After thirteen years of being in a psychiatric environment, I was completely exhausted. I did not want to live anymore. My husband and child were also at the end of their tether.
The other patient in my room had also known much misery, and we talked about our personal traumas. We became so close that we agreed to commit suicide together. We were afraid of dying, but our other fears were even greater. We planned to commit suicide by throwing ourselves under a train. But on the appointed day, I gave God one last chance. I called on him from the bottom of my heart: “If you really exist, show me!”
Some moments later my new Christian friends came to visit me. When they gave me a Bible, I suddenly knew I would one day be healed, and that the solution to my problems was hidden in that book! When they left our room, I immediately started reading. I really felt someone lovingly spoke to me from the pages. Every page provided an immediate answer to each question I posed, and this went on for half an hour! Kneeling down, I started to cry, and I prayed: “God, I want to live for you, because I have called to you in my deepest misery, and you answered me.”
On that day, I accepted Christ as my Savior and the Bible as the word of God, never to doubt it again.
What happened after that, however, hit me very hard, for I learned my friend had committed suicide on her own, while I had totally forgotten our appointment! I really had to fight feelings of guilt, for I felt I had abandoned her. My friend was dead, but I had been saved—and just before it was too late.
Normally, I would have been hospitalized for a few months, but after a week, I was able to go home because I was doing so much better. I did not know that at the prayer meetings in the church, they had been praying for me. I went to the Bible study, and it was hard for me to concentrate because I knew nothing about the Bible. Yet I found it interesting, because it was the word of the God who loved me. Christ died for my sins and was enthroned in heaven above all powers, and I was invited to enter his kingdom of love and truth. That was exactly the kind of healer I needed. Even though, in some sense, the evil powers of the past still resonated in my life, Christ became my Lord, and my deliverance had started.
What appealed to me most was the mutual love and friendship among the believers. After the Bible study we drank a cup of coffee, and I spoke briefly with the pastor. It felt strange that nobody had regarded me as weird even though many of them were aware of my psychiatric background. I was kindly accepted, just like the others. The following Sunday, I attended their worship service. I was not feeling well and had the boldness to ask for prayer; I felt a deep faith and a presence of God.
I also received a booklet about the healing of damaged emotions. When I read it, it struck me that many in psychiatric care were broken by their hatred. I recognized this immediately within myself, for I hated my father so intensely. It was like a heavy stone on my chest. The pastor told me this hate was actually a sin. This was very different to what psychiatrists had told me. However, I felt absolutely unable to forgive. How could I obey God?
I was told that God asks no more than anyone can handle, and if I wanted to forgive—though I felt I could not—it would be sufficient simply to confess my willingness. So I asked God to help me to get rid of this hatred, and to my surprise, that was what happened. It was like a hundred-pound load was suddenly lifted off me. When I went home, I felt like I was a different person.
Sometime later, I made an appointment to pray about my “epileptic” seizures. They prayed for me and anointed me with oil, and I was completely healed from that moment on. Since then, I have never had another seizure.
When I told the psychologist I wanted to stop counseling because I believed God had a better therapy for me, he phoned my husband to tell him I needed to be re-hospitalized because of religious delusions.
My husband’s response was different from what the psychologist had expected: “She has tried so many things, let her try this as well.” The psychologist could not keep me from leaving. What a joy for me! Deep inside, I knew God would heal me completely.
Former Religious Devotion
At a certain point, the pastor asked me whether there were objects in my house where the powers of darkness could have their grip. In Deuteronomy 7, it is written: “You shall not bring an abomination into your house” (Deut 7:26). I had several religious objects that had been objects of adoration, but I was not convinced they should be removed. We prayed that God himself would bring clarity. When I arrived at home, I could not believe my eyes. A stone image of Christ (!), which had hung on the chimney, had inexplicably fallen down, as had several Mary statues and paintings that I had made in an effort to get rid of all my fears. Even a drawer was pulled open, and a crucifix that I had received from my grandfather, and which I kept at the bottom of the drawer, now lay on top!
I was trembling, and I immediately called the pastor. He was also surprised, but he said he could only explain it as a very specific answer to prayer. It was now clear what I had to put out of my house! Those subtle idols had to be removed.
The First Year
The first year after my conversion, I read as much as possible in the Bible, and attended Bible studies, prayer meetings, and Sunday worship services. Looking back at that year, I must now say the first year was relatively calm and easy compared to the next phase that followed. I believe God gave me the time and opportunity to get better acquainted with his word, so I would be armed for the things to come. Sometimes, marvelously, God by his Spirit spoke to me very clearly. Or suddenly, either a Bible verse or a text reference popped into my mind, providing the exact answer to a question. For example, when I looked to God and asked the question why so many counseling and prayer sessions were needed (I felt quite guilty because I was expecting so much of my counselors), I got the answer from Mark 2:17, which reads: “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but those who are sick.” Several times when the battle grew fiercer, I heard an audible voice saying to me: “You are in my hands, my child, keep on fighting.” But in the end, it was Scripture and not those experiences that kept me grounded and provided the beacon of hope.
God has miraculously healed me of various diseases. When I watch a documentary on television about anorexia nervosa, and see how many people die from it, I am so thankful for God’s healing of me. That’s not to say my recovery was quick and easy. It was not a succession of easy steps of faith or a simple flow of miracles. Maybe God was just so close to me and was so gracious because the road to complete deliverance and recovery was often painful and difficult. I knew I had no other choice but to persevere or be hospitalized again. So I was willing to fight. Although it was God who healed and delivered me, he asked for my entire cooperation and commitment, always respecting my free will.
Eventually, I saw that God was not only working in my life, but also in the lives of others, whom he had prepared, so that together we could go all the way to complete healing. When one of us was under severe attack, the other could encourage. We needed each other, and we believed God wanted us to be interdependent and mutually supportive. It is very important, especially in difficult situations, to be aligned with your counselors, to trust each other, and to know they take what you are saying seriously. It was God’s love that brought and kept us together during the whole process of deliverance.
There was so much to be expressed and to be prayed for, and God knew I could not handle it all at once. Little by little, as we prayed and talked together, the Holy Spirit brought up things that we then had to pray through and process. Those were painful moments. I was confronted again with the traumatic events that I had suppressed for all those years. I had to learn to leave all hardness behind me. It was so tempting to keep on suppressing the past and to hide behind a mask. However, God wanted me to come to myself and face my inner pain. Those hurts had to be processed through my emotions. Only divine intervention could free me from the grip of fear and the dark world beyond. Expressing trauma, receiving prayer for inner healing, biblical anointing with oil (Jas 5:14), and deliverance all went hand in hand. In order to receive healing, it was necessary for me to give and receive forgiveness again. This is how God healed my emotions.
A Fierce Battle
Now that this is behind me, I sometimes think: “Maybe it was better I did not know how hard it would be ahead of time.”
Praying for deliverance was not the first thing to happen. I wonder whether I could have coped with demonic outbursts at the beginning of my new life, for I had seen enough of the kingdom of darkness! But at a certain point, demonic outbursts were inevitable because of the various occult rituals which I, albeit involuntarily, had been involved in, and to which I was still in some way connected. Evil spirits had some hold on my life—they could not dominate me, but they were still there, like dark shadows. But the Spirit of God would gradually drive these shadows away and replace them with his enfolding love.
On a particular day, while driving to a Bible study, I felt a strange presence in my car, and a compelling voice instructed me to drive into the water. I panicked and called to Jesus for help. At that moment I sensed the oppressive presence leaving the car. But it didn’t always work that quickly.
Sometime later, when I had made an appointment with my counselors to pray for me, I trembled with anxiety. I could not talk any longer, I couldn’t even pray, and I could not explain my fear. Later, I was told what happened next. When they commanded a spirit of fear to leave, I shrank down and gave a shrill scream. While crying, I was freed, held in the arms of a female friend who was there with me.
Many things of the past were more or less repressed, but I realized I still had deep spiritual problems. Certain inner voices were gone, but though others receded into the background, they were still there. However, I knew those voices were not a sign of insanity. Now I could identify them as dark forces from my old life, which no longer had a hold over me. This does not apply to everyone who suffers from inner voices, but in my case, they were spiritual intruders, and I could resist them in Jesus’ name. My counselors recognized it as a reality, which was immensely important to me.
The battle for my release was a long process. This may seem strange to many people, but as long as you know you are walking with God and are progressing step by step, it is worthwhile. We prayed and talked several hours per week. So many persistent remnants of my old, dark life had to be debunked by Scripture and by the Spirit of God. Ingrained fears and hypersensitivity to certain triggers, wrong thought patterns, conflicting belief concepts, vows of the past that still had some impact, inner bondage—all had to be left behind. Deliverance from the demonic went hand in hand with the renewing of mind and heart. Sometimes, it seemed to me, we were making little progress, but at the end of each session, I experienced restoration in some area—spiritual, physical, or emotional.
Now I am so thankful we stayed on track for the whole process. Stopping prematurely might have meant all had been in vain.
Confrontation with Evil People
As the spiritual battle came to a close, it became increasingly clear how deeply I had been traumatized. Even when I thought I was almost free, I still faced several months of heavy struggles, in which I was even physically threatened by people from the occult past. Several times relentless people entered our house under false pretenses when I was alone. When the confrontations became very fierce, and I reached my physical and mental limits, my counselors took me to their homes for a few days. It was no longer safe to be alone, yet I was never completely unprotected. God showed me during that period how important it was to handle his word like a protective weapon.
The battle was a spiritual battle, so the weapons had to be spiritual weapons. I experienced several times that quoting Bible verses—prompted by the Holy Spirit—not only made evil spirits flee, but it had the same effect on hostile people.
God’s Spirit emphasized on several occasions that he is our helper and that our protection is in him. We are not to fight with human weapons, but with prayer; not to hate, but to forgive; not to curse, but to bless. This was not always easy, but God has showed us that in essence, only the blood of Christ—the atoning sacrifice he has provided—distinguishes us from our malicious opponents! Outside his grace we would be no better than those creatures that have fallen the furthest.
I have left much unsaid about my past and the battle I went through, but I just want to testify that Jesus is a faithful and loving Deliverer, and that the biblical principles work wonderfully well. God has shown me he has power over all the evil powers, and he has called me to witness to his power to set people free. My life had been destroyed by both humans and demons, but God has restored me. God healed me and fulfilled his promise: “God sets the lonely in families. He brings out the prisoners with singing” (Ps 68:6). Now, many years have passed, and psychiatric hospitalizations have never been needed again. When I look back at my life, I can hardly imagine I am that same person.
He has restored my life; he can do it for anyone. I know it’s not my ministry to cast out demons. That is not always the proper way to attain deliverance, but if it is necessary, there are others who are called to this ministry. But I can certainly testify of God’s love and astonishing liberating power.
I want to testify that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He not only has all power in heaven, but also in every corner of the earth, including your circumstances! He is Lord above all!
As one of her counselors, I witnessed how Marilyn was given a stable foundation for life through a restored fellowship with God and an assurance of the reliability of the Bible’s promises. Her hunger for God’s word and her joy about her salvation were clear signs of a new life in Christ. This joy was obvious to anyone who saw her in the church. Though she was deeply renewed by God’s Spirit, a deep spiritual battle occasionally surged within her. Such attacks would have previously brought her to a state of total dismay, but she knew Christ was protecting her, and was cleaning up the ruins of her past.
During the pastoral sessions, we spoke and prayed together and held everything to the scrutiny of God’s word. The past had to be closed by Marilyn’s active choices to surrender everything to God. This resulted in deep healings and deliverances. Some events had been so deeply interwoven with her personality that she could not be freed immediately, but only step by step. During those times, it could happen that evil spirits manifested themselves, speaking through her to oppose God’s will for her. These were scenes, which I have since rarely encountered with the same intensity. Each time, however, Christ came in his strength to meet us, and to bring profound healing and deliverance.
This testimony highlights our need to consider possibilities beyond our own impressions or views. It underlines the pitfall of jumping to conclusions.
Before I became a Christian, I did many things against which the Bible warns. I used drugs and lied to and cheated my parents. I was in touch with alternative circles and got involved with occultism. After I became a Christian, I broke radically with this old lifestyle and tried to live a “good” life. Shortly thereafter, however, I had all sorts of psychological and mental problems, such as severe agitation, anxiety, nightmares, and feelings of self-hatred. For example, sometimes I felt a strong urge to go and stand right on the edge of the roof of my house.
My life reached a low when I was seeking help from a Christian coach/personal instructor. My situation and my complaints reminded her of a previous client she had worked with, whose symptoms had completely disappeared after remembering and facing up to repressed memories. She told me that this woman had previously been involved in Satanism, and that this was—in her opinion—the case with me as well. She advised me to look at what was going on in my head, and perhaps suppressed memories would surface.
I had a hard time believing her hypothesis then (and I still think that she was very wrong), but I was looking so hard for a way out that I took her advice to heart. I decided to look at what was going on in my head. But then everything went really wrong! I saw the most horrible things and had terrible nightmares. I saw either a man in black or men in white, who said horrible things to me, and I saw strange scenes that are so bad that I do not even want to write about them.
Eventually, my mind was completely overwhelmed with restless, obsessive thoughts. I consider it a miracle that nobody noticed anything wrong with me, and that I could continue my job reasonably well. When I was alone in my office, however, I began to talk to the black man in my mind, who scolded me. Sometimes, I spoke with a strange, low voice, seemingly not my own. When I think back, I still feel horrified about it. What if colleagues had seen me this way? Probably, they would have immediately called an ambulance. Fortunately, the only one who really knew about my bizarre behavior was my personal coach.
After about a year, I realized that I had better stop the sessions. I ended up with all these inner images and voices, and, full of fear and confusion, I went to the ambulatory care facility of a psychiatric hospital. I was given anti-psychotic drugs, which I did not like, but the workers were very friendly and involved. What really hit me was that a psychiatrist suggested I might be schizophrenic. I had never considered myself as such, and hearing this was terribly hard!
Yet God intervened in an unexpected manner at the point of my greatest need. After much prayer, searching the Scriptures, and calling to God for deliverance, I visited a Christian therapist, and he prayed a short prayer for me. In that prayer he commanded all the evil spirits to disappear. In addition to this, he prayed that God would cover everything that I ought not to see. His approach was quite the opposite of that of my former coach. He didn’t advise me to analyze my inner experiences, but to leave them behind and to focus on God’s word. In one moment, all those voices were gone. In one prayer and a challenge to change my focus, God took away all those images and voices, which previously had seized me completely! What an incredible change! I began reducing my medication, and eventually stopped taking it altogether. God showed me his power and love! I was not delivered by analyzing my problems, but through Jesus Christ, who had forcefully shut down the attacks. This encouraged me to put all my trust in him, who is able to keep me.
Now, years later, I am very grateful to my Lord for all he has done for me. Those images and voices never came back.
For John, the so-called regained suppressed memories and links to Satanism were a delusion, although such histories can be an indisputable reality in rare cases. Discernment is necessary, and the counselor must be aware of the serious risks of wrong insinuations and of digging into alleged memories. Even factually correct but untimely suggestions can hinder a healing process; but when the focus remains on salvation and healing, risks are limited.
We would say that John suffered from strong demonic influence, rather than demonic infestation. The therapist, through careful discernment, determined that in this situation, the right approach was to correct the wrong focus, and pray decisively to end John’s struggle.
Joyce’s story is somewhat similar to Marilyn’s testimony, yet her healing and deliverance went differently. Dark forces were manifestly present from the very beginning of her walk with Christ, and their resistance was broken more readily. Initially, she continued to consult a secular psychologist, and tapering off psychotropic drugs took longer, which reaffirms that every deliverance is unique. This principle mirrors Joshua’s conquest of the promised land. He got general guidelines at the beginning, but specific instructions differed from city to city. And the specific instructions flowed from seeking “counsel at the mouth of Yahweh” (Josh 9:14).
Jesus Christ has delivered me from the dark bondage that dominated my life. I am now in my thirties, and about three years ago, I was touched by him in my deepest sadness, despair, and helplessness. He taught me to trust him, and he pulled me out of the dark spirit world in which I was entangled. I had already sought help through various channels, but after I joined a local church, I found real deliverance through Christ. He has literally saved my life!
In my early childhood, I grew up with three men—my biological father and two of his relatives. They turned my young life into hell through their brutal and inhumane behavior. I was the target of their violence and abuse, for they regarded me as their prey to fulfill their lusts. At school, I learned that the church was a safe place because of the presence of God, so I often ran away from home and sought refuge there. I hid in the confessional, hoping that I would be safe there, but they always found me and dragged me back home. I tried to resist and screamed that I wanted to stay there, but the more I resisted, the more I was knocked about.
As long as I could remember, I had worn a necklace with a pentagram. I do not know where it came from or who gave it to me, but I was convinced that it could protect me from harm and nightmares. I remember receiving help at one point during the abuse from two spiritual beings who looked like beautiful angels. They put an invisible dome around me and caught all my pain! I was so happy and thought that God had sent two ”angels”, who became my most intimate friends. I talked a lot with them, but over time, their behavior changed, and they started blaming me and putting me down, increasing every negative feeling I had about myself.
Eventually, my situation attracted the attention and intervention of the child protection service, which began my life in institutions and foster homes. Though I was transferred to new environments, my old spiritual environment stayed with me; with the "angels" telling me I was stupid, fat, ugly, and bad, and that because all the others were better, I had no right to live. Believing what they said, I decided to step out of life.
After a fourth suicide attempt, I was in such a terrible condition that the doctors described my survival as an “incomprehensible miracle.” One nurse said a special guardian angel was obviously watching over me, and that for some reason, I simply could not die. I assume that God had indeed heard my cries and watched over me, despite my misery and deceptive spiritual experiences. I had often cried out to him, but at the same time I sought help from “white” magic and was receptive to all kinds of spiritual experiences, without realizing how this was against God’s will. The demonic world, after all, often hides behind friendly appearances. I now know that even though some of their practitioners may mean well, the long-term consequences of occult practices are disastrous.
After yet another suicide attempt, I began a long period of psychiatric and alternative treatments that provided some help, but they could never deal with the core of my problems. I felt so broken and torn inside that I often visited the chapel in the psychiatric clinic to find some rest. But I did not know how to approach God, and the inner voices kept on screaming, urging me toward self-mutilation and to eat as little as possible. Eventually, when I was reduced to seventy-five pounds, I succumbed, and then began a period of tube feeding.
I was dragged into a deep, dark loneliness, while the two "angels" reminded me that my pentagram necklace could still protect me. The nights were the worst, so I always kept it close to me to resist the nightmares. But it gave me no protection, nor did the "angels." I was attacked, chased, and tortured in the most horrible ways. Often, I felt like I was grabbed and assaulted by a large, dirty monster. I saw and felt horrible things, but could neither move nor defend myself.
About three years ago, a counselor advised me to seek help in an evangelical church. Although he did not consider himself a Christian, he thought it was worth a try.
I went to the church building on three consecutive Sundays without daring to enter. But the fourth time, I gathered all my courage, and entering the church felt like a real homecoming. I immediately experienced a Presence and Love that was entirely new to me. But when they sang a powerful song, I lost consciousness. When I awoke, someone told me that Jesus loved me and that he specialized in problems like mine. He was certainly able to deliver me.
When I attended the next Sunday, they explained the core of the gospel in simple terms and asked me if I was willing to be reconciled with God by Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins. I gladly accepted Christ as my Savior, and we prayed together. The Bible began to live for me, but an inner struggle also exploded during the next months. After many talks and times of prayer, it became obvious that the necklace (hidden under my clothes) and other pentagrams in my home were still a problem—a gateway for the powers of darkness. At first, I did not understand that anything could be wrong with them, but I was careful and tactfully pointed to their background, and removing them was a major step in my deliverance.
I also understood that my experiences with two "angels" raised serious questions. I found it hard to abandon them, for I felt I owed them respect for their help in the past. But through more conversations, reading Bible passages, and asking God for wisdom, I suddenly discerned their destructive nature. They were obviously not really from God, and I had to renounce my relation with them, to be delivered from these demonic powers. I had to renounce the commitments that I had entered into in the past.
I was also shocked by the Bible verse: “Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." From then on, I never dared to mutilate or cut my body, because I realized that this was disrespectful to the Holy Spirit himself!
Sometimes I felt so blessed, as if I was immersed in divine love, happiness, and warmth. So otherworldly pure—a purity that can only come from Jesus Christ, like walking on the clouds!
But although personally knowing Jesus Christ is more precious to me than anything else, I cannot say that since my conversion, the process is or has always been light and easy. I’ve had severe struggles and trials, as hostile forces from my past have wanted to keep me in their grip, and I must resolutely resist them in the power of God and by the truth of his word. I know that God is my Helper, and that he watches over my life.
At first, I mainly needed personal conversation and personal prayer so that step by step, I could become free from my past. Since I am recovering from a severe condition, I am well aware that quick solutions rarely bring deep healing, so I have had extended personal counseling, and then structured Bible studies with another couple from the leadership team. As I’ve come to know more fellow believers, I’m so thankful that God blesses me through them and their many gifts and abilities, each complementing the other.
I also struggled with a serious problem that began when I was trying to suppress my problems. However much I tried, I could not conquer the addiction, until I admitted that I was powerless over it. I realized that I would never succeed on my own strength, and that I had to trust entirely in Christ to get free from the stuff. So, I decided to give up all the contacts that maintained the temptation, and tried one more time. This time, under constant prayer and trusting, I finally got rid of what had held me for many, many years! I now know that dark forces, the power of sin, as well as the love and power of Jesus Christ are all very real, and that the secret of a victorious life begins with the grace of Jesus Christ. He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He has restored my destroyed life!
Note: When we explained the message of the gospel to Joyce, we noticed that she really wanted to know God and follow Christ. She was looking for healing and deliverance, but she was also willing to serve and obey God. In our many conversations, we saw how Christ slowly, step by step, month by month, brought about more deliverance. In the beginning, my wife and I built up friendship and mutual trust with her before we moved more and more in-depth. It was encouraging to see how Joyce persisted through trials and struggles. Her healing path also confirms the importance of structured teaching and integration into a local church body.
APPENDIX: RITUAL ABUSE
Ritual abuse is a complex and delicate subject. It relates to extreme abuse by various means of torture to gain ultimate control over a victim. It is usually part of a series of ritual or symbolic acts and reflects the darkest side of fallen human nature. The aim is to drive out any dignity and meekness by destroying feelings associated with love and care. Dominance and mind-control of the victim are often main aspects of the abuse, which can be related to groups or individuals.
The torture may include:
- Physical injury: extreme physical torture to provoke utter despair.
- Sexual abuse: the most heinous, degrading and inhuman forms.
- Spiritual abuse: forcing moral dilemmas (i.e., "you either watch this pet be tortured to death, or you’ll be tortured.")
- Mental abuse with programming: e.g., a victim being held under threat of violence to him or to loved ones unless he complies with the demands. Such threats include blackmail because of past actions being monitored.
- Emotional torture: abusers may smile and say loving words while torturing
- Social abuse: interactions to destroy the ability to trust well-meaning people.
- Religious distortion: discrediting healthy religious principles by falsely linking them with evil.
How is ritual abuse organized?
The abuse can be highly organized and structured, or it may spontaneously arise when like-minded sinister people gather and carry out a common evil agenda; or it may be a chaotic emanation from the darkest parts of human nature—energized by demonic powers.
Although ritual abuse remains fairly marginal, it can spread from certain satanic or destructive religious groups, or even from socially reputable circles, which use a range of philosophies or religion as a means or a cover, to achieve their ends. Sophisticated forms may use techniques to fragment the victims’ personalities or use cunning torture to evoke dependence on related dark powers, leading victims into demonic infestation.
Why is it so hard to deal with?
Profiling of perpetrators is difficult because there are so many expressions within this diffuse phenomenon. Furthermore, victims often maintain secrecy either under threat or from remorse for what they have been forced to participate in. And in the case of strong demonic interference, it is impossible to be delivered without a saving intervention from God.
The idea of ritual abuse is so extreme that most people react with disbelief, much like the denial in past generations regarding incest or priests committing sexual abuse; people refused to believe it, minimized it, or kept what they knew within their own small circles.
The horrors of ritual abuse surpass imagination, and the trauma deepens when victims meet skepticism instead of the help they need. Real victims’ credibility suffers also when pseudo victims (deluded people who have lost touch with reality) fabricate and spread false stories.
Christian counselors should be sensitive and supportive but remain sober and focused on healing and restoration. Seeking easy and simplistic answers to serious emotional or mental problems can blind them to the limits of their discernment, gifting, or expertise. Christian counselors should stay focused on sharing redemptive truths about the love of God and the new life and restoration in Christ.
Text is available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Chinese, Russian, Arabic and Farsi.
A general treatment of the theme of spiritual deliverance is found in my book:
"Light In Our Darkness, Essentials of Spiritual Deliverance" – Bruno Sebrechts.
Humble Joy Publishing ISBN 9789083136400.
Spanish Edition ISBN 9789083136417.
Bruno Sebrechts is a counselor and Bible teacher with over twenty-five years of pastoral experience. He saw God at work, especially in the healing and deliverance of the most damaged believers. His writings are the result of his extensive experience and continuous study. www.LightInOurDarkness.net
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