Nothing: Not angels nor demons
I am living in hell, but nobody knows it except me. Nobody knows because I’m a pastor’s daughter. I’m supposed to be perfect.
I say I am a Christian, but really, I don’t know. I want to be one and I want to know that I’m one. I want that security, but I can’t have it. Why can’t I have it? Because God won’t let me have it.
I’m not sure when it started. As far as I know I’ve been this way ever since I was born, or at least since I became a Christian. When I was little I asked Christ to be my Savior about two-thousand times…no joke. Whenever there was an invitation at AWANA or at Sunday school or during a message and the gospel was presented I would ask Christ to be my Savior. I would do this just in case he hadn’t saved me the last time I had asked him. No one else ever knew about this though, because I kept it a secret. Then there were times when I was terrified at night thinking that I would go to hell. I would go to mom late at night to talk about it:
“Mommy…mommy! Wake up! I need to talk to you.” I whispered.
“Mmmmm” struggling through her sleepiness mom would answer. “What is it?”
“Mommy, I am having doubts about my salvation again.”
“Oh, no…again?” mom would say opening her eyes.
“Yeah,” I sighed.
This happened every couple years until I was eleven. At eleven I went to mom four nights in a row. The last night we reached a conclusion:
“I don’t think I’ve every sincerely asked God to be my Savior,” I said.
“Well, do you think you can ask him sincerely now?” mom said.
“Okay, then why don’t you pray.”
“Why don’t you pray out loud. That way next time you have doubts we can remind you that you have already accepted Christ.” dad added.
“Okay, I’ll pray now.” I said. “Dear God, I really want to believe in you and that Jesus Christ is my Savior…”
“Wait,” dad interrupted. “Do you really believe in Him? Because by the way you’re praying it sounds like you want to believe in him, but don’t.”
“God,” I continued. “I really do believe in you and that you sent Jesus to die on the cross for me. Please forgive me for doubting.”
After I prayed my dad told me that I need to trust in God and doubt no more. At that point I knew they were tired of me coming to them so much. I didn’t want to worry them anymore or disturb their sleeping. So I stopped bugging them at night.
But though I stopped bugging them, my mind did not quit bugging me. My mind was a constant battlefield and I constantly felt that the men on my side were the ones that were getting their heads slaughtered. If you’re a Christian you know that everyone always says that the answer is always God and the Bible. So I tried turning to God and I tried to find answers in the Bible. In the Bible I found many great promises to hold onto like Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 91. However, though I found great support in the Bible the Bible also frightened me. Matthew 12:31 in particular scared me, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” I had heard of this passage being referred to as the “Unpardonable Sin” passage. I decided that I must make sure that I didn’t commit this “Unpardonable Sin”. However, I wasn’t quite sure what blasphemy was, but I knew it couldn’t be good if it took away salvation. Terrified that I might accidentally commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit I constantly kept my brain in check. It wasn’t easy though. My brain played games with me. One moment I would be peacefully doing my homework and then next moment my mind would be distracted by thoughts saying, “I hate the Holy Spirit.” “No!” I would fight back, “I don’t hate the Holy Spirit! I love Him! I love Him! I love Him!”
One day when I was fourteen the thoughts became so Intense that I thought I really had blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. I became extremely depressed. My mind was blank when it came to homework and when dinner time came I had no motivation to eat. “Life is meaningless now!” I thought. That day I felt more alone and more helpless than I’ve ever felt in my life. Life ended for me in those few brief hours…or so I thought. I told my mom about the problem:
“Mom, can I be excused from the table please?”
“But you haven’t even finished eating yet?” mom said.
“I don’t feel hungry…can I talk to you…alone for a minute.”
She went into another room with me and asked:
“What’s the matter?”
“Well, you know that passage that talks about Jesus casting out a demon? The one when the Pharisees thought that Jesus was a demon? Well, it says later on in the passage that those who commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will go to hell.” I paused for a brief second scared of what her response would be. “Well, I don’t think I can go to heaven anymore because I had some bad thoughts about the Holy Spirit.”
“How so?” mom said.
“Well, my mind was saying that I hate Satan…but I really don’t! But it kept saying that I do. If I was having those thoughts then it must be that I really believe them. So I’m not going to heaven anymore.” In frustration I rested my head on mom’s shoulder and sighed.
“Julie, it’s okay. Sometimes our minds play tricks on us.”
“So you don’t think I’ll go to hell.”
“Well, you don’t really believe those thoughts do you?”
“No, of course not!” I said.
“Well, God looks at your heart not your mind. In your heart you believe that Christ died for you on the cross, right?”
“Yeah, I do!”
“Well, then you’re saved! That’s all you need to know! Don’t let your mind trick you into thinking things you don’t believe. Remember what you believe in your heart and what you believe in your heart is what is really true.”
I felt much better after that conversation with her, but it was short lived. Sadly, the problems were not over.
With those thoughts being appeased my mind soon changed to different negative thoughts. I was beginning to learn more and more about the end times. It scared me. When I was younger (like 8 or 9) I didn’t understand what the mark of the beast was all about. I stamped my hand once and pretended that it was the mark of the beast. Now six years later I was terrified that what I had done as a child would condemn me to hell. My mind began playing tricks on me again. This time saying: “You are the antichrist! You are the one who fights against God and his people.” It was frightening but I couldn’t tell anyone. What would they think of me?
At sixteen I went on a missions trip to South America with my family. While on the outside it appeared to my family that I was having a great time, on the inside I was in misery. My thoughts were becoming worse and more repeated than they had ever been. My thoughts pulled and tugged any which way they could.
One of the nights we were there I went outside to see the sunset. I don’t even remember what the sunset looked like that night I was so focused on the trees. It was a very windy night and the branches were bending this way and that under the weight of the wind. I felt the same as those trees, but instead of being blown down by wind I was being blown apart by my own thoughts. “You don’t really belong on God’s side,” my thoughts told me, “you belong on the devils side!”
During the day time my thoughts were just as depressing. On our day off we went to the beach and took a boat ride out into the ocean. My family was enjoying the time so much. I tried to enjoy it with them and laugh and pretend that I was having fun, but inside was a nightmare. As we rode over the waves I tried telling myself, “look at God’s creation! Isn’t it beautiful!! The same God who created this vast sky and this huge ocean is the same God who loves me and gave his Son to die for me.” Trying to counterattack my negative thoughts with positive ones did not help as I had expected it to. My mind continued on in its perverted way pouring more and more lies into my head. I felt dirty and ugly for thinking such things. As hard as I tried not to though, they wouldn’t stop!
Finally, the last night of our missions trip I couldn’t stand bearing these thoughts alone anymore. I went to where my parents were sleeping as I had done so many years ago:
I tapped on my mom’s shoulder, “Mommy. I need to talk to you.”
“It’s late, can you wait for tomorrow?”
“No, I can’t. I’ve waited long enough. I really need to talk to you…please!”
“What’s going on?”
“I’ve been having doubts about God again.”
“Again? I thought this had stopped a long time ago.”
“No, it never stopped. I just felt bad about bugging you so I stopped coming. It’s worse this time Mommy, it’s a lot worse! Remember that time when I pretended that I had the mark of the beat. Well, I don’t think God has forgiven me of that.”
“Did I ever tell you that I struggled with doubts about God when I was young too?”
“One time I was so mad at God I spit into the sky. For years after that I didn’t believe God could forgive me.”
“Yeah, I know how you are feeling. God is a big God though. He can handle it and he forgives us. It’s silly of us to think that such a big God couldn’t forgive such little things.”
I paused for a moment. I wasn’t too sure if God would forgive me, because I felt that my sins were worse than just believing a game I had played years ago.
“But Mommy, my mind tells me that I’m on the devils side! It tells me that I’m the antichrist and that I will fight against God when he comes again. Did you ever have thoughts like that?”
Mom stared at me bewildered for a moment and then tapped my dad on the shoulder to wake him up.
“Honey, honey, wake up. You need to hear this.”
“What is it?” dad said all sleepy.
“She’s had very weird thoughts. We need your help.”
More awake now dad said, “what kind of thoughts?”
“Tell him.” Mom told me.
“Well, I have really bad thoughts that tell me that I cannot be on God’s side but am on the devils side. They tell me that I’m the antichrist…I know they’re not true! But they are so consistent and so pervasive it’s hard not to believe them. I don’t want to have doubts that I’m God’s I don’t! But my mind is filled with doubts.”
“Hmmm…” my dad paused for a moment, very pensively. “Do you believe in Jesus as your Savior?”
“Yes! I do!”
“Well, then I don’t think the thoughts you are having are doubting thoughts. I think you are having negative thoughts...”
“What’s the difference!”
“Well, I don’t think this is a spiritual problem. I think it’s a psychological problem.”
“What do you mean, all the thoughts are about my salvation and about God!”
“I think it’s deeper then that though, because you obviously know what you believe and the thoughts you are having you don’t want them.”
“Well, what can I do.”
“We fly home soon. When we go home we’ll take you to a psychiatrist. I think you might have bipolar.”
My dad has a sister with bipolar so he was familiar with the symptoms. On the one hand it scared me to think that I might have bipolar on the other hand it relieved me to know that there was a possible explanation for all that was happening in my brain.
The flight home was not the most pleasant one. I didn’t feel hungry but my mom encouraged me to eat anyway. All I managed to gulp down was one slice of apple. My whole body was in shock. I was very fidgety and couldn’t sit still. Finally I decided to walk to the bathroom just to get moving a little. While in the bathroom I suddenly felt the urge to throw up, I bent over and sure enough the slice of apple came out. Miserably I walked back to my seat. My forehead and back were sweating, I had never thrown up because of nerves before. I sat down and exhaled:
“I just barfed.”
“Really?” mom asked.
“I don’t know I guess I’m nervous about everything.”
“There’s nothing to be nervous about, okay? Everything will be all right. We’ll find a doctor first thing Monday morning, he’ll put you on medication and soon you’ll start feeling better.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah, it only took your Aunt a couple weeks for the medication to kick in. But you’ll have to be more cautious from now on with your sleeping patterns and watching your emotions.”
“What if it’s not bipolar? What if it really is a spiritual problem.”
“Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay. Your father is pretty sure about this.”
“Okay,” I sighed.
On the inside though, I still feared the worse: that all the thoughts coursing through my brain were really true.
As soon as we got back home my parents started making connections and soon we found a good doctor and made an appointment to meet him in two days. The day before seeing my doctor mom suggested that I go to church and help out with the AWANA program to get my mind off of everything going on. Reluctantly I agreed to go. Since I love children I hoped that seeing them would lighten up my spirits. Unfortunately though, my thoughts became worse. “You’re going to lead these children astray. Remember you work for the devil. Beckon them to come to his side, turn them against their God!” I couldn’t believe the thoughts that were crossing my mind. “No!” I inwardly yelled. “I don’t belong to the devil I belong to God!” But the thoughts became even more severe and more harmful. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, afraid that I was going to harm a child.
Back home again I still had no desires to eat and this time mom did not encourage me to do so. All I wanted to do was sleep, for only in my sleep were my thoughts silent. I slept all the way to noon of the next day. My appointment wasn’t until five so I wanted to continue sleeping until it was time to leave, but mom didn’t let me. She said that it would be worse for my emotions and she made sure to keep me awake and doing things until the appointment time had come.
The time had finally come for me to meet the doctor. Dad decided to coach me through what I should say while we were in the waiting room. Finally, I got too nervous and I asked him to please change the subject, he did. Just then the nurse came out and said:
“The next patient to see Dr. Burke can come in now.”
I stood up and walked into the room making sure my parents were following me.
“Welcome!” Dr. Burke said, “Please take a seat, make yourself comfortable.”
Dr. Burke proceeded to ask mom and dad questions about my infancy and childhood, to check for any traumatic event or accident that could cause a mental malfunction. While they talked I looked around the room to size up who this Dr. Burke was and weather I could trust him. He had a bookshelf with many big psychology books on it and in front of the books and on top of the bookshelf was loaded tons of knick knacks and little games for children. He was a children’s psychologist. I hoped that he would be able to treat me appropriately and not like a child. I decided I could trust him though because he seemed to like children and I like children as well.
Once Dr. Burke was finished asking my parents questions he turned to me:
“Okay, young lady, tell me what brought you in here today.”
“My parents,” I said smiling.
“Did they force you to come?” he asked.
“No, I agreed to come.”
“Very good, very good.”
“So what was it that brought you here.”
“Well…” I looked at my I didn’t know how to explain this. “I’m a Christian.” I said, my dad had told me that it might not be good to tell him in case he might tell me that the problem was with my religion, but Christianity was such a big issue in my problem that I knew I had to mention it. So I did. “And as a Christian, I believe in Jesus Christ, but recently my mind has been telling me that I don’t believe in Jesus and that I’m really on the devils side…I know in my heart I’m not because I believe in Jesus Christ with all my heart…but I constantly have these thoughts.”
“When did this start.”
“Well, it started four months ago…in November.”
“And before this time, do you remember it happening before.”
“Yeah, it happened a couple years ago.”
“And before that when did it happen?”
Seeing what the doctor was getting at I decided to quicken the pace, “I’ve had this off and on ever since I was about five years old.”
“Aha! That’s what I wanted to know…you are smart!” Dr. Burke paused for a second and then continued, “When you go through one of these phases, how does it normally start.”
“Well, sometimes it starts with a message I hear. Sometimes it starts when I think, ‘oh! I haven’t had bad thoughts for a while.’ And sometimes it just starts.”
“You’re doing a wonderful job answering questions.”
“Thank you.” I said. I figured he probably said this to all the patients that came into his office.
“Okay, I want you to answer some questions for me. Just answer them with a yes or no. Okay?”
“Do you have fear of germs.”
“Would you say you wash your hands excessively?”
“Is your room or work place always clean?”
“No, but it frustrates me if it’s not.”
“Do you have trouble throwing stuff away?”
“Do you often feel guilt-ridden?”
“Do you need constant reassurance.”
He asked some more questions all the while jotting notes down on his black notepad. After asking all the questions he analyzed his notes for awhile then he folded his hands and placed them on the table and looked up at me and mom and dad.
“Well, I’m pretty certain that you have OCD.”
“OC- what?” I said.
“OCD. Obsession Compulsive Disorder.” he answered calmly.
“Oh…what is that?”
“Obsession Compulsion disorder has two sides to it. The obsessions and the compulsions. For example, someone might be obsessed with having their hands cleaned. When they act upon it, it is a compulsion. The problem is that the compulsions will not satisfy your obsessions. No matter how many times that person cleans his hands he won’t be satisfied by it.”
For the first time in my life things were starting to make sense. My faith was strengthened like never before. All those years I had thought that I had to be the perfect Christian with the perfect prayer of repentance. I learned that I didn’t have to be perfect. God drew me closer to him in my weakness. He did not require a perfect prayer from me nor perfect behavior. I wasn’t an antichrist or his enemy…I was his daughter. I am his daughter and nothing no one could ever separate me from God. Not angels, not demons, not things past, nor things present…not even my-self. Now that is comfort.