What exactly was, or is, demon possession? How did it happen? Was it voluntary or involuntary? Did it occur through guilt or ignorance or accident? Are there parallel instances today?
All of these are questions, the answer to which, I do not know. Yet despite the mysteries, there is one area in which the New Testament communicates clearly and effectively. It speaks to us about the tragedy of divided living.
We all have horns and halos, strengths and weaknesses. We are both good and bad. All men of insight have felt this same conflict within themselves. St. Paul wrote, “It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, evil is there to distract me. I love to do the will of God…, but there is something else deep within me…, that is at war with my mind.”
But we really don’t have to go to the Scriptures to document this fact of human nature. All we need to do is look into our own hearts. In our most honest moments, we know what is there. In our noblest aspirations, in our highest efforts to be and do what is right, we are up against something terrific. Whatever our public reputation, we all have these private closets that we prefer to keep closed. The tragedy of divided living is in varying degrees, a part of all our lives.
Divided living destroys our chance for happiness and usefulness. How can a person ever decide who he is, what he is, or where he is going? He is one thing today and another thing tomorrow. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth, says one thing to one man and another thing to another. There is no direction, no magnetic north, no permanent point of reference. Pray tell, how can any happy, useful, stable living ever come out of that?
It’s a painful, destructive, corroding experience not to know who you are. And that’s the great agony of divided living. What or who a person is determined by experience. It depends upon where he is or with whom. He says and does what is expected, or what he believes will work to his personal advantage. In the truest sense, he is a lost soul.
No one has to live this way. Miracles of character are possible for all of us. Jesus helped many people cast out the “unclean spirit” and set them on the true course of life. What Jesus does for us may not be so dramatic, but it can be equally as effective. Jesus never gave the impression that He was importing into people something alien and artificial, but rather that He was evicting the alien, and uncovering and liberating the true self.
How many people who are reading this can say, “I have tried. Heaven knows, I have tried, and still I am unchanged!” But we need Jesus to help us. He is the one who lifts us and helps us to change. We do not have to try to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps. So, all profound transformations of character are associated, not with lifting oneself, but with being lifted, not with changing ourself but with being changed.
No one need drift through life, aimless, purposeless, divided. Jesus is the great unifying principle. With His help, you can pull it all together around Him.