Elephants and Mental Illness

I once briefly sat on an elephant. It walked around for a while; someone took my photo; and then I climbed down.

I also have a video clip of a guide walking up the trunk of a small elephant and plopping down on the back. At the time, I was pretty impressed. Here is that clip (click on the image to open a new window).


They say elephants have very good memories, so I wonder if they recall everyone who rides them.

You know, besides never forgetting, they are also typically large animals. And it is their size which inspires a phrase we have in the English language:

“The elephant in the room.”

It means something big, but something ignored; because maybe people don’t want to deal with it or talk about it. I recall reading once about Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, and the author used that phrase. He said something like, “The elephant in the room, that no one wants to talk about, is the gluttonous size of the Pastor.” His point was that for a man who seemed to be an anointed preacher, why was he living in sin (gluttony) and not being confronted about it? I personally have no idea about Pastor’s eating habits or body/fat ratio. I visited that church a few times and he did seem large. But would I naturally conclude that he was therefore unrepentant in the sin of gluttony? Not necessarily. However, apparently the author did. Which is why we need to have discernment and listen to the Spirit; and not only to listen to other people. Even so, if Pastor really is a glutton, well, then I appreciate people being willing to talk about such “elephants.” It clears the air and brings about a transparency.

In fact, I would like to bring up one myself today.


I can’t be as cavalier as I would imagine because this is a very delicate subject. In fact, I am almost hesitant even to mention it. That said, I feel I would be dishonest if I remain silent. So here goes. Tip toe.

Context: Let me start by saying that almost all Christians believe that either Jesus was God in the flesh or that he was at least the Messiah, Savior and King of Kings. Either way, he’s more important than any human being who ever lived. Jesus came to save us; he taught us to pray; and he showed us what the Father looks like.

Now, have you ever wondered why, with all wisdom and knowledge—especially since he might have actually participated in the creation of the world and of the human race—why Jesus never spoke about “mental illness?”

I have.

I mean, in conversations with various Christians counselors, it seems that almost every single one affirms the reality of mental illnesses. I see billboards trying to build awareness and sensitivity about it. I also know many believers who continuously take medication to address mental illness issues. It seems it’s everywhere, even—and especially—in the Church.

So, how did Jesus miss that one? Why didn’t he teach about it? Is it because this is only a recent medical development?

Ok, so as a qualifier, Jesus also never talked about “computers,” but no one seems too upset about that. Therefore, some might argue, why should we worry about just one of the many modern topics that are absent from the Bible?

Well, only because while Jesus never spoke of “mental illnesses,” he had experiences that seemed remarkably similar. For those familiar with the Bible, you will immediately recognize that I am talking about “unclean spirits,” or demons.

So, now that I have come this far, I am just going to put it out there. Jesus spoke of demons but not mental illness; yet most modern medical experts are just the reverse.

All that to say, here is my elephant: Are mental illnesses really demonic forces?


Mr. Mahesh Chavda describes a situation in his book, The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting, that would seem to illustrate this possibility. He describes a young male patient in psychiatric hospital, who is perpetually trying to harm himself. The only way the doctors can handle it, is to strap him to a chair. Otherwise, he might take a pencil, for example, and try to stab his body. Mr. Chavda was a young employee of the hospital and was visibly disturbed by this situation. He prayed to God for wisdom and understanding. He says that God told him that “this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)

Well, the short version of the story is that Mr. Chavda fasted for 14 days from food, and then he apparently had enough spiritual authority to cast the demon out of the boy. Which he did. And the boy was cured…or we Christians might say that he was delivered. And presumably the boy left the hospital and never came back.

It’s way more incredible in his book, and I hope you will read about it there. But it strikes me that in that case, young Mr. Chavda was able to do something that none of the doctors at that hospital could do. In fact, there is no medicine in the world that can bring such permanent and lasting freedom. And yet, if Christians really can tap into that kind of spiritual power, why are we all not skipping church on Sunday so we can instead roam the halls of psychiatric wards and bring regular and ongoing deliverance?

Well, one possible reason is because many Christians do not believe in the existence of demons. And then there are those who do not believe that Christians can take authority over demons like Jesus apparently did.

Another reason this is a grey issue is because not everyone who goes for deliverance, gets delivered. While you might not be aware of it, there are actually many Christians who serve others by casting out demons. They say that they have a “deliverance ministry.” And often it really works. But not always. And that could be one of the main reasons why it is not more accepted in Christian circles. Or maybe something else.


Another story I want to relate involves one Sunday morning when I was visiting a very large church. After the service, they offered a tour, some food and a chance to meet some of the leaders. So I went. On the tour, I saw that inside a huge gymnasium, there was another church service taking place. At first I thought it might be Sunday school for the kids. But I quickly realized that was not the case at all. Rather, this large meeting of about 500+ people, was for those who were bused in from a psychiatric hospital; specifically for a church service. I could tell by watching them that they were unique. I was also a bit scared since a few got quite loud and aggressive. Those conducting the service seemed to know how to handle them, and there was one gal in particular who appeared to be the leader. She even spoke to our tour group for a few minutes and shook a few hands. As the group started to make their way out, I stayed behind at the back of the crowd. I felt I had to ask her a question, since by that time I had read Mahesh Chavda’s book. I slid up next to her and quickly introduced myself. Then I asked her: “Maam, do you believe in demons?” She immediately said, “Of course I do.” I pressed on: “So I want to be gentle, but do you think any of these psychologically-challenged people here might have demons?” Without batting an eye, she said, “Every one of them does.” I was confused and it showed on my face. She saw my confusion and so she continued. “As a church, we believe in deliverance and in some of our regular services, we even give people to chance to get free. But not in this service. See, these people are under the care of the State and we had to get special permission to bring them here to church on Sunday mornings. The State told us that if we cast even one demon out of even one person, they will never allow any of them to come back to church. So, we resist the temptation to pray for these people, because at least this way they can participate in church each week.”

That whole situation really made me ponder. I mean, does the State believe in the power of deliverance but just prevents in because it is not a universally accepted treatment? Would the families of such people criticize the State for exposing them to religious deliverance? I am not sure, but there was something sad in my stomach for the rest of the tour. It seemed that these are the exact people Jesus was liberating himself, and here was a church that practiced deliverance…but not doing it where the need was the greatest. I was confused.


I don’t think most Christian leaders would suggest that every psychological problem is related to demonic forces. However, that might be just a qualification to protect oneself, I am not sure. Jesus certainly seemed like a one-trick-pony when it came to things as diverse as seizures, uncontrollable cursing, physically harming oneself, public uncontrollable nudity, and various other conditions. From what we have recorded in the Bible, in all these cases and others, he basically spoke to the spiritual forces keeping a person in bondage, and told them to go. And they went. After they left, the person was free…free from the demonic control and influence.

This seems in reference Luke 4:18 (where Jesus publicly read from Isaiah 61:1) which states “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” The kind of incredible part of this is that after reading this verse in the synagogue, he said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) And the Bible also relates stories of Jesus healing physical blindness. So this verse seems extremely accurate to me.

The Bible also tells of other people who similarly cast out demons and did so “in the name of Jesus.” That is to say, people somehow figured out that while they personally did not have authority, when they invoked the name of Jesus, the demons obeyed.


Now the question is whether believers should today be involved in deliverance, either as a practitioner or as a recipient. I spent many years in a church that was open to the notion of spiritual deliverance, and occasionally they practiced it. Because of that, I have many stories I could tell that would attest to what I think is a real and true dynamic. I also believe that deliverance is for some believers, for today.

And while I believe it, I have to confess that I do not practice it overtly. Sometimes I will speak to demons and send them away, in cases where I am made to know (by the Spirit) of their presence. One very common place they seem to hang out is in hotel rooms. So, I, like many believers, try to spiritually “clean house” every time I check into a new room.

Let’s be real: casting a demon out a hotel room is understandably different from trying to cast something out of someone who has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. But what if it is only a matter of how long we are willing to fast? Just like in the case of Mahesh Chavda. Disclaimer: I am not convinced of this myself, but rather I am just raising the idea for contemplation.

I guess I don’t have an axe to grind on this topic. Like I said, I can’t imagine anyone realistically attributing every form of what modern medicine calls mental illness, to demons (except maybe Jesus, ah-hem). And yet, why can’t Christian therapists at least hold it out there as a possibly? I mean, instead of just automatically prescribing medicine, maybe in some cases, a good deliverance session might be in order. And maybe Christian counseling programs should require a class (or at least a seminar) in deliverance. Just a thought.


Speaking of medicine, I have also wondered if God in his mercy allows people who might never try to be delivered, to instead be treated by certain chemicals. Not that by doing so they get truly free, but at least they can maybe manage to better endure a mental illness. If that is true, then could it be that spiritual demons are somehow affected by certain physical chemicals? I mean, what if the spiritual realm is mostly a chemical dimension? What a fascinating thought.

I am not against medicine for mental illness. I guess I just don’t want us Christians to always and completely ignore the method that Jesus himself used. Why can’t we think of the “Jesus approach” first…and then consider medicine secondarily? There might be way more about this topic that Jesus understood, and from which we could benefit. Maybe, just maybe, the way Jesus dealt with mental illness is the best and ideal way for humanity. And what if the Spirit has given Christians the very same authority, but we are just not using it as much as we should?

Well, regardless of whether we practice deliverance, specifically in reference to mental illness, I hope that at the very minimum we will never forget the way Jesus handled this complex human condition.

I feel we must never forget. Just like the elephant.

© 2019, Alignment Life

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