Sometimes, instead of asking God for healing, we need to be casting out demons.
I did a previous post summarizing my journey out of mental illness through a combination of therapy, medication, and ultimately, deliverance. That experience led me to reconsider some of the causes, and cures, of illnesses in general. If some mental illnesses can be demonically caused, I began to wonder what other illnesses, if any, may also be rooted in demonic activity.
That question sent me on a journey to re-study the Gospels and Acts. Along the way, I noticed that Jesus dealt with sickness quite a bit differently than we do today.
Jesus Commands Illness
Jesus' ministry was marked by two features: power and authority. The Gospels tell us repeatedly that power and authority were at the root of His ability to heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead.
Jesus had various responses when He encountered the sick. Sometimes, He simply "rebuked" the illness, commanding it to go away. Notice this example of Peter's mother-in-law.
Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. (Luke 4:38-39)
Other times, Jesus speaks to the individual and tells him to do the impossible, like telling a paralyzed man to get up and walk (Luke 5:24).
Notice that Jesus doesn't "pray." He doesn't say, "Father, if it's your will, please heal Simon's mother-in-law." He speaks to the illness itself and commands it to leave because He has the power and authority to do so.
Jesus Commands Demons
On some occasions, however, Jesus discerned that an illness was actually being caused by a demon. So, in order to cure the illness, He cast out the evil spirit. This is what we see, for example, in the synagogue with the woman with a bent back.
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. (Luke 13:10-13)
It was a similar situation with a deaf and mute boy.
[Jesus] rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. (Mark 9:25-26)
Now, most of us think of being deaf or having scoliosis as a fairly straightforward medical problem. But apparently, some forms of these maladies can be demonically caused. We might think the best course of action would be to go to the doctor and ask your small group to pray for your pain. But I doubt few people would think, "Oh, this is a demonically caused issue" and think to cast out a demon.
These biblical examples caused me to reflect more deeply on my theology of healing. I hadn't considered the possibility that some illnesses may have a demonic root. And as such, the proper response was not a prayer "asking" Jesus to heal the person. Rather, sometimes, there was a need for someone to cast out the demon(s) causing the sickness in the first place.
As I began to step into the realm of deliverance ministry, I saw the fruit of healing in the lives of people around me. My experience in ministry has confirmed that some illnesses can actually be cured through the casting out of demons, just like in Jesus' day. It wasn't merely an activity for Bible times. It is a reality that is still in operation today.
I chronicle some highlights of my journey in supernatural prayer ministry and healing in this video.
How can I know if my pain or illness is being demonically caused?
One of the most common questions I get when I talk about this issue is, How do you know when an illness is demonically caused or not? There are some patterns that you can look for. Here are three helpful questions to ask, which may help you determine whether your illness may have a spiritual cause. Now, this list of questions isn’t exhaustively complete. It’s just a starting point to help you start to think through this issue. But these are the patterns that I’ve seen come up time and time again.
1. Did your illness or disease come on suddenly, without a discernible cause?
Demonically caused diseases often start as a result of a major life event or trauma. Demons can use a difficult situation as an opening to begin oppressing your health. So you’ll need to be a bit of a detective and think back carefully to when your symptoms first started to manifest. Was it right after the death of a significant loved one? Was it right after the birth of a child or right after you got married or started a new job? These are some of the most common onsets that I’ve seen for demonically caused diseases. And if you can’t remember when your disease first started to manifest, ask the Holy Spirit to help you bring it to mind.
2. Have you been to multiple doctors for tests but still don't have a clear diagnosis or treatment?
For me, this is a big red flag. Whenever I hear about someone having an illness that doesn’t really have a discernible treatment or is highly resistant to conventional treatment, then I begin to get very suspicious that there might be a demonic interference in play.
3. Do the symptoms of your illness or pain have any discernible pattern as to when they "flare up"?
Again, you’re going to have to be a bit of a detective. Start looking for patterns. For example, let’s say you struggle with ringing in your ears. Start to notice when it happens. Does it happen often while you’re reading your Bible? Or driving to church? Or talking to other believers? Does it prevent you from participating in activities at church, like worship service or small group? If your illness is hindering your Kingdom work, your service to the body of Christ, your fellowship with other believers, your ability to read and understand Scripture or pray, or share your faith, if it’s resulting in greater and greater isolation and hindering fellowship with other believers, I can almost guarantee you that it’s being demonically caused.
A Distinctly Christian Approach to Illness
Again, I want you to emphasize that I see great value in the medical establishment. I am not against doctors or medicine. I survived two near-death pregnancies thanks to my doctors. They kept me alive so I could raise my children. And if you are suffering from a serious illness, please GO SEE A DOCTOR. Get the proper tests. Rule out the possibilities.
For example, I recently experienced some very troubling symptoms. I went to the doctor. I was referred to a specialist. The specialist ordered multiple tests in order to rule out a tumor or cancer. I complied with all the tests in an expedited manner.
At the same time, however, I also took the time to ask the Lord directly what was happening in my body. I asked Him whether what I was experiencing was being demonically caused. Before I had even taken any of the tests, I felt like the Lord told me that I was not sick, but that the enemy was trying to scare me into believing I had cancer. Sure enough, all of the tests came back negative. No cancer. I am actually quite healthy. The symptoms turned out to just be a natural artifact of being a middle-aged woman.
The bottom line of all this is, I no longer assume, "Oh, this is a medical problem" and only seek medical solutions. Even when I get a simple thing like a headache, I take Tylenol AND I ask the Lord what's happening. And sometimes, the answer surprises me. Sometimes, I need to pray against demonic forces causing the headache. On more than one occasion, I've experienced immediate relief after doing that. But this way of doing things does take practice and deep discernment.
The reality is, illnesses can consist of a complicated web of causes, symptoms and treatments. In no way do I want to minimize that reality. Some illnesses are the result of family genetics. Sometimes people develop illnesses that result from their own life choices, such as drug or alcohol abuse, or obesity. Some illnesses can be treated with medication. Others cannot.
But in order for evangelicals to have a distinctly Christian approach to illness, I think we must include some kind of conversation about the possibility that at least in some cases (again, some, not all), illness could have a demonically caused component and begin to teach people how to discern the root causes a responsible way.
The idea of demonically caused illness is a very old idea. Jesus cast out demons as part of His healing ministry. And we, as His disciples, need to stand in our deputized power and authority and do the same. As we bring the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, we want to not just say the things Jesus said, but also do the things Jesus did. Including, in some cases, setting people free from demons.