In the medical world this
malady is described as "a condition of weakness and
exhaustion of the nervous system, giving rise to various forms of
mental and bodily inefficiency. The term covers an ill-defined,
motley group of symptoms, which may be either general and the
expression of derangement of the entire system, or local, limited
to certain organs."
There is an almost appalling
amount of this complaint about today, and a terrible prevalence
amongst Christian workers. This is significant of a number of
spiritual faults, to which we shall refer presently.
Before we deal with the
spiritual side, it might be well and helpful if we said just a
word about the natural in itself. This is one of those troubles
so closely related to the mind that it forms peculiarly fruitful
ground for the enemy.
For instance, apart from any
spiritual factors, those who suffer from neurasthenia are subject
to much depression, "low-spirits," and despondency;
inability to perform the ordinary amount of mental work; loss of
power of fixed attention so that, for example, a row of figures
cannot be added up correctly, the dictating or writing of a few
letters is a source of worry, petty details are a painful effort.
Sleeplessness is often, but not always, a characteristic.
Sometimes sensations of pain, usually localised, are present - a
joint, a muscle, a sinew, a limb, the skin, the eyes, etc.;
sometimes marked vertigo, almost like meningitis. Certain other
peculiar symptoms of this malady are specially interesting as
they come so near to what also characterises supernatural or
For instance, in some cases
there is a malicious delight in making people who are happier
uncomfortable or miserable. Then a well-known symptom is the
presence of a second something. When the mind is occupied - or
straining to be occupied - with one thing, another thing or
presence is shadowing the mental consciousness like a spectre.
Then again, the intrusion of uncontrollable thoughts foreign to
the normal life, and often to the moral makeup, of the patient -
cause intense distress. The desire to rush away and escape from
everyone is very common, and also the tendency to fling oneself
down in despair. Indeed, the symptoms are legion and vary with
the degree or particular form of the complaint. We have only
mentioned this much because it is possible to carry into the
spiritual realm that which is not specifically spiritual, and
relate either to the Lord or to the enemy that which may be just
the infirmity of this body of corruption. At least it is as well
that we recognise this, and know that our case is in common
understanding amongst those who know; for a very general element
of this trouble is that the patient always feels that he is
completely misunderstood by all.
Natural and Spiritual
When this distressing condition
comes within the circle of God's people the enemy is especially
active to give to it spiritual implications. What terrible
distress there is abroad because of inability to concentrate the
mind in prayer at once! What suffering because of depression
which has been interpreted by the "accuser" as being
the result of sin, thus setting up a false condemnation! What
ravages by reason of that other presence being given a sinister
character, as though the evil one had been given a right over
one! What anguish because of those foreign thoughts! What lost
assurance of salvation; sense of being beyond pardon; questioning
the whole truth and reality of the Christian faith, etc., etc.!
Where shall we begin to help
such afflicted ones?
First of all, let us say to all
the Lord's people that in this realm we have one of the most
serious warnings against living the Christian life in the realm
of the soul instead of in the spirit. It would seem that the
enemy would facilitate such "Christianity" to a
tremendous degree. The mental, emotional, and volitional
engrossment in "spiritual" things apart from or beyond
a true Holy Spirit energising will bring its own Nemesis, and the
end may be despair.
"The mind of the flesh is
death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace."
Thus we would say that what is
truly of the Spirit abides and stands when all the realm of the
soul (psychical nature) and body breaks down and contradicts.
Have you been truly born from
above? Have you been obedient to the heavenly vision, to the
light, as you have had it? In failure and fall have you
repentantly confessed, and done what could be done to bring forth
fruit meet for repentance? Have you appealed to the efficacy of
the Blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son? Have you kept short
accounts with God when convicted of wrong? Then take your stand
in your spirit, even against your own soul and body if needs be,
and against all hell. Stand upon the fact that He in Whom you
have put your trust is "greater than our heart."
Then, one word more. Keep your
eyes outside. Refuse introspection, dwelling upon yourself, your
condition, your feelings, your symptoms. Look not for hope in
yourself. Seek no virtue in your own heart. Cease to expect any
good of yourself, but remember that He is your righteousness,
your surety, your acceptance with God, your merit, your