Last winter we moved into a new home that had been vacant for some time. When we purchased the house in February, the property was completely covered in snow. We had no idea what surprises the grounds might hold for us. As spring emerged and the snow melted, I could see where old flower beds had been. And where plants had accidentally been moved when the yard was bulldozed! And as you can imagine, I could see how overgrown the beds and yard were with weeds because no one had lived there to tend them in some time. We began working on our flowerbeds last spring, and they have come a long, long way. It has been rewarding to see the transformation this spring as all my new plants have sprouted stronger and larger than last spring.
Unfortunately, along with them, the weeds have also sprouted. There is one particular flower bed that has been my nemesis. It rests mostly on a steep sandstone hill. Did you know there aren’t a lot of plants that like to grow on a sandstone hill, or in soil comprised heavily of sand? It’s been a battle finding things to grow in this large hillside flowerbed. An expensive battle. I’ve spent hours clearing weeds out of this bed, only to have them come right back because this is a huge flowerbed, and it would take me hundreds of dollars to fill it up with desirable plants that enjoy growing in desert like soil. So we’re in the long game with the weeds. I can’t put plants into all the places where the weeds were removed, so the weeds find their old home vacant, and they return.
When I was weeding this past week, God reminded me of the story that Jesus told to the religious leaders in Matthew 12 about the vacancies that impure spirits leave when they are cast out of a person.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” (43-45)
What in the world does this have to do with me and my weeds? Or my life?
Lately I’ve been battling some anxiety and fear. I’m not a person given to anxious thoughts, but there have been seasons where I have felt intense anxiety, especially when it comes to my kids. Maybe you don’t think of anxiety or fear as “impure spirits,” but if you think about it … Where do they come from? Certainly not God’s kingdom or his heart! Fear and anxiety were crafted in the pits of hell to keep believers immobilized and ineffective. So I think that classifies them as impure spirits. I firmly believe that the enemy uses these forces to wage war on my mind and to keep me from being effective as a wife, mom, friend, and kingdom worker. Anxiety can be immobilizing. You’re just frozen in life because you’re so afraid that the wrong thing is coming down the pike. When anxious thoughts send me spiraling, I know I need to cast them out, just like the impure spirits Jesus is describing in Matthew 12. But how do I ensure that I don’t encounter the problem Jesus describes in this passage? How do I avoid having the house of my mind “unoccupied?”
When I am battling the forces of evil in my life (not just the weeds, friends), I cannot simply cast those things out and leave the mental space empty. Because the evil will try to come right back. Just like my weeds come right back to the empty spaces in my garden, the fears and anxieties that I struggle with return to the empty spaces in my heart and mind.
If I want to effectively battle fear and anxiety, I need to not leave the empty space available in my mind for those things to return. How do I do that? My weapon of choice is the Word of God. On my own, I cannot stand up to and defeat the forces of evil in my life, but with God’s Word in hand, I can. During a particularly intense spiral last week, I simply repeated over and over in my mind verses and words from the Psalms about trusting in God and about God’s protection. What I’m choosing to think about matters greatly, and I don’t want the forces of darkness that are searching for a place to land to check out my mind and find a vacancy where they can reside. I want my mind so full of God’s truth that there is no room for the lies of the enemy to dwell.
(As a side note, please understand, I know that there are many people who struggle with crippling anxiety at all times. My heart goes out to you, because my MOMENTS of anxiety can overwhelm me. I can’t imagine living with it all the time. And I understand that this is a clinical, medical, brain balance issue that sometimes needs much more than what I’m describing in this blog. What I’m describing here is my own battle, which I believe has spiritual origins.)
The other thing about weeds is that they have roots. Sometimes the roots are deep, and sometimes the roots are strong. When I think about the anxieties that seem to plague me – they’re always the same ones, and I’m willing to bet you have your same set that plagues you too – I know that they have roots in my past. I’ve experienced things and the enemy has lied to me in those situations about who I am and who God is. It’s the lie I’ve bought into that has rooted itself into the current weeds of my life. Weeds can’t be destroyed in the flowerbed or in my life unless I get to the root. I need to be honest with God about the lies I have believed and ask his Holy Spirit to show me those lies and help me choose to believe the truth instead. When I can discern the root and deal with the lie, then I am on my way to healing. And when the flowerbed, or my mind, has been cleaned out, I need to fill it up with God’s truth to ensure there is no vacancy for new “weeds.”
We need to realize that we are not victims or captives to our own thoughts and minds. We do have control over what we think about and what we choose to believe. When I feel fear rising up, I can replace those thoughts with the truth about God’s goodness and trustworthiness. Choosing to trust God instead of giving way to anxiety brings peace, freedom, and lightness to my life.
Maybe someday I’ll have my hillside garden completely free of weeds and full of only great big, beautiful plants. But every time I weed, you can be sure it will be a reminder to think about what I’m thinking about and what I’m making space for in my mind!