“Night and day among the tombs and in the hills
he would cry out and cut himself with stones.”
Mark 5:5 NIV
I used to believe that I could make people happy.
I also used to believe that it was my fault if they weren’t happy.
I used to believe that people made me happy and it was their fault if I wasn’t happy.
It was one of the hardest things in the world for me to understand a world in which that wasn’t true. I’m still grappling with it, honestly. Because, the fact remains that we are not alone in this world. No wo/man is an island. The things I do DO impact you. The things you do DO impact me.
But those things are not what establishes the state of my heart.
Something inside me is in charge of me. Something inside of you is in charge of you.
This concept really hit home when I read this account in Mark:
“They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (Mark 5:1-5 NIV)
This man lived in the tombs. No one forced him to – it says he couldn’t even be chained. He was free as a bird. He CHOSE to live in a graveyard. He was strong and free yet he was miserable. He spent his nights and days alone, crying and cutting himself.
Not because his girlfriend broke up with him.
Not because he got fired.
Not because of any [legitimately] tragic external reasons.
It was because of a toxic internal relationship.
He had an impure spirit with him. The original Greek uses the word “unclean.” His spirit was hanging out with an unclean spirit. Actually, if you read further, you see that the unclean spirit even had a name: Legion. My Bible study notes share that the word “legion” was used to describe the largest unit of the Roman army, consisting of 3,000 to 6,000 soldiers.
His soul was hanging out with an incredible amount of darkness. His spirit – the part in each human that was created for eternity – was being tortured 24/7.
David, a legendary king in the Old Testament, talked about the condition of his spirit, too, and how it impacted his world.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12 NIV)
He asks that God’s Holy Spirit stays with him and that he can stay in God’s presence. He gives the Holy Spirit’s relationship with him credit for his joy, intrinsic motivation, and resiliency. He asks for a pure [clean] heart and a steadfast [faithful] spirit.
I need to remember this when I have those days where I feel like my moping around in tombs of my failures, frustrations and funks. The perfect Holy Spirit lives within me. I don’t need to have the power to make my soul – or anyone else’s – at peace; I have an all-powerful God who has got that under control. I just need to be still and know that he is God.
Dear Lord, there are days when I feel the weight of this world winning in my heart. There are days when legions of insecurities and fears make me feel incapable of enjoying the freedom you’ve given me. On those days, help me pause and pray the words of David: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Amen.