Harmful Spirit

Anthony sat in our cafe and raised his voice to complain about the trouble in his life. He rambled on about various problems.

I stood near Anthony and listened to his story. He talked about violence and injustice and trauma involving his friends and family. The story stretched back to his childhood.

Anthony also believed people were following him. He described how multiple cars followed him around all day, trying to get him into trouble.

Admittedly, his story didn’t make much sense.

He spoke to me for nearly an hour, hardly taking a breath. His body language and facial expressions revealed his deep frustration with life.

Finally, I interrupted Anthony, asking, “Anthony, how do you feel in the midst of all this?”

His eyes filled with tears and he said, “Man, I feel alone.”  He sat down and didn’t speak for about 20 seconds. Then he stood up again and continued his rant. Eventually, I had to tear myself away from him, but he kept talking even when no one was listening.

Then Dave, one of our most engaged volunteers, approached Anthony.

“Anthony,” he said, “come over here and sit down next to me.”

Anthony reluctantly followed Dave to a nearby cafe table. Dave pulled out a bible and told Anthony to simply sit and listen. Anthony said, “But I just —“

Dave interrupted him, “Anthony, just sit and listen.”

Then Dave started reading the Psalms to Anthony. One after another in a calm, soothing voice. Every now and again Anthony tried to speak up, but Dave firmly told him to just sit and listen. Eventually Anthony quieted down completely and reflected on the words of scripture.

The scene reminded me of a story from the Old Testament. King Saul, the first king of Israel, sinned against God and disobeyed a direct command. Because of this, God’s Spirit left Saul and a harmful spirit fell upon him. This harmful spirit tormented Saul.

One of Saul’s servants hired a young man named David to bring relief to Saul’s torment. David simply sat in Saul’s presence and played music. Perhaps he sang some of the songs he had written. Songs that later become the Psalms of the bible.

As David played, the harmful spirit left Saul and he felt better.

Maybe some of these songs are the same songs Dave read to Anthony.

I’ve written before about the goodness of the scriptures. So often, our thoughts are bombarded by harmful spirits. Lies and distortions of reality. Maybe we seek comfort in venting about our problems. Or maybe we try to escape through compulsory habits or addictions.

But what we really need is a large dose of truth. A reminder that God is for us. That God is our Shepherd and will lead us to the good things he has prepared for us.

Anthony came to our weekly Gathering the next weekend. He thanked us several times for reading the scriptures to him and praying for him.

I’m thankful for Dave’s wisdom. Seeking to bring comfort through God’s word rather than trying to solve all of Anthony’s real and imagined problems.

The interaction encouraged me — not only bring comfort to people with the truth of scripture, but to comfort myself in the same way.

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