Chronic fatigue syndrome and the spirit of slumber: Is there a link?

 

71200001Here’s my story.

The fatigue came on slowly at first. I didn’t really stop long enough to see what was happening. It was so mild that it didn’t really catch my attention. Like a foggy mist, it had silently crept in. As the fatigue grew stronger, I just dug down deeper into my own determination to keep going. One day I remember feeling exhausted as I came in from gardening. I remember in that moment stopping and asking myself why I did it. Why work so hard? Surely the weariness would let up if I would just slow down. So I did. Slow down. But when I yielded to the weariness it only grew stronger.

Then “it” happened. The best way I can describe what happened that night is to call it a crisis of trust. Trust in God. Trust in myself. Trust in others. It was like a perfect storm. A stress storm. I remember trying to act as if I was ok that night, but our daughters could see that I wasn’t. It was all I could do to hold it together until we got home.

That night I laid in bed in the fetal position. It was like some protective barrier had broken inside of me. Whatever this internal breach was, I knew it was serious. It felt like something destructive now had access to places that had never been exposed before. All I could do was lay there and quote scriptures. “God is my refuge and strength.” “He will never leave me or forsake me.” Over and over I quoted every scripture I could think of. Little did I know that night how much my life had just changed.  About 5 days later the fatigue hit me in a life altering way. Then came the lymph node pain and sore throats.  It was all I could do just to make a meal. Any plans that were not absolutely necessary were cancelled. I would go to work for one day and take two days to recover. I would just stare into space at the end of the day, wondering when the pain would let up. Two months later I gave my notice at work. I wondered why I was even alive if all I could do was lay around. Wave after wave of fatigue hit me. It was a relentless cycle of getting my hopes up on good days only to be disappointed when it returned. It felt like a cruel roller coaster ride that I couldn’t get off of.  It began to feel safer to just stop hoping.

I began going from Doctor to Doctor trying to get a diagnosis. I suspected it was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My husband had suffered with it some years earlier, and my symptoms were the same. But the doctors were saying no at first. We spent thousands of dollars on traditional and alternative medicine. I tried special diets. Juice fasts. IV therapy. Supplements. Rest. More rest. Nothing seemed to give any lasting relief. I felt like I was in no-man’s land. Not sick enough to be confined to bed. Too sick to live a normal life. It felt like I was always letting people down. Cancelling on them. Unable to engage in conversations with any amount of energy.  There were times that I wanted to die. My husband was one of my biggest encouragers. Having suffered with CFS himself, he knew that today might feel overwhelming but tomorrow could be totally different. “There’s always hope,” was his favorite saying.

I just wanted my life back. On the days when I didn’t feel the fatigue, I would dive into doing all the things that I’d wanted to accomplish but hadn’t had the energy to do. Then, WHAM! The fatigue would return with a vengeance. I felt like a dog on a leash. Forgetting about the restraint upon my neck, I’d repeatedly take off running, only to be slammed backwards by the choking restraint of fatigue.

Fear of the fatigue itself set in. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of pain. Questions of “WHY?!?!” When all I wanted to do was run for God, why would He allow this????  I begged God not to forget me here in this isolated place.

Then I noticed something. Something I didn’t understand. Why did it seem like the closer I walked with God, the less fatigue I felt? It seemed like any time my “flesh” (sin nature) was given a say in things, the fatigue grew worse. I began to wonder…could there be a spiritual root to this fatigue? Why did the fatigue seem to “lift” when I’d spent time in worship? It didn’t make sense. I’d turn on worship music at home. I’d worship God as I sang along to the words. I praised God for Who He is: “My Strength. Holy. Good. My Prince of peace. Faithful.”  I’d pace back and forth in my prayer room, even exerting much energy. As I did, the fatigue would leave me. Sometimes quickly. Other times it took longer. But it would leave me. It didn’t make sense to me. Sometimes the fatigue would stay away for an hour before returning. Sometimes a day. Or a week. Sometimes even months would go by before it would return.

One day, I talked to a friend about that fateful night when “it” all began. This friend is very gifted prophetically. The Lord gave her a word of knowledge. The fatigue was being caused by the spirit of slumber. (also called a spirit of stupor) I didn’t really understand what that meant. So I began to dig into the word to see what it had to say about it. The main passage that talks about this spirit is found in Romans 11:7-8:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.”

What is a spirit of stupor?

The dictionary defines stupor this way: “deep sleep, torpor, insensibility.” It’s the picture of a person who has suffered a violent strike (prick), leaving them bewildered, falling into a mental stupor.

The spirit of slumber is an evil spirit. This is not an evil spirit that influences just one individual, but one that influences groups of people. It falls among the category of the more influential evil spirits listed in Ephesians 6:12 when it says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This evil spirit has a higher rank in Satan’s kingdom than others. An earthly analogy would be a governor over a state having more influence and power than an individual citizen.

What are those effects, or markers of the spirit of slumber?

Passivity. This spirit has the potential to cause the believer’s ability to respond to be impaired. Where we would normally respond to a threat, slumber makes us lethargic; immobilized because our perception has been shut down. Where our hearts were once stirred when we read the word or listened to a sermon, now we feel insensitive. It’s as if we’ve become drunk, but not with wine; we become negligent, unenthusiastic and slothful. Slumber shuts down our ability to understand spiritual truth and gives us dull hearts.

Chronic fatigue is another marker of this spirit. Whether a person has yielded to this spirit or is simply discerning its’ presence, fatigue is one of the primary ways this spirit is discerned. In order to recognize its’ presence, one needs to learn to discern between normal physical tiredness and the fatigue caused by this spirit. Normal physical tiredness is “fixed” when we get physical rest. The weariness caused by this spirit may temporarily appear to be “fixed” when we isolate and rest our physical bodies, but in the big picture, the weariness remains an on-going problem.

For those who have yielded to this spirit, their ability to “see” is impaired. In other words, their ability to perceive (discern) spiritual truth is diminished. The person who is yielding to this spirit finds it difficult to discern good from evil, right from wrong, true prophecy from false, etc. Our spiritual sensitivities have been stunned, leaving us in a spiritual stupor. The more we yield to this spirit, the less spiritually conscious we become.

Another marker of this spirit is feeling overwhelmed. The individual may face the temptation to “crawl in a hole” and go to sleep when needed action looks too hard or too scary.” Those who are feeling the effects of this spirit may face strong temptation to quit pressing forward in their calling. One of the goals of this spirit is to shut us up and shut us down.

Another indication that we may be feeling the effects of the spirit of slumber is the temptation to flee. It’s all too easy to believe the lie that says that retreating will protect ourselves and those we love when encountering the spirit of slumber. Retreating can look like physically removing ourselves from a situation, literal sleep, passivity, isolating, mentally allowing threats to be blocked from our mind, or numbing ourselves on screens to name just a few.

Another way to recognize that we are feeling the effects of the presence of slumber is when we have an inability to feel emotion when an emotional response would be healthy A hardened, calloused heart loses its’ ability to feel.

What’s the big deal? Why should we be concerned about yielding to slumber?

The spirit of slumber is not just a spiritual attack from the enemy. It is an evil spirit sent by God. (Romans 11:8) Why would God do such a thing? He did it because His people had given in to the sin of unbelief (Romans 11:7-23), rebellion (Jer. 5:21-23, Ezekiel 12:1-2), and Hardness of heart. (Matt. 13:13-15, Mark 8:17-10). If we as a church are to be freed from the spirit of slumber, repentance is called for. We need His grace and mercy poured out upon us

Another reason we should be concerned about yielding to the spirit of slumber is because it leads to a pattern of retreating from conflict, which can lock the individual into a lifestyle of passivity and defeat.

Another reason we should be concerned about yielding to the spirit of slumber is because it acts as a smokescreen for the enemy to do his dirty work, unhindered by a sleeping church. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” His agenda is to steal everything that is precious to us, including the harvest that we have labored for years to yield. If we as a church are finding comfort in sleeping while he ravages our treasure houses, he will gladly steal us blind. He would love nothing better than to steal the hearts of our children, destroy our reputation, and lie to us so that we do not walk in our true identities and destinies. If we will have the courage to wake up, we will be alarmed enough to act when we see him rummaging around in our treasures. We will stand up and fight only if we are awake!

Practical steps to overcome the spirit of slumber:

  1. Follow Jesus’ example…use your sword! When Jesus engaged in battle against Satan at the end of His fast in the desert, He used the word, not human reasoning to defeat him. If ever there was a time when the atomic bomb of spiritual warfare was needed, this was it! Jesus was physically weak from a 40 day fast. He was hot, tired, thirsty and hungry. Lucifer handled this assignment himself. Most of us have never had to directly engage Lucifer in battle, but we would be wise to use the same weapons as Jesus when seeking to overcome the spirit of slumber. The word of God is a powerful weapon we can use against principalities, powers and rulers. When this spirit tries to convince us that what God is calling us to do is just too hard or too intimidating, some powerful scriptures include: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29 “I can all things through him who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:13

Identifying numbing behaviors that you may be using to escape the fatigue is another effective way to resist the spirit of slumber. This might look like screen time, alcohol, isolation, sleep, etc. Let’s not allow ourselves to be comforted by yielding to spiritual slumber.

Another practical step in overcoming the spirit of slumber is to get the right kind of rest. Not all rest is restorative. Try soaking in God’s presence through worship music, the word or prayer.

Asking God for strength is another effective way to resist the spirit of slumber.

We also overcome the spirit of slumber by keeping our eyes fixed on God and His attributes.  Not on slumber. Not on the enemy. Not on the fatigue. Not on the storm. While it can be helpful to stop long enough to educate ourselves on the markers of this spirit, let’s not linger there.  I once had a Pastor tell me that we empower what we focus on. It’s so true. Peter was able to walk above the water as long as he kept his eyes focused on Jesus. We can do the same. We have the potential to walk above fatigue as we keep our eyes fixed on God. We only need be aware of when this spirit is operating through our peripheral vision.

Be patient with yourself. It can take time to learn how to walk free of fatigue. God will give us understanding if we will ask for it.

When we feel fatigued or overwhelmed, let’s push back! Resist fatigue (and fear of fatigue) by declaring the promises of God to be our strength. We are commanded to be strong, (Deut. 31:6, Psalm 29:11) and we have been given everything we need to obey. (2 Peter 1:3)

Be assured, beloved that if you are in the place where I was, feeling storm-tossed and uncomforted, that God sees you. He has compassion for your suffering. He wants to help you. You also have a role to play in resisting slumber. If you are to resist it, it will mean resisting when you feel that you have no strength left. We simply cannot wait until we feel strong enough. It is in this place where we feel the weakest that God’s strength will carry us through to victory.

There is always hope,

Arlene

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