“…he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound…to comfort all that mourn; To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” Isaiah 61:1b-3
The spirit of heaviness is a member of Satan’s kingdom. An evil spirit. There’s a military type of ranking order in Satan’s kingdom. Some demons influence individuals. Higher ranks have more power and influence. They impact larger numbers of people. Still others are even more powerful and rule over an entire nation.
We see three of the ranks named in Ephesians 6 when it says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…”
The spirit of heaviness is in this category. It has the potential to influence and impact whole groups of people. So, what is it? The Hebrew word for heaviness is “kehey.” (kay-heh’) It means, “dim, dull or faint.”
The word faint comes from the word kahah. Some translations call it, “despair, broken hearts, sorrow or discouragement. It can also mean feeble or weak. A person who is feeling the influence of the spirit of heaviness may feel like the things they used to do with ease now look overwhelming. Like it’s just too hard. Too big. Too discouraging to face. The smallest task can look like a mountain when heaviness is operating.
Heaviness also means “dull”: When we look at one of the scriptures where “kehey” is described as being dull, we find instructions about skin diseases that have the potential to spread from an individual and become a plague. When determining if skin rashes were likely to spread and become a plague or not, the Israelite Priest assessed how dark or how dull the spots were and whether or not the spots would spread. This is a metaphor. The Bible takes something that can happen in the physical to explain a spiritual truth. This is the picture of an evil spirit whose influence can, if left unchecked, spread like a plague. Plagues affect groups of people, not just individuals. The spirit of heaviness would be more the equivalent of a high ranking officer in Satan’s kingdom. If groups of people yield to this spirit, it has the potential to impact whole cities, regions or even a nation.
Heaviness also means “dim:” Isaiah 42:3-4 says, “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth…” This is a beautiful picture of Jesus overcoming heaviness on our behalf. In compassion he looks upon those who, like a flickering candle, feel like their life is being snuffed out. Like they are just too discouraged or weak to keep going. He gives us hope. Because Jesus did not lose heart or give up, we too have hope. We do not need to give up or grow discouraged, because He is our strength.
Jesus came to give us, “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” What does that mean?
Beautiful clothes and oil poured on the head represented joy. They were worn on days of celebration, much like our day of Thanksgiving, when we take time to give thanks. The beautiful clothes were compared to the “garment of praise” that God gives us in exchange for heaviness. Like all garments, we choose whether or not we will put them on. In practical terms, we put on the garment of praise every time we choose to worship God. We do this on Sunday mornings during the worship service IF we choose to participate. While it might feel awkward at first, we can also choose to worship God right in our own homes when we feel heaviness operating. Why would we do this? Because God deserves our praise and because heaviness cannot stand in the presence of worship. It will flee when we worship God.
Does the spirit of heaviness cause people to feel depressed?
Yes, I believe it does. 1 Samuel 16:14 says, “Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.”
Now, does that mean that the person who feels depressed, or heavy, has done something wrong? Not necessarily.
Why do people feel the effects of heaviness?
One reason that we may, at times, feel the effects of heaviness might be that we have yielded to, or agreed with it. When we were tempted to feel despair, defeat, discouraged or depressed, we might have yielded. Where we place our agreement is vital! Let’s look at a hypothetical scene, with two very different outcomes:
“Doris” woke up feeling discouraged before the day even began. ‘Ewwww, it’s going to be one of those days,” she sighed. She wished she could just stay in bed. She dragged herself into the kitchen to make some breakfast. She ruminated on the problems in her relationship with her brother. The depression she felt was suffocating. “Things will never change,” she lamented. She looked over her schedule for the day. It looked like a mountain before her. “I can’t do this…it’s too hard. I’ll never get it all done.” She felt defeated as she shuffled to the door.
As you can see, Doris felt the discouragement and despair of heaviness the minute she woke up. Nothing had happened yet to cause her to feel this way. It was just there when she work up. She felt discouraged, so she just went with it. She agreed with heaviness; She felt life was hopeless, so she agreed that her life was hopeless. (Notice that heaviness didn’t hit her as a result of her own thought processes.)
Let’s play this scene out in a different way:
Doris woke up feeling discouraged before the day even began. Hmmm, there’s a heaviness I’m sensing”, she thought. “Well, I don’t have to put up with this. I serve the God of hope. Jesus comforts the depressed. He came to bind up the brokenhearted. He gives me His shield of victory. The Bible tells me that Jesus came to give me a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.” Doris turned on some worship music. She agreed with the words of the worship music as she sang along to the words. As she did, she quoted Bible verses, “He restores my soul.” I can do all things through Christ. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy and peace.” It wasn’t very long before Doris began to feel the heaviness lift. It was like the sun came out emotionally. Things didn’t look so dark and hopeless anymore. She felt a sense of anticipation as she walked out the door, ready to take on the day.
We have seen two very different outcomes. In the first scene, Doris was spiraling downward. She had agreed with the enemy. She yielded to the lie that she had no choice but to live a defeated, discouraged life. She did nothing to resist the lies that she FELT when she woke up.
In the second scene, Doris made a decision. She was going to resist the enemy. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Doris had resisted the temptation to give in to depression. When she felt discouraged, she gave it a good hard push back. She chose to resist it. Say no to it. Agree with something different. She chose to trust God’s word rather than her feelings to tell her what was true.
These two scenes give us a picture of the power of our agreement on a personal level. But there’s a wild card in the mix. Sometimes the things we feel are not about us personally. Sometimes we feel the effects spiritual realities that are bigger than ourselves. In order to understand why it is possible to feel heaviness that has nothing to do with us personally, we need to understand one of the spiritual gifts. It is called the gift of “discerning of spirits.”
It is one of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom…to another discerning of spirits…”
What is “discerning of spirits?” It is the ability to recognize the presence of a spiritual being. This includes the Spirit of God, angels and demons (evil spirits). Some people actually see evil spirits with their eyes. Others are able to feel the presence of an evil spirit. Others just know when one is present. Still others may hear an internal audible word from the Lord telling them what spirit is operating.
So, what does it feel like to discern the presence of an evil spirit? It feels like the character traits that the particular evil spirit carries. For example, a person who discerns the presence of a spirit of fear would feel fearful when that demonic spirit was present. A person discerning a spirit of rejection would feel rejection. A person feeling a spirit of heaviness would feel depressed, discouraged, despairing or defeated. The person discerning the presence of an evil spirit would not necessarily be in agreement with it. They would, however, face the temptation to agree with it. It takes intentionally disagreeing with an evil spirit to resist it.
I want to give you an example from my own life of a time that I discerned the presence of the spirit of heaviness. I was shopping in a nearby town. I was in a good place emotionally before I arrived at the store. But once I entered the parking lot, I began to sense heaviness. By the time I was inside the store, it was thick and oppressive. I felt like I could hardly breathe. The first thing I like to do when I sense heaviness is to ask myself, “Where were my thoughts before I felt this heaviness? Was I thinking about things that led to feelings of discouragement? Or did this hit from out of nowhere? In this situation, my thoughts had not opened a door to this heaviness. I was simply feeling heaviness because I was discerning its’ presence. Repentance wasn’t needed this time, but a response still was. I still needed to resist heaviness. I began to quote scriptures under my breath, “He restores my soul,” “Light is shed upon the righteous, and joy on the upright in heart.” I asked the Lord to send his warring angels to do battle against heaviness.
As soon as I got into my car to go home, I turned on worship music. I have found that when I resist heaviness, sometimes it will lift very quickly. In seconds. Other times, it takes a while. This day, I worshipped and resisted heaviness for about 20 minutes before it lifted. That day I had to repeat the process of resisting heaviness 3 or 4 more times before it stopped.
How do we overcome a demonic spirit of heaviness?
When we recognize the presence of heaviness, the first thing we need to do is to ask ourselves, “Have I yielded to this? Even for one second?” If the answer to this is yes, repentance is called for.
When I first started to break free from heaviness, I needed to come out of agreement with 25 years of agreeing with that spirit. I needed to repent. So I did. I found that I had yielded to heaviness for so long that it was a habit. Habits don’t usually break overnight, so I had to repent often when I first began to resist heaviness. Over time, it became easier, but there are still times when I need to repent.
The second step in overcoming heaviness is to resist it. Refuse to agree with despair, discouragement and hopelessness. Choose to agree with God instead. Choose to agree that we, of all people, have reason to hope. Our future is bright indeed! It helps to have some Bible verses prepared ahead of time, so that when a bout of depression tries to overtake your thoughts, you can draw from God’s word.
Another way that we can resist heaviness is, like I mentioned earlier, to worship. I have a playlist just for such occasions. I turn it on and bring my agreement to the opposite of heaviness. God has given us all we need to overcome heaviness. May His joy be your strength today,
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form. And you have been made complete in Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority…And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2:9,15