For some time, culture has made light of forces unseen in the heavenly places. Animation has portrayed this by having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Often the cartoon character will follow the wiles of the devilish creature. Of course, all in good humor! But is it something that we should easily dismiss? Meaning, should we allow this to be shrugged or brushed off?
Popular culture downplays the severity of what or whom we give our focus. A case in point is the above cartoon illustration. The character struggles to listen, judge, and do what is right. Our conscience is a powerful guide. If not appropriately aligned with the word of God, then it can or will lead us astray. In other words—feelings aren’t facts.
One character in Scripture that couldn’t properly control their feelings was Saul. It is easy to picture Saul with the angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. After only a short time, there seemed only the demon. We read in 1 Sam. 16:14, “Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him.” Being the first king of a nation would have been challenging enough, but fighting personal demons is a whole other matter.
Repeatedly, he allowed sin to take hold, and one could determine that he faced great inward turmoil. It would be interesting to hear what diagnosis/diagnoses a mental health professional would ascribe to Saul. Knowing what we have in Scripture, Saul’s mental faculties suffered greatly. At one moment, he could be rational, calm, but a terror at another. That sounds like he was two different people.
He presented multiple episodes of psychosis. Throwing a spear at your son is not a semblance of stability but lunacy (cf. 1 Sam. 20:33). He did the same thing to David as he did to his son, Jonathan. Not only did Saul hurl a spear multiple times at David, but he attempted to kill him many times after (1 Sam. 18:11; 23:25; 26:2). But, wait a minute! If he was out of his mind, does that mean he was not responsible for his actions? Of course not!
Saul was not always how he became. Over time, sin brought about his darkness or evil spirit. His sin separated him from the Father (cf. Isa. 59:2). Furthermore, there were occasions when he returned to his senses. This happened when he recognized his guilt and David’s innocence. Saul said to David, “You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you…Now, behold, I know that you will surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand” (1 Sam. 24:17, 20).
We can only imagine how torn up inside Saul must have been. At the end of his life, we see this clearly shown. Desperate times called for desperate measures. God would not respond to his prayers (1 Sam. 28:6). After seeking a medium to call upon Samuel from the grave, the sober reality finally hit him. Scripture says, “Then Saul immediately fell full length upon the ground and was very afraid because of the words of Samuel; also there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day and all night” (1 Sam. 28:20).
Everyone is presented with countless choices each day. One can empathize with the pressure of making a correct decision on a given matter. Often our minds are torn between what we should or shouldn’t do. When we reflect upon our decisions, they can be placed in one of two categories: right or wrong. Either we are listening and obeying God, or we are following Satan.
Satan is always seeking to split us apart from God. May we never give him that power!