“I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart. …My heart throbs, my strength fails me; and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me. …But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a dumb man who does not open his mouth.” –Psalm 38: 8-13.
“Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued;
For I will contend with the one who contends with you.” –Is. 49:25
© 2002 New Line Productions, Inc.
Anyone who has ever suffered deep emotional depression or spiritual oppression (and is there really any firm demarcation between the two?) will find shocking recognition of themselves in Rohan’s King Théoden as portrayed in Peter Jackson’s film The Two Towers (from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy).
Filmed with a gauzy lack of luminosity and definition, Théoden almost looks like a ghost, like a man encased in spider-webs. He is the picture of hopelessness and paralysis, of miserable mere existence. And the source of the once-great warrior’s decline has been words. More specifically, these were words of deception, spoken convincingly by a malevolent, yet outwardly sympathetic mouthpiece of evil: Grima Wormtongue. Once believed, these words had coalesced into an enslaving enchantment, a thrall as binding as any shackle forged in metal. I’ve worn this thrall myself at different points in my life. It is, as Bunyan wrote, a “yoke of iron” which can be crushing.
Whether manifest as depression, condemnation, bondage, or merely an undisciplined life, I do believe that at the core are deceptive words that contain both an opiate and poison in their sting. The aim is to immobilize and ultimately kill us. These “words” may be audible, or merely thoughts, but the issue is message: something dark is communicated and light is diminished. Whenever light is limited, truth becomes harder to apprehend, and we can find ourselves in the miry pit of despond. Its scope can range from just feeling “off” to full-scale, debilitating paralysis and bondage.
These dark words almost universally derive from the enemy of our souls, whether voiced by our inner psyche, by other people, by a chemical incoherence in our neurological systems, or by any other stimulus inside or around us. Whatever the source, believing them constitutes agreement, agreement is obedience, and obedience yields servitude—either good or bad (Romans 6: 16).
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). In just twelve words, however, Jesus Christ gives unqualified promise that in knowing Him intimately, personally, and redemptively—as He has revealed Himself to us through His Word—we can, we shall, be set free. Later, the Apostle Peter reiterates that it is through Christ’s “precious and magnificent promises,” believed and accepted and progressively applied, that we “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world…” (2 Peter 1: 4)
Many of us—myself included—have often longed for an instantaneous “exorcism” of our thrall, such as that experienced by Théoden in the film. While “deliverance” is sometimes necessary and certainly possible for God, typically He will lead us down a path of progressive renewal of our minds in truth as the road of our renovation. As bent men we must walk this street called “straight” one limping step at a time, clinging audaciously to the truth that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1: 6).
Abba, Father, thank you that Jesus IS the Truth, that He IS the Straight Road beneath my feet. Release the power of Your precious promises in me with each halting faith-step I take. Release me from the thrall of my unbelief, my fear, and my disobedience. Thank you that you are able to rescue me from the tyranny and captivity of my enemies with true words. Restore the light of my eyes and the joy of my heart by your sufficient grace. MOW ©2010