Is it Possible to Overcome a Spirit of Heaviness?

The spirit of heaviness is a condition we’ve all experienced at different seasons in life. Who of us hasn’t felt the crushing weight of circumstances, grief, or exhaustion threaten to block our sense of God’s presence?

Contributing Writer
Aug 17, 2021
Is it Possible to Overcome a Spirit of Heaviness?

The spirit of heaviness is a condition we’ve all experienced at different seasons in life. Who of us hasn’t felt the crushing weight of circumstances, grief, or exhaustion threaten to block our sense of God’s presence? Even though Jesus warned us that in this world we would have trouble, He assured us that He has overcome this world. In Him, we can too.

What Is the Meaning of the Term ‘Spirit of Heaviness’?

“The spirit of heaviness can be characterized as any intense negative feeling that challenges our faith and what we know about God. Heaviness may result from our own habitual sins like addiction, lying, and gossip, or could also occur from the loss of a job, even a loved one. To feel heavy is to be burdened, and to be burdened is to not carry the light and easy yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:30),” explains Aaron Brown in How to Break Free from a Spirit of Heaviness.

It's important to note that a spirit of heaviness should not be confused with clinical depression or mental illness. Spiritual heaviness is caused by a spiritual burden, which can only be remedied through spiritual means, while clinical depression and mental illness are considered physiological and psychological maladies. This is not to say that one can’t lead to the other, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the spiritual issues.

What Is the Origin of the Term ‘Spirit of Heaviness’?

Shortly after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and tested in the wilderness, He went back to Nazareth and detonated a spiritual bomb that ripped through the synagogue where He spoke. The proclamation Jesus made on that day enraged the people to such a degree that they dragged him to the edge of a cliff with the intention to throw Him over (Luke 4:29,30). What did Jesus say that made the synagogue leaders and listeners so angry? He revealed to them who He was.

That day Jesus stood before an audience of His hometown peers, unrolled the prophet Isaiah’s scroll, and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18,19).

Then Jesus told them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

The term “spirit of heaviness” originates from the same passage Jesus read from that day. The prophet Isaiah had foretold of Messiah’s coming and proclaimed that He would be the remedy for all despair. Their savior would provide, “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3, KJV).

5 Symptoms of a Spirit of Heaviness

“Each of us, as we walk alongside our Creator, encounter situations where our faith must be strengthened, where our hope must be squeezed ‘til the very last drop, and where we are fashioned into a more glorious vessel for the Kingdom of God. We often call this walking through a season of testing,” explains Britnee Bradshaw in 3 Signs You Are in a Season of Spiritual Trials and Testing

A spirit of heaviness often creeps in during times of trouble. God allows testing and trials in our lives to refine us into the image of His Son. But the enemy will do everything in his power to thwart that process. Although suffering exists in every Christian’s journey with Jesus, our hope lies in His promise that we never have to walk through those valleys alone.

The enemy will use a spirit of heaviness to blind our hearts to God’s promise and His presence. While general sadness is not necessarily a sign of spiritual heaviness when accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it should cause reason for concern:

A loss of appetite for God’s Word—The Bible is nourishment for the soul. God’s word feeds our innermost being with life-giving guidance, correction, and hope. Just like physical illness will often cause a decrease in appetite, a lack of hunger for God’s Word is a sign that our soul is languishing (1 Peter 2:2).

Shying away from fellow Believers—God has called us to live in community with each other for a reason. Together, Believers fit together like pieces of a puzzle to form a masterpiece for His glory. Each of us is an integral part of His plan. If one is missing not only does that individual suffer, but the whole Body of Christ also feels the loss. When we lose the desire to spend time in fellowship with other Believers, that’s a sign that our heart is out of alignment with God’s will (1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Peter 4:10).

Increased self-focus, self-condemnation, or self-centeredness—When we become hyper-concerned with the condition of our own self-esteem something strange happens. Self always takes over. The more we focus on self, the less we’re able to recognize anything within us worthy of esteem. Why? Because there’s absolutely nothing lovely, respectable, or redeemable in our old nature, apart from Christ (Ephesians 4:22,23).

The object of our focus and esteem should be Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith. We’re also called to esteem others as higher than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Nowhere in Scripture are we called to esteem ourselves. Jesus’s command to love God and love others, which sums up all other commands, affirms this truth. But when we redirect our focus from self—to God and others, another oddity occurs; we begin to see ourselves for who we truly are in Christ—beautiful, worthy, and chosen.

When the self begins to take the reins of our focus our thoughts are weighed down by matters of the flesh (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 16:15).

Cynicism and bitterness toward the world—This world is not a Believer’s true home, so it’s no wonder we can become disgusted, angered, and frustrated when the events of this world make us feel “homesick.” But when the heaviness of earthly burdens causes us to lash out at or isolate from the very people God has commissioned us to serve, it can be a sign that we are operating in our own power instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way through us (Mark 16:15).

A frail prayer life—When we feel isolated from God the only remedy is to draw close to Him. But if we’re suffering from a spirit of heaviness, a multitude of stumbling blocks will keep us from taking the first step in His direction. Guilt, shame, disillusionment, and even unbalanced grief can keep us from running—through prayer—into our Father’s waiting arms (Matthew 11:28-30).

How to Overcome a Spirit of Heaviness

How we respond to the weight of our trials makes all the difference in the world. Overcoming a spirit of heaviness does not mean that we should muster up the strength to throw off our gloom and replace it with a manufactured smile to please God. Jesus came to be our deliverer from the spirit of heaviness. As we press into Him, the spirit of heaviness can be overcome through His indwelling power.

Submit, resist, draw near—“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:7-9).

Sometimes when we feel like we’re drowning under the weight of sin, grief, or anxiety the only way to reach the surface is to dive deeper. When we humble ourselves before God and are honest with Him, the enemy cannot keep us in bondage. God always draws near to those whose hearts are contrite. Through prayer, we can reach His throne of grace. Through His word, our soul can gain new strength. Both will usher us into God’s presence, where true healing and restoration will take place.

Instruct your heart—"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

When our hearts lie to us and tell us things contrary to God’s Word and promises, we like David, have the ability and responsibility to set the record straight. Verbally instructing our hearts and speaking God’s truths when we are weighed down by anxiety or fear, can turn the tide of our attitudes and break the strongholds that threaten spiritual heaviness.

Offer the sacrifice of praise“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:16).

How Can You Overcome a Spirit of Heaviness? Leigh Ann Thomas explains, “As we worship—even in our spirit of despair—we take our gaze off the present storm and lift our eyes to our Creator and Sustainer. In our praise and thanksgiving, God calms our troubled spirits and restores our perspective.” Praise has the supernatural power to align our thoughts with the beauty of God’s majesty. Scriptural battles have been won by God’s power through the praise of His people, and praise can ignite God’s power in our hearts against despair.

Embrace Christian fellowshipAnd let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).

There are many reasons Christians choose to break fellowship with other Believers. But the Bible is clear that we’re to clear up any and all hindrances to fellowship among Brothers and Sisters in Christ. The world watches our interactions with each other, more than ever. The communion Christians have with one another speaks to the unsaved world about our communion with God. We can’t allow unforgiveness, offense, and hurt feelings keep the Body of Christ from bearing our Savior’s image to the world He died to save. But beyond that, we can never walk in the freedom of the Holy Spirit until we make right our relationships with other Believers—and choose to invest time together in serving His purposes.

Let your light shine into the darkness"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

When everything around us appears dark and foreboding, we have a choice to hunker down and hide or be the light in the darkness. Even when don’t feel the light of God’s presence, we can trust that He lives within us.

 Oftentimes our brokenness can reveal His light to the perishing world, better than anything else. When we make a choice to serve others out of our own depletion—His perfect love shines through. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

Further Reading

How Can You Overcome a Spirit of Heaviness?

How to Break Free from a Spirit of Heaviness

Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Emiliano Vittoriosi

Annette GriffinAnnette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.

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