Hallucination or demon? Time to go to war

The man would not go away. His presence made my skin crawl. I lay flat on my back with tubes in my body as the machines continued to provide life in the intensive care unit in the days following my accident. I couldn’t get a look at the man’s face because he was standing behind my hospital bed but he seemed to be wearing a black trench coat. In a panicked state, I would alert a family member and ask who this was. I was told not to worry, that no one else was in the room. I sensed people were writing it off as yet another hallucination brought on by the morphine and other drugs being pumped into my system. It felt different than that but I reluctantly agreed, attempting to ignore the fear that gripped me.

trench coat

A few years later as I was reading through the Bible, I flashed back to my time in the ICU. I was convinced that what I saw was not a hallucination. In fact, the more I read about the schemes and tactics of Satan and his army of demons, the more I was convinced that what I experienced in the ICU was an exposure of God’s enemy when my body was in the weakest and most compromised position it has ever been.

Not quite this guy

Not quite this guy

It’s a taboo subject. Talking demons, angels, or supernatural in our science and reason based culture will cause people to look at you with a questionable glance. However, Satan and demons are unmistakably, absolutely, and unequivocally real. In fact, the Bible tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against a spiritual enemy (Ephesians 6:12), a thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and a roaring lion roaming around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This sure doesn’t sound like somebody with a pitchfork or the smiling red demon that sits on your shoulder.

What does this look like practically? It’s the series of lies that echoes in my mind in the middle of night, telling me that I don’t have what it takes to succeed, that this trial is too big for me, that my best is behind me, and that it would be easiest to just throw in the towel and give up.

I was overlooking the staircase on the two-story deck in my backyard one day when I first noticed what seemed like foreign thought: “Just roll down the steps and end it now, it sure would make everything easier.” The thought surprised me, as I have never actually felt the desire to do something like this. (I do, however, enjoy rolling my wheelchair close to the edge to freak people out for my own amusement.)

Jesus tempted

I hesitated sharing this with anyone until I started hearing from a few others that my thoughts were not that foreign. One friend shared of constantly getting a notion to crash his car intentionally off the side of the road, another frequently finds himself thinking of ideas on how to end his life. These are not depressed individuals with obvious struggles looking for an easy way out. In each case the person is completely mentally healthy and has an excellent outlook on life. Are we crazy? I don’t think so. In fact, Satan tried to get Jesus to commit suicide by jumping off the top of a building (click here for that crazy exchange ).

The enemy’s plan is not only to try to get us to harm ourselves but to harm others as well. Seeing the massive ramifications for all parties involved in marital affairs, sexual abuse, and various acts of violence has made me understand more than ever how the enemy carries out his mission to steal, kill, and destroy marriages, families, and lives by getting people to agree with subtle lies or temptations.

So is all hope lost? Absolutely not.

Satan is not an all-powerful being like God. It can be tempting to attribute too much power and importance to Satan, but there frankly is nothing to be afraid of. The Bible says clearly that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Jesus conquered Satan, death, and sin when he busted out of the grave with the keys to hell in hand. He also promises that He is faithful to strengthen and protect us from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

How should I respond to all of this?

I will fight, knowing full well that anything in my life that the enemy intended for bad, God has and will continue to use for good. I will rely fully on the heavy artillery that the Bible speaks of:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world…


…On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The YouTube video below elicits goosebumps every time I hear it. It’s a fiery battle cry I like to go back to often as a reminder of the fact that deciding to follow Jesus ushered me into the battle of epic proportions. “I’ll never turn back. I’ll never give up. I’ll never settle. I’ll never stop short. I will press towards the mark for the prize that is already mine… I will fight.” Time to load up my weaponry and go to war.

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Contact info: Ryan.S.Atkins@Gmail.com
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  1. Sue said:

    Your timing of this post is exquisite. I know of two powerful women of faith, that just this past week were hearing thoughts of “harm yourself.” and thoughts of suicide. They both identified it as full on attack of enemy. Yes, the evil one is real…but his only “power” is through deception. He is DEFEATED. He is crushed under Jesus (and our feet). We get to STAND on the WORD and on the VICTORY WON for us by Christ Jesus. Thanks for the post. I will share with my friends!


  2. ThingsLindsayWrites said:

    Love this. I have struggled with depression even before my injury, and actually did try and kill myself in 2005. By all accounts, it should have worked. Now when I hear those thoughts, it still sort of disturbs me, but I know that I tried really hard to kill myself, and God saved me, so there must be a reason I’m still here, and I dismiss it as the enemy.

    Oddly, now, at a time when I “should” be depressed, being in pain and disabled and what not, I am the most at peace, because God and I have really gotten close since life was pretty much put on hold.

    I like that you shared this, because it’s not something people talk about, and is considered “abnormal” to have those fleeting thoughts, hallucinations, etc. but really it isn’t that uncommon…especially when you throw drugs like tizanadine in the mix, for me!

    So thanks for making me feel a bit more normal and pointing out scriptural references that show, as always, nothing is new, and the Bible gives hope for all circumstances.


  3. Judy Cox said:

    Thank you for this post, Ryan. My brother was just diagnosed with esophageal adenocarcinoma, and he is facing harsh treatments and a poor prognosis. HOWEVER, our God has made us more than conquerors in this life and beyond. Satan can only kill us – then we live! The devil is already defeated. Let’s remind him of the blood Jesus shed for our souls, and that he will soon be destroyed. We will fight!


  4. Chris Long said:

    This is powerful, brother! I know I have talked with a lot of different people about having subtle thoughts of, “If this bus just happened to hit me as I stepped out into the street, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.” Subtle lies from the enemy telling me that it would just be easier if my life came to an end. And as you said, I feel very well adjusted and have no real desire to end my life. But still the lies come at me of things even such as wouldn’t it be nice to see all of the people around you mourning your loss?. Satan will take whatever sin (selfishness, pride, and the like) and amplify it. Magnify it, and tempt us to even become apathetic about living our lives for Christ. This was such a great encouragement to me to keep up the good fight!


    • I didn’t plan on sharing this with anyone thinking I was nuts but definitely encouraging reminder that it is not just me and many others are in the midst of the same battle. Thanks for sharing that man.


  5. Scott Phillips said:

    Ryan. Great stuff here dude. Thanks for your faithfulness.


  6. Erin Maher said:

    Ryan – cool post, thanks for sharing your experiences. You’re SO right about the evil one and his tactics. Have you ever read “Satan and his kingdom” by Dennis McCallum? My women’s Bible study is reading it right now; it’s challenging, but providing awesome insight for equipping ourselves for the spiritual battle we’re in. We’ve also been memorizing many of the verses you’ve brought up. 1 John 4:4 is so comforting 🙂


    • Erin, I have not heard of that book but will check it out. I’ve learned a lot through CS Lewiss Screwtape Letters. Pretty fascinating hearing author writing from the perspective of Satan. It doesn’t seem real but I constantly need to remind myself of these truths in the verses you are memorizing. Thanks for sharing!


  7. MJ said:

    I was surprised by the harmful thoughts that had filled my mind as they came Sunday morning at church! I was in the toddlers room and harmful thoughts flooded my mind and I just said to the other adults that I had to leave. I got in my car and thoughts of having an accident were present and I drove to a lake. Fortunately I had my cell phone with me and a text came in while I was parked and thinking of walking to the shore. The sister that texted me had always said if I needed her she would be there. As I texted her my situation & location she was in touch with the toddler staff who had been concerned over my departure. These of my church family were praying for me and keeping in touch and helped me reach out to Christ for His victory over this attack from the enemy. I needed help and God was there to teach me to trust to reach out to my church family. Ryan, yours and others testimonies here, and that awesome video, shares the truth and the victory in Christ and add strength to my heart and life to be available for others that will need help over Satan’s attacks.


    • MJ, Thanks for your openness in sharing your story. I love how you mentioned how powerful community can be. Great book on being open with a community is “Open” by Craig Gross. Absolutely necessary to have others next to us in the midst of the battle.


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