Spiritual Hypothermia: How to Know When We’re In Trouble
When you don’t understand the power of emotions, you are blind to the arrows and you start to sink into a cold, dark and almost unreachable place. It’s as if you’ve slipped into a spiritual coma and lost your ability to communicate what’s happening on the inside. Not only do you push people away when you get to that point, but you unconsciously distance yourself from God. Once you’ve reached a Spiritual temperature below your breaking point, it’s extremely hard to bounce back from the drop.
I will never forget watching the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 230,000 people in fourteen countries. Disaster struck again seven years later in 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku that left 15,870 dead, 6,114 injured, and 2,814 people missing. The root of both of these catastrophic events was brought about by earthquakes deep under the ocean floor. Debris from the Japanese tsunami is still washing ashore around Alaska.
While doing research on this topic I came across a number of survivor’s stories. A common theme was that they were so paralyzed by fear that it was all they could do to remember to swim. Tens of thousands didn’t. Not knowing where the lies are coming from in our lives and how to replace the lies with truth can have a similar affect. It’s a humbling experience to be at nature’s mercy. If you can’t get your emotions in check and put healthy thoughts together, you’re dead. It’s that simple.
In 1985, I was back in Alaska for my second time. I was working on a commercial fishing boat out of Bristol Bay using gill nets to catch salmon. Gill nets are designed so that when the fish swims into its webbing, its head gets lodged and it can’t pull out. When we’d pull the gill nets over the side, we would use something called a fish pick that resembled a curved ice pick to pull the net from around their gills. This freed the fish as not every fish was a keeper, otherwise the fish would stay trapped in the net.
Quality rain gear is created to keep you dry and warm. If your rain gear is faulty or springs a leak, you run the risk of getting hypothermia and making poor decisions. What happened to me was I had accidentally torn a hole in my rain suit with my fish pick. The icy cold water trapped in my boot leg soaked my pants, long johns and wool socks and caused my body temperature lower dramatically as I’d been working with the icy water trapped in my boot leg for the previous six hours. Combine that with sweating profusely underneath my rubber raingear that left my hoodie and skull cap soaked and it’s a cocktail for disaster.
Hypothermia happens when our body core drops below 95 degrees. As symptoms set in, the person usually isn’t aware of their condition as the symptoms begin slowly. Some of the telltale signs of hypothermia are:
• Confusion or difficulty thinking
• Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
• Progressive loss of consciousness
• Slurred speech or mumbling
• Clumsiness or lack of coordination
• Drowsiness or very low energy
• Apathy or lack of concern about one’s condition
• Weak pulse
• Slow, shallow breathing
One deadly aspect of hypothermia is that the confused thinking leads to poor decision making, and many times that is what gets the victim in real trouble. Hypothermia is a silent stalker.
Cold can be a relentless killer. So are the flaming arrows, or lies that Satan shoots at us. The targeted victim isn’t aware they’ve been struck by the arrows at first because the hole is small, like the hole in my rain suit. If those holes aren’t detected and patched quickly, the holes can grow larger and fill up with water quicker. Likewise, if lies are not detected quickly, they grow larger and the lies are able to do more damage. We call this process, “Falling into Spiritual Hypothermia.”
Lust has knocked a lot of good men down and washed them out of the ministry. David, when tempted with Bathsheba, left himself unguarded. He let lies take root. “She should be mine”. This is one of the oldest lies in the Book! “The Coveting Lie” is when we want what we don’t have, thinking incorrectly, that somehow if we can just get “it’ then life will have meaning, and we’ll feel more valuable or better about ourselves.
Those few moments David spent gazing from his rooftop flooded his mind with unhealthy thoughts creating unhealthy waves of emotion knocking him off of his feet, David stopped swimming and sank into the cold arms of adultery.
Satan lights his arrows with the intent to see the fire spread. He doesn’t merely lie to deceive us; he plans for the flames to overtake not only our feelings but our actions as well.
(1) First the thought – I’d be happier with someone else. I deserve better.
(2) Then the emotion – Lust – Anger
(3) Finally the action if not reversed – An Affair (even if just mental)
It can be a vicious cycle set in motion by a heartless deceiver who doesn’t care about vows, families, or you. He wants nothing more than to see you and those closest to you destroyed. When you succumb to those arrows, you will slip into spiritual hypothermia faster than you thought was possible.
But aren’t those kind of things “just going to happen” in a situation like that? That doesn’t mean I believe a lie if I think those thoughts, does it? Come on, wouldn’t anyone think like that in a similar situation?
Paul classified anger, lust, jealousy and impurity as “deeds of the flesh.” Jesus talked about deceit, slander, and pride as “that which proceeds out of the man… For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts…” And, Jesus said, “that is what defiles the man”.
Luke 6:45 tell us that it’s what’s inside of the man that counts. “It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” The same principle applies in both situations. The good inside us produces good on the outside. Here Jesus is saying, the bad inside us eventually bubbles to the surface.
Jesus didn’t mince words when it came to describing Satan. “The devil,” Jesus said, “was a murderer from the beginning. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for his is a liar and the father of lies.”
When Satan lies, he lies to incite us. Lust should be a red flag in our lives, not because noticing a woman’s beauty is wrong or unpleasant, but when it turns to “wanting what we don’t have”, that admiration turns to lust and is pointing to something worse that’s going on inside of us.
Paul warned Titus about it:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” Titus 3:3
When we are angry, lustful or jealous, it’s simply the sound of a fire alarm. Identifying those unhealthy emotions is how we take our Spiritual temperature.
This is a big deal. Paul said it. These feelings are coming from deception, from the liar and we believe a lie.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
When we are living from the inside-out, Christ’s Spirit in us is our Spiritual GPS. His fruits are healthy fruits. When we are thinking correctly because our belief system is grounded in Him, our emotions line up with the fruit of the Spirit; love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and our healthy actions follow. If I think something like; “My wife’s depression doesn’t have the power over me to make me get angry, and I don’t need to have an affair because I am already 100% complete in Christ”, I am then free to choose not to be tyrannized by the lies of the enemy and can actually move towards my wife rather than disappearing to the garage, the golf course, run to porn, or lash out in anger. This only happens when I’ve renewed my mind with God’s Truth. I’m confronting my emotions openly and tackling them faster than a 320 pound defensive end at the Superbowl.
One of the most dangerous teachings I’ve seen concerning a man gazing at a woman was in a book that came out for men a few years ago. The author describes a technique to help curb a man’s appetite for lusting after a beautiful woman by bouncing his eyes to other objects in the room so that he’s not focused on the beauty in front of him. It’s a form of behavior modification, or “fake it till you make it”. No doubt, if the man is lusting after the beauty, he needs to deal with the issue, but by “trying harder” or “eye bouncing”, he’s not dealing with the root which is his desire for the woman to somehow make him more of a man if she responds to his gaze. Eye bouncing may deal with his unhealthy action, the “rotten fruit”, but you have to get to the root where the lies are growing. Men desire to look at beautiful woman, and God made a woman beautiful! It’s His creation! It’s the desire of a man, “wanting what he doesn’t have” that’s the issue.
If we say that looking at a woman in an unhealthy way, like through porn or lusting is a sin which I agree it is, we can say the opposite is true as well. If a man refuses to look at a beautiful woman because he feels condemned, afraid of God, or believes it makes him a better, more Godly man, he’s either walking in fear and shame, or he becomes prideful and self-righteous. Both are lies from the enemy.
When I’m believing what’s true about myself, that I’m already complete in Christ and my desires are met in Him, do I need to lust after some hot thing to make myself feel better? Behavior modification may play a small role in keeping myself from doing immediate damage, but ultimately you have to deal with the core issue which is; “My identity is in Christ, not in what others think about me or in my performance”. Focus on that truth! Let your thoughts bounce on that for a few minutes…