Delusional thinking is often a symptom of mental illness, in fact it is considered mental illness if the delusions are strong enough. To understand delusional thinking let’s look at the definition of the word delusional and also Delusional Disorder.
1. having false or unrealistic beliefs or opinions
2. Psychiatry. maintaining fixed false beliefs even when confronted with facts, usually as a result of mental illness http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/delusional
Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a “psychosis” in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue. People with delusional disorder experience non-bizarre delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. In reality, however, the situations are either not true at all or highly exaggerated. http://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/guide/delusional-disorder
Now that we have a better understanding of what a delusion is I would ask you if you have ever known someone who is delusional. Are you aware that the Bible talks about delusional thinking? Take a look.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:5-12, (English Standard Version or ESV).
The Apostle Paul wrote this passage of scripture to explain what the end times would look like, what Christians are to be aware in the days, weeks, months, years before Christ returns to earth. The mystery of lawlessness is the work of Satan, oh and work he does because his time is limited and his whole goal is to destroy Jesus Christ and the good work of God. I will not speak as to whether we are in those last days because I am not qualified to speak about this. Instead I want us to look at the fact that God will send the delusions to those who reject the truth.
Has it ever occurred to you that what you believe, your whole belief system, could be a lie? I can think of some instances where we see such delusion in action when it comes to our own bodies. For instance a young girl thinks she is fat and so she binges and purges and diets until she is so underweight that her life is in peril. We have all read or seen stories of such situations. The opposite can be true as well, the stories of grossly overweight people who deny that they are in jeopardy of death because of their eating and lack of exercise habits. Or what about those with a drug or alcohol addiction? They may have physical cravings to battle but they also have a powerful denial system to overcome as well in order to remain sober. Yes, we have examples of people living under the influence of a delusion all around us, so why not consider that there can be spiritual delusional thinking as well! There is a scripture story we need to explore to help see delusion in action and that is how King Nebuchadnezzar became delusional.
All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:28-33, (ESV).
God had warned the King through Daniel that this would happen to him if he became too proud of his own achievements and forgot to give credit to God for all the blessings upon the kingdom. I think sometimes that God still does this to people today. We have the scriptures to warn us and the example of this king to heed and learn from. But God was merciful as you will see.
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Daniel 4:34-37, (ESV).
I would say that King Nebuchadnezzar living as an animal and eating grass in a pasture was a pretty strong delusion, but God was merciful and when the King finally humbled himself God removed the delusion and gave the King back to his kingdom. I believe God can do the same for those who are living in the world of delusion; the key is that the person has to acknowledge that God is the creator and sustainer of all good things.
There is also a story from the New Testament that is interesting in showing when a person comes to their senses and wakes up to the fact that God is in control of their destiny. If they want to go to heaven they better repent of their sins and acknowledge God. That is the parable told by Jesus of the Prodigal Son found in Luke chapter fifteen.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:17-19, (ESV).
I love the wording, But when he came to himself, or as the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible say But when he came to his senses which makes it even clearer. This prodigal was not in his right mind, living under a self-imposed as a natural outcome of perversion and sinful living delusion. I think this is what happens when people live in deep sin for extended periods of time. Thankfully God has been merciful and the parable that Jesus taught is showing us the way to God’s mercy. Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, is a good place to begin in repenting of sin and getting back your senses which breaks the power of delusional thinking.
We all need to check our thinking from time to time and make certain that what we believe is the truth, God’s truth. How do we do this checking? We read the Bible and learn God’s truth first hand and then we put that truth into action. We don’t want to be the ones’ Jesus doesn’t know.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23, (ESV).