What is Oppression?

The Question

What exactly is oppression? How does one get oppressed and what are some of the signs that a person is oppressed?

- LH from Garland, North Carolina

The Answer
Part 1: Defining Oppression
Part 2: Symptoms
Part 3: How does it happen?
Part 4: Remedy

Defining Oppression (Part 1)

Of course I’m sure you are referring to spiritual oppression, the kind we associate with demons and the harassment they inflict on human beings. We can start with a standard dictionary definition of oppression and build from there. The Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary includes these meanings: “a sense of heaviness or obstruction in the body or mind, weight down, to burden spiritually or mentally by abuse of power or authority.”

That’s good and valuable but for a picture of oppression at work let’s look at the New Testament when Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. We know that the woman was “bent double, and could not straighten up at all” and that her condition was “caused by a spirit.” (Luke 13:11) Classic oppression. Jesus clarified further when he rebuked his critics for opposing her healing. “’And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?’” (Verse 16)

While this particular woman’s oppression was visible (a physical condition), that isn’t always the case. Emotional and mental oppression are big business for the devil. His strategy is to steal everything God wants us to have. The core purpose of both God and the devil are expressed quite well in this verse: “’The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’” (John 10:10)

For any who are oppressed there is good news. Freeing people was JOB ONE for Jesus when he came to earth. By the way--it still is! “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)

Symptoms (Part 2)

You asked about signs to indicate demonic oppression is at work. Here are some that come to mind immediately: depression, negativity, self-defeating thoughts, self-destructive thoughts, inability to concentrate, distractions (especially in trying to read God’s Word), feeling constantly overwhelmed, hopelessness, gloom, confusion. We all experience some of these things some of the time but when any of them predominates our life for sustained periods of time we can begin to suspect the work of a devil.

Another symptom is cycles of bad things such as one sickness after another, a constant stream of financial disasters, a propensity for accidents, always making the wrong decisions, always feeling under your circumstances—always feeling weighted down (to borrow from the dictionary definition). Again, we all have trials, sicknesses and accidents etc. but some people have little in their lives beside those things. Note: I don’t want to imply that any of the above is absolute proof of demonic oppression. Sometimes other causes are at work so let’s never rashly jump to conclusions especially in judging when someone else is oppressed.

This may seem too simplistic but a good way to tell if there is demonic oppression is when the person involved feels that's what’s wrong. Many times people intuitively know and sense the presence of evil outside themselves. Sometimes they suspect it because they know when and how it came in. With that we can next discuss “how” one becomes oppressed.

How does it happen? (Part 3)

Where oppression is found there will always also be found an original door or access point. Sadly, the oppressed party is not necessarily the one responsibility for opening it. Still, something allowed the devil the legal right of entry. What might some of those open doors be? One of the biggest widest doors with a huge welcome sign on it is occult activity. Introduction of occult practices into families can cause oppression for many generations.

Other common entryways are sexual sin, multiple sexual partners, drugs, music with heavy demonic themes or by musicians dedicated to Satan, perversion, generational sins which are manifest by conditions that “run in families” such as addictions, incest, brutality etc.

If a generational sin is involved, the oppressed party may be suffering from an activity that was introduced into their family before they were born. I know that doesn’t seem fair and it isn’t fair. The devil does not play fair but he does play by strict rules. He can’t come in without some kind of permission. “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without cause does not alight.” (Proverbs 26:2)

That’s not the end of the story however. Jesus reversed the curse. “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of degrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He (Jesus) has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14) He wins—Satan loses. And because he wins, we win too.

Remedy (Part 4)

Oppression can always be broken, no matter how serious the sin that caused it or how long it has gone on. Perhaps your question was not purely academic. Perhaps you are wondering if you or someone close to you is under demonic oppression. If so, what you really want is to be rid of it.

Though I don’t have the time or space to detail every step here, I can at least outline them. First, repent of the sin that opened the door (even if on behalf of an ancestor). Reject any sin of your own or lifestyle choice that fed the oppression. Command the devil to leave in the name of Jesus. Fill in the vacuum that is left with the things of God. Get support and help so you don’t fall back into dangerous patterns that will reopen any doors.

Above all keep this in mind: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31)

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