Discovering the root cause of my problem was more than a nice-to-have; it was vital. Without it, I would never have experienced freedom. Once the root cause was revealed to me, learning how to properly deal with it was also crucial. Without it, I would have endlessly continued in what was so typical for me during those days: going in circles in my mind, desperately seeking a way of escape. However, everywhere I turned in my mind, no matter the angle with which I would try to analyse my situation, at each corner of that confusing maze, even when I thought I had finally found a potential way out, I would come to the excruciating realization that that way of escape was only an illusion and was also filled with webs, mercilessly imprisoning me deeply in my fears and anxieties. The more I tried to get free; the more I thought about my problem, the more I scrutinized it in hope to free myself from it, the deeper I plunged into it. What a pitiful mess I was!
Still, I remember the day, driving home from work, when I cried out to God in desperation, “God! What is wrong with me?” That night, by the grace of God, I was able to fall asleep. God gave me two dreams in response to my cry.
In the first dream, I was in my earthly father’s house. There, God showed me witchcraft was the problem in my life. Witchcraft? But I’d left the occult years ago, long before I even gave my life to Jesus. I’d also renounced it and prayed a prayer of deliverance after I was saved. The dream seemed to indicate if we were not exercising spiritual discernment, this sort of witchcraft could easily appear harmless to us. The Lord also revealed to me the witchcraft had started small but grew until it infected my entire life. The Lord does warn us in His Word not to give the Devil a foothold (see Ephesians 4:27). I must have unknowingly done just that. He also showed me I was now among the ones that the Bible warned against, saying “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, from such turn away” (see 2 Timothy 3:5). Another very significant piece of information the Lord gave me that night was that I was working hard, but my laboring was in vain because it was bearing no real fruit; it was not working out a change in me, and I was not being transformed from glory to glory as a result of that hard work. In essence, I was doing what the Bible described as works of the flesh.
In the second dream, God exposed the hypocrisy of my life and my putting on of a façade to try to appear righteous before men. The last thing He revealed to me, but also the most disturbing one, was the Father weeping because His daughter was gone. When I saw Him weep over me, I said, “He loves me?” That was the end of the second dream.
To my terror, what I feared the most had come upon me; I was now disconnected from my heavenly Father. My extreme attempt at keeping myself in right standing with God through trying to comply with all the “Christian rules” was the very thing that had led me away from Him. The thing I was desperately trying to avoid by working so hard to live the Christian life was the very thing that had come to pass.
I knew that morning somehow the answer to my question of the day before resided in understanding the witchcraft part. “Witchcraft?” I asked God. “How can this be? I don’t understand. I mean, I am not involved in any occult practices, nothing. How can witchcraft be my problem?”
I went into our home office that morning and sat down beside the desk, absorbed with the dreams I had just received. There happened to be a book written by Derek Prince entitled Lucifer Exposed: The Devil’s Plans to Destroy Your Life sitting on our office desk. Still wondering about the witchcraft part of the first dream, I casually picked up the book and randomly opened it. The sentence my eyes fell on was this: “Wherever we encounter legalism, somewhere behind it is witchcraft.” My eyes widened. Oh, my goodness! You can be sure God had all my attention then. As I began reading that section of the book, to my amazement, I quickly realized legalism described exactly what I was going through.
What is legalism? Simply put, legalism is trying to walk the Christian walk in our own strength, in our own ability, by our own self-effort. It is relying on self instead of relying on the Holy Spirit. It is submitting to rules and regulations, to a law (thus the word legal (lawful)•ism), instead of submitting to Christ. It is placing principles before people (see Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:27). It is trying to live by the letter without knowing the Spirit (the One who wrote it) or the spirit (the real intent and purpose) behind it. It is reverting to fleshly attempts to earn God’s acceptance, instead of receiving acceptance freely through faith in Jesus Christ. Trying to appease God’s wrath through ceremonially repeating prayers without real meaning, or by performing religious or ritualistic acts will never be accepted by God. In fact, the Lord despises such lifeless and faithless practices (see Isaiah 29:13 AMPC). Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ will be accepted in God’s sight as the payment for all of our sinful acts. Only the shed blood of Jesus has the power to transform our very nature and to free us from the dominion of sin. Religious OCD is a fruit that legalism yields in some people’s lives once it reaches full maturity. Legalism is another gospel, not that there is any other gospel (see Galatians 1:6-7).
Though the truth the Lord revealed to me about myself that night was, one would think, harsh and the worst thing God could ever have spoken to me given the condition I was in, it proved itself to be the best thing God could ever have said to me; the truth that would lead me to repentance and to life again. The purpose was not to condemn me, but through the truth, to set me free and restore my relationship with Him—to save and restore me. You see, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I didn’t have a relationship with the Lord anymore, I had a relationship with a law—with the dos and the don’ts. This is what caused all the extreme fear and anxiety in my life. The Bible tells us in Galatians 5:3 that if we attempt to be justified by obeying even one rule from the law, we are obligated to obey the whole law. Under the law, we need to be perfect, all the time. If you want to abide in fear and anxiety, that is the way to go. All who subject themselves to the law as a means of righteousness are under a curse (see Galatians 3:10).
Please also note that God had not moved from me; His heart had not changed toward me, considering He wept because my heart was far from Him. But through believing lies and submitting to another—that is through submitting to the law—I had moved from Him. The law had come between me and God. I am the one who withdrew myself from the Lord, from the One who loved me the most. I had changed, and all He wanted was for me to come home.
I am so grateful God heard my cry of distress that day and responded that very night! And God hears your cry for help, too. Take heart, there is hope, there is a way out!
 Derek Prince, Lucifer Exposed: The Devil’s Plans to Destroy Your Life (New Kensington, Penn.: Whitaker House, 2006), 83.