According to a reformed position it is the duty of every believer to yield inwardly, under the covenant of grace, to the work of the Spirit, in order to put to death our remaining sinful desires. That this work is never ending, personal and intense, like men wrestling against the smell, sweat, and struggling power of two 'wrestlers' within us, is everywhere affirmed in scripture:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (NIV Romans 7:21-23)
That this struggle also extends outward in a battle against invisible wickedness in the world is also affirmed:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (NIV Ephesians 6:12-13)
The question before us then is how does paranoia appeal to the flesh and how by the Spirit can we put it to death?
Causes of Paranoia
By paranoia I refer to it not by a medical term but by how we commonly understand and it experience it in regular life. Generally it implies unjustifiable negative causes. It means exaggerating the perceived intentions of others to do us harm, creating excessive mistrust, worry and fear. For example, a person at work might begin to think 'management' wants to fire him because of a recent criticism in a annual performance review, when in actuality their is no such desire whatsoever by management. The employee may think 'they are out to get me' when the sad truth may be that they don't even notice him, let alone plan to harm him. Paranoia centers in self and can't help but perceive events and words said by others as having a self-centric meaning even when having none. Therefore paranoia may be partiallu caused by merely the sinful inclination to worry and fear.
Though everybody is tempted by paranoia to some extent by concern for self, a Christian can be additionally tempted towards paranoia for additional ad potentially valid reasons, complicating the issue. First, a believer can discern into the intentions of the heart and witness the average person is capable of harming his brother more than previously thought. Second, the 'fragrance of Christ', or a sense of his presence in a believer, although a comfort to some, is the 'fragrance of death' to others. Even the very presence of a Spirit filled Christian can arouse the hatred of Christ out of a sinner, at times merely a subconscious stirring of bitterness, envy, hatred, etc. in the sinner, but strikingly obvious to the tender heart and discernment of the Christian. It is under these surroundings, especially when at heightened arousal, that a believer may begin to be afraid. In addition believers commonly perceive the Devil to have limited resources and once a Christian enters into a ministry, or 'front line' in the battle, the Devil will pay 'more attention' and arouse more trouble from those in his kingdom against them, and their may be some partial truth to this also.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? (NIV 2 Corinthians 2:15-16)
Ways to manage paranoia
The difficulty before us is to properly distinguish between justified and unjustified perceptions of harm from other's by the Spirit. While the whole notion of 'relying on the Spirit' to enable the death of paranoia is 'foolishness' to those who have not progressed in holiness, or understand its power under the covenant of grace, a reformed view deems it absolutely necessary. In commenting on the mortification of indwelling sin, the puritan John Owen wrote:
The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
The principal efficient cause of the performance of this duty is the Spirit: Εἰ δὲ Πνεὑματι,—“If by the Spirit.” The Spirit here is the Spirit mentioned verse 11, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, that “dwells in us,” verse 9, that “quickens us,” verse 11; “the Holy Ghost,” verse 14;1 the “Spirit of adoption,” verse 15; the Spirit “that maketh intercession for us,” verse 26. All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must he done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates, Rom. 9:30–32, may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done, and do: but, saith he, “This is the work of the Spirit; by him alone is it to be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about.” Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world. (John Owen, Mortification of Sin in Believers)
Therefore, under the reformed view we might find the following means, by 'the Spirit' to manage paranoia. It is particularly helpful to group some practical reformed views under the 'armor' description in Ephesians.
First, we can have little success in fighting any sin without a general understanding of the covenant of grace in Christ, which is a 'belt of truth'. The Roman soldier had a long cloak and if not kept under a belt, the soldier would trip over themselves as soon as they tried to run, or dodge. This 'belt' can be compared to our systematic theology and in my case a Luther/Calvin like view. From this general understanding more importantly to the case before us we derive the 'breastplate of righteousness'. In fact, this one pierce of armor is suffice to defend us from paranoia. This breastplate protects our feelings and can be nothing less than a dual righteousness. First an foremost it is the perfect righteousness of Christ, imputed to believers apart from any righteousness of their own. Faith in this alone can protect our feelings from being ravaged daily by the sinful desires. The second aspect to this 'breastplate' is derived from the primary. Once protecting us, we see the love of God and so its protection is also a working of actual love and righteousness in our hearts, by the Spirit.
With this reformed view and a hand on the breastplate we can now directly apply it to paranoia in particular. First, by having a living sense of the love of God, our view of the threats surrounding us quickly become more objective. When 'feeling loved' we are unlikely to feel 'paranoid'. One can't over estimate how powerful this one truth is and how important it is to maintain a sense of God's love in the Spirit.
Second, although God may allow us to suffer He more often prevents evil men from being successful in their devices, so that like David:
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (NIV Psalms 23:5)
Even while our enemies seek our destruction they, even when much more powerful than us, are forced by providence to sit down at our table an eat with us as friends, as we enjoy the love of Christ, which they so despise. What a torture this must be for them!
Lastly, many unbelievers respond to God's love. One should not underestimate the friendship, compassion and defense that God can work, even in the heart of a sinner, to the defense of a righteous man. Wicked kings and princess have often defended righteous believers under the providence of God. Therefore, under an objective view by faith in the love and power of Christ, we may find less people are 'trying to get us' than we may have first perceived after loosing objectivity from the suffering of a recent conflict.
At last, if God does will that we suffer, then the helmut of the hope of salvation in heaven can sustain our thoughts as we prepare for glory and seek comfort by God.