“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.“
“You don’t deserve him. You had better hope he doesn’t see what an awful fraud you are. You are not as smart or loving as you have led him to believe.” These thoughts plagued my mind while I was dating my husband in college. This negative thinking caused me to make many bad decisions. Fortunately, I was able to hang on to God’s love for me enough to marry the man he intended me to marry. I now know my husband loves me for exactly who I am, and does not regret marrying me and starting an amazing family with our boys. I am extremely blessed to be surrounded by people who love me enough to encourage me when I am down. Not everyone is so lucky. I see too many messages from people, grappling with depression, whether it be temporary or chronic, and not seeing any hope. Many of these people fight negative inside chatter, “those misguided thoughts that can easily turn into perceptions that then all too easily turn into dangerous realities. And realities based on runaway feelings rather than truth always leads to one thing–insecurity” (Unglued, p. 141).
I know from personal experience that these insecurities have many consequences emotionally, spiritually and physically. Insecurities lead to anxieties, which can lead to depression, a feeling of hopelessness, or the inability to cope with our surroundings. These feelings put our bodies in “fight or flight” mode, which causes us to not be able to feel at peace and make wise decisions. Instead, we are constantly making decisions in emergency mode. As a consequence, we feel constantly disappointed in our decisions or ability to accomplish our goals. We feel that God has failed us, those around us have failed us, perhaps even that we have failed. This causes our emotions to spike wildly, from the feeling that this is “the opportunity” that leaves us on top of the world, to the devastating lows that come when each opportunity does not pan out how we imagined. Have you felt this way? Perhaps you are watching someone you love crumble away before you because of these feelings.
I am not a counselor, nor am I claiming to have a solution to the complex conditions of depression and anxiety. And, if you are suffering from one of these, take my advice and get help. Get help from family, friends, doctors, counselors, whoever you find can best help you. However, I do know that oftentimes I could start to tackle those demons inside when I saw a truth that spoke to me. It is with that prayer that I write this: that someone who reads this may see there is hope, there is love, there is peace, even if it is a challenge to find it.
The verses in the Philippians passage above share a piece of the Truth that is extremely applicable to those who struggle against negative inside chatter. The key is in our thoughts. Let’s look at the applicable portion of the passage with a mind towards conquering the negative thoughts that trap us in anxiety and depression. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Lysa TerKeurst puts it in even simpler language. “We are to think about, ponder, and park our minds on constructive thoughts, not destructive thoughts. Thoughts that build us up, not tear us down. Thoughts that can breathe life into us, not suck life from us. Thoughts that lead to peace, not anxiety” (Unglued, p. 144). It is so often easier to see the negative and just accept it as reality rather than find the truth of the situation. Life can be hard and at times it may even seem hopeless. However, the more we look at the positives in ourselves and the world around us, the easier it is to cope with out of control situations in our lives.
What are some ways we can silence the negative thoughts to allow the positive thoughts to flourish?
Stop assuming what others think of you. More often than not, they are not thinking that at all! And, if they are, when you find the truth of the situation, you can deal with it in a way that is appropriate for the situation. It is incredibly destructive to constantly assume people are thinking negative things about you.
Do you let your mind run away to all sorts of horrible situations in the silence? Don’t. Be sure you are surrounding yourself in truth. A big part of this is being in God’s Word. Not just reading it and thinking about how others around you should be doing this, but ingesting what God is saying to you. This is hard, because sometimes it requires us to take an honest look at something we do not want to deal with. Christ promises in our Philippians passage that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The truth helps protect us by bringing peace which makes us better able to make wise decisions in the midst of bad situations.
Finally, surround yourselves with people who build you up as much as it is in your power to do so. Sometimes those we are around the most cause us the most stress and anxiety. However, there are relationships we choose to have that feed the anxiety instead of work to build us up in truth. Perhaps you do not have any face to face friends that are up to the task at this moment. Look for inspiration in other places. I find mine in blogs or uplifting books and by again looking to God and His Word. There is always hope, it may just be a small light hidden in the dark recesses of our hearts and minds.
While you do not have to suffer from depression and anxiety to be affected by negative inside chatter, there is an epidemic in our country. There is a stigma relating to this condition and so often those who suffer from it are afraid to talk about their thoughts. As a consequence, they pull into themselves more and more, which perpetuates the negative thoughts which could ultimately lead to destruction. God did not intend for us to fight alone. He meant for us to reach out in love to our brothers and sisters to help them heal. I know I am forever grateful to the people who shared their story with me so that I could face the demons of depression and anxiety. Sometimes I can fight away the darkness using some of the tips above. Other times, I have had medical assistance. Either way, God’s Word and the love of those around me has made all the difference. I am able to rejoice in the light.
I want to end by sharing the closing words of Chapter 10 of Unglued. By dealing with the inside chatter we will have “freedom to pour out love on others. Freedom to think clearly. Freedom to obey God’s call on our lives no matter what others think. Our thoughts really matter. After all, how a woman thinks is often how she lives” (Unglued p. 149). May God grant you peace so you can live a life of love and joy. Please leave a comment below sharing your best tips for silencing the negative chatter. I love hearing from you and let me know if I can be praying for you.