I love this Joyce Meyer quote: It's not our circumstances that make us so unhappy. It's our attitude toward our circumstances. For years I struggled with depression - happiness was a fleeting experience. Contentment was only a dream. People used to tell me my life was like a soap opera - one torturous saga after another:
- I lived in a house with bats in the basement and cracks in our walls that led outside.
- My boyfriend of five years was cheating on me.
- Money was so tight I was forced to sell plasma to help make ends meet.
- I was evicted from my apartment.
- My employer was taking advantage of me.
- My family didn't understand me.
- I was alone.
Or so I thought.
Which brings me to the point of this entry - our thoughts. The Bible has a lot to say about our thoughts:
- "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)
- Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)
- For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). (2 Corinthians 10:4,5)
- Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Ever have thoughts like these run through your head?
I can't do it, it's too hard.
I have no will power.
People must think I'm nuts.
This outfit makes me look fat.
I really screwed that up.
There must be something wrong with me.
I'm too busy to think about my needs.
Things will never change.
This is called, "Stinkin' Thinkin'" and we all struggle with it at one time or another. It becomes a problem when those thoughts are accompanied by self-defeating feelings and behaviors (e.g. drug or alcohol addiction, self-injury, eating disorders, and depression). For those of you in this boat, please know that freedom is possible! First and foremost, I would encourage you to find a reputable therapist (I've had experience with Life Development Resources and would highly recommend their services). Secondly, I would encourage you to take a solid look at your thought life. Joyce Meyer has written a wonderful book called, "Battlefield of the Mind" which offers a great deal of insight into the importance of thinking about what you're thinking about. Much of what we think and feel is learned behavior. The good news is that any learned behavior can be unlearned. Many are even able to defeat depression without medication by learning to replace the Stinkin' Thinkin' with positive, affirming thoughts. This is where God's Word comes in. I often rely on this book for quick references to scripture - the verses are categorized by topic: Help, Comfort, Peace, Courage, etc. For example, if I am feeling overwhelmed by a situation and am desperate for help this is what I will read or say aloud:
How gracious God will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Isaiah 30:19
Surely God is my help, the Lord is the one who sustains me. Psalm 54:4
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20
You will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:9
I find assurance, comfort, and peace in God through His Word and the dark cloud passes. My thought life was radically transformed through this process. Though I continue to face very challenging circumstances at times, they longer steal my hope or joy. I am choosing to make the most of this life, one day at a time.