It has recently been confirmed that I am not crazy. Well, at least “not crazy” in the sense that I am not lying in my book when I say over and over and over that “we are not alone and there is always hope.”
This confirmation has come about because I see signs and hear rumblings all around me about how people are struggling with a general sense of unrest, anxiety and irritability. Is it bad to say that I find it a little relieving that I am not the only one struggling?
To put it bluntly: sometimes it’s all too much. The state of the world. The suffering. The diseases. The arguing and fighting among our leaders. The arguing and fighting among our friends and family over our choices. The rise in addiction, depression, suicide and general angst can get to us at a soul-level without us even realizing it moved in and took over our outlook and approach to life.
Recently I have had significant discussions with friends who are feeling overwhelmed with life and its details. The pressure of the details, combined with an overarching sense of unrest in our country and world, lends itself to feelings of being unsettled. Wound up. Exhausted to the core.
This doesn’t mean that there is nothing good to be focused on. Please don’t hear this as a whine. This is where “there is always hope” enters the scene.
While looking into ways to help a friend through some of what I described above, I came across an article that suggested one of the best ideas I have ever heard of to keep our hearts and minds in check—to deflate the balloon of anxiety and frenzy in our head and hearts. It’s “simple, but not easy”, as I have heard it said. See what you think:
“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression (and anxiety) in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self…have you noticed that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”*
To unpack that in less poetic language, the author is telling us to stop listening to the lying, degrading, hopeless, faithless, blaming, negative, pathetic, accusing chatter in our own heads and start intentionally speaking words of truth, worship, blessing, grace, love, trust, forgiveness, confidence, gentleness, etc.
The Psalmist, David, does this when he says (to himself): “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? David, put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5 NIV)
He is reminding himself of what he knows to be true, even though he is anxious and depressed. Most of us know the answer to our anxiety. It’s just really hard to get it from our head to our heart or our mind.
The answer is to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves about what we know to be true and keep our focus there.
Replace what we hear with what we say.
Acknowledge to God and to ourselves that we know that His plan is best.
We know He has things under control. We trust that He will redeem our junk if we turn to Him.
We believe that He loves us unconditionally.
We believe He loves those we are worried sick about.
We have faith that He can and will help us if we seek Him.
We receive his gift of grace and are confident in our identity in Him and Him alone.
We accept our circumstances and invite Him to navigate them.
We ask forgiveness for trying to act like we are God.
We repent for putting many other gods before Him in effort to be OK.
We relinquish our trauma and drama into His all-powerful hands.
We surrender whole-heartedly.
And we do this again and again and again until it becomes our default setting. Until the free-floating anxious feelings that once haunted us have fled—been vanquished and evicted from our head where we have allowed them to live rent-free for far too long.
* quote from Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, 20,21. By D Martyn Lloyd-Jones