For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control. II Timothy 1:7 (NET)
I mentioned this scripture to my friend Carrie yesterday. Since we hadn’t seen each other in awhile, I hurriedly related the events of my life of late. This verse figures in to a story about how anxiety and depression had descended on my household with a vengeance.
For us bible loving types, Carrie is the kind of friend we most highly value. She knows and loves God’s word and always has helpful commentary cued up. What she said about this verse was new to me. “Well, if we’re experiencing a spirit of fear–and that’s not from God–there’s only one place it could come from.”
Well. That’s interesting. Without realizing it, she tossed out the obvious answer to the question I’d been asking. One of my daughters has been struggling–really, battling daily–with fear. We were up for hours one night earlier this week. I listened to her describe her feelings through lots of tears–the depth of her uncertainties, how much she doubted and how little she trusted herself–and my heart utterly broke.
But then there was a breakthrough.
She had fallen victim to a litany of untruths. Not one thing that she said about herself is correct. She doubted everything about her abilities, which astonishes me because she’s quite intelligent and talented. This child, who seemed to have the world by the tail her entire life, had inexplicably done an about face. She had been cruelly derailed by something. Or someone.
“This is demonic,” I thought. “It has to be.” The only way, I reasoned, that someone as sweet and gifted as my daughter could possibly get to this point is if she is saturated in lies. I was thinking it should be easy for such an amazing person to swat those lies away. It’s so obvious that none of it is true, so what gives?
But she’s not the only one to fall prey to the enemy’s evil strategy. I’ve been there.
“It plays like a loop in your thoughts, doesn’t it?” I said. “It’s like a tape on repeat, all negativity, all the time, running through your head.” I can’t describe how badly I wanted to soothe her. When she nodded, I felt some comfort, at least, knowing what we were dealing with.
I started unraveling my own anxiety a few years ago when I ran across this video on Facebook. Up in the middle of the night, mindlessly scrolling, furious at myself for not being able to relax, I found a diagnosis I didn’t know to look for, high functioning anxiety. The next day, I was making my way back to my classroom from the faculty workroom when I heard it. “You’re not good enough. You forgot that email. You dropped the ball. How hard is it to just answer an email? You forgot to make a donation. Everyone gave but you. If you got sick, do you think anyone would give to you? Those test grades weren’t high enough. You failed as their teacher. You haven’t finished … You haven’t started … You’re not making it …” A track of negativity playing over and over in my head. Just like the video said.
I stopped a few steps from my classroom door and listened. On and on it played, on repeat, a never ending loop of lies. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I don’t have a low self-esteem, I thought. This isn’t really what I believe about me, is it? Where is this coming from?
How I dealt with the loop at that time is a long story, but I never stopped to think that Satan had anything to do with it. But it seemed logical when I listened to my girl–this is perfectionism, run amuk, provoked by the devil’s relentless assault of lies. But then I thought, “That’s a little flaky. Am I just imagining things?”
Until I ran into my friend and she pointed out that the spirit of fear must have a source. It makes sense. I couldn’t decide when those negative thoughts had become entrenched in my brain, but they had hijacked my identity. I didn’t willingly go there.
The next day I was up before the chickens, which is not that unusual, but I got very little sleep. Normally I’d hit the snooze a few or eight times, but that morning, I couldn’t toss and flop through uneasy dreams a minute longer. After a few minutes reading my bible, I grabbed my phone rather impulsively and typed a quick devotional thought for my sweet girl and texted it to her. Something like this–
I am absolutely convinced that the devil has been feeding you a steady diet of lies. Remember what I said about taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Jesus? The way to do that is to continuously turn those thoughts around and pray for God to give you a steady diet of His truth. Pray about everything all day long. Every time you feel anxious or worried or upset, tell Him that you only want His presence. Tell him every negative thought and fear and ask Him to replace it with His truth. When the enemy says you should be afraid of the future, He says that He has a plan for you according to His great purpose. I love you very much.
Only His presence, only His voice, only His truth. That’s where the healing is.
I decided to write a quick devotional thought for her each day. That’s a little ambitious for me–writing everyday–but even if she doesn’t read them, I know it’s helping me. Then Carrie said she might like to read them. And then I thought about all of you. A quick devotional thought each day (or not, let’s see how I do, haha!), reminding you to do battle with the lies, striking them down and letting the Holy Spirit of power and love and self-discipline retrain your thoughts.
So, if that sounds good, check back in. And feel free to get with me if you need to connect over this stuff.
Peace and blessings,