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Overcoming Anxiety and Depression {Part 2 – Thoughts}

Posted on: April 16th, 2014 by Laurie Coombs 8 Comments

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For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… – 2 Corinthians 4-5 (emphasis mine)

When I was struggling with anxiety and depression, I truly thought I was going crazy. Terrible, irrational thoughts seemed to swirl through my mind continually, and I was pretty sure that it would not be a good idea to tell anyone what I was thinking. I thought maybe they’d take my kids away or admit me into some facility for the mentally ill. My thoughts were so far out there that I didn’t even know what I was capable of. I didn’t trust myself, and I think that’s what scared me the most.

Now that I’m on the other side of that terrible season, I can clearly see that I was not going crazy––I was simply letting my thoughts run away with me. For a long time, I had erroneously thought that every thought I had was valid simply because I thought it. But that’s not true. Even when our thoughts feel true, they may not be true. When I was first introduced to this concept, it was revolutionary for me, and it helped me to understand that all those crazy thoughts I had were simply lies. I was still a baby Christian at this point, but I knew enough to begin to use scripture to differentiate between truth and lies. God’s truth became my measuring stick for truth.

A pastor once told me he believes that people experience depression and anxiety because they believe lies. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure if I agreed with him, but now I do. Learning to monitor my thoughts and align my thinking with God’s truth was the single most important tool God gave me to combat the fear and darkness I experienced.

Thoughts are powerful. The sooner we understand that, the better. I once attended a class at my church called The Exchanged Life, and I learned that it is our thoughts that determine our emotions which ultimately determine what we do. It’s a cycle, of sorts, that begins with our thoughts, which is why we must begin to take a more active role in our thought life. Monitoring thoughts is important for everyone, but I believe it’s one of the greatest thing we can do when we’re battling anxiety and depression. But regardless of whether or not you’re experiencing these symptoms, we all need to take a more active role in accepting or rejecting our thoughts. We need to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. And we need to deliberately evaluate every thought that crosses our mind––accepting it if it lines up with God’s word, or rejecting it if it doesn’t. 

But here’s the thing––if I tell you to stop thinking a thought, I’m pretty sure that thought that you’re trying not to think is going to be all that you will be able to think about. So instead of simply telling ourselves to stop thinking a thought, we take that thought, recognize it as a lie, and replace it with its opposite truth. For example, if I think, I am not okay. I will never be okay. I will be like this for the rest of my life! The first thing I need to do is recognize that this thought is not true. Then, I go to scripture to determine what is true, believing God’s word applies to me. From that, I can begin to replace the lie with God’s truth and tell myself, I am okay. God loves me. He is with me. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. He has a plan for my life, and it is a good plan. He is a good God who will faithfully use all this mess for my good and His glory. He is light. The light casts out the darkness. The closer I get to Him, the brighter His darkness shines upon me. Soon, my darkness will fade away, completely. God is for me. I am His.

If I think, I am crazy! I think I might end up in some crazy luny bin! I need to cast that lie out and replace it thought with this: God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-control. Jesus came that I may have life and life to the full. This is only a season. I will be okay. 

See how that works?

We also must learn to recognize the anxiety and depression without focusing on them. When we think, “I’m depressed. I’m depressed. I’m depressed….” all the time, we’re going to be depressed. Remember, our thoughts affect our feelings. Now, I know it’s difficult to think about other things when you’re in this state––trust me, I’ve been there––but I also know that I allowed my symptoms to consumed my mind for far too long. But when I began to take my attention off the way I felt (physically and emotionally) and instead put my attention on God, the symptoms slowly began to go away.

When writing to the church in Philippi, Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9). I cannot tell you how desperately I wanted peace, and it was given as I began intentionally thinking about all that is good. Now, just so we’re clear, this is not the power of positive thinking I’m referring to. What I’m talking about is centering your mind on TRUTH. Not your truth or any form of truth found in this world, but God’s truth. It is God who saves us through centering us on His truth.

So try to replace your bad thoughts with good thoughts. As Paul says, think about all that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, true, and good. Choose to deliberately think about all you have to be thankful for. Write it down and then go back and read what you wrote in your darkest moments. Cultivate a thankful heart. Even if you don’t feel thankful yet, write down all your blessing.

Just as Paul wrote, “practice these things.” It takes time and practice to take a more active role in your thought life, but I can honestly say that it is well worth all the energy you put toward it. Our thoughts play a vital role in our mental health, so I encourage you to take all the time necessary to learn this tool through discipline and practice, while keeping your focus on God.

Truly, you are not beyond hope. Know that. You will be okay.

Any thoughts? Share in the comments

Resources

Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind.

Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

  • grateful

    I can’t thank you enough for your testimony it’s been a huge help for me. Been struggling with anxiety and OCD for the past year and reading your experience and advice has encouraged and helped immensely.

  • Thank you!!! I appreciate the correction and encouragement! Have a blessed day!

  • bluenomore

    I’m so glad I discovered your blog and website, Laurie!  I struggle with chronic depression and anxiety, which have plagued me nearly all of my adult life.  I love your statement that if I say “I’m depressed, I’m depressed, I’m depressed” I’m bound to be depressed.  I just want to let you know that you left out the “n” in “bound.”  But it still makes sense!

  • Is thought management a part of psychotherapy? My mother got rid from her depression by psychotherapy from a psychologist and taking an SSRI prescribed by a psychiatrist. I think simple cases of depression are treatable by SSRIs or similar medicines and psychotherapy. You can read http://adidarwinian.com/selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitors-ssris-a-landmark-in-neuropharmacology/ to know about SSRIs. A psychiatrist can judge the right kind of treatment for a particular case.

  • I’m so happy to hear that! Thank you for telling me! I’ll keep praying! And I do have a few more posts on the topic planned. God bless you too!

  • Thank you, Paula! Great point about keeping scriptures around for us to see! I completely agree!

  • kgirl87

    Laurie, I can not stop thanking you for writing this column. Every time I feel desperate without any hope your email pops up and makes everything so much clearer and better. It is true when they say that coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous. He does hear us when we need Him the most. I can relate to everything you’ve felt before and it is a terrible thing to go through. I’m glad you’re better now, I’m still in the middle of this struggle with my thoughts and anxiety. Although I’m much better than a couple pf months ago thanks to your kind words and scriptures you’ve left us with. I will continue to pray and change my thoughts to God’s truth even though it can be tiring and feel like giving up sometimes. it was no coincidence that I found your blog and I thank God for that! Hope you keep writing more about this pls 🙂 God bless!!

  • PaulaKechisenCollins

    Laurie,
    First of all I want to say “welcome back”.  Second, I pray your time with your family was filled with the Joy of the Lord, laughter, and love.  Enjoy these times.  Our children grow up so quickly.
    I just got back from a wonderful high school retreat with about 90 high school seniors.  This is their final retreat before going off to college.  In the witness hall, where we spent so much time, all the teachers hung pictures of the students beginning with their freshmen year up to the present.  Most were from their time at the camp where we held the retreat.  Along with that we also hung scripture, different faith words, and phrases.  This room became one of solitude, relaxation, but also a place where all of us could come and bask in the presence of God.  I think it is also important to have scripture, faith words and phrases hung in our homes, cars, offices, classrooms (if we can), etc.  The more we see these words, phrases, and scripture, the more they will fill our minds, hearts, and souls. 
    I suffer from clinical depression; I have most of my life.  I take a low dose of meds just to keep my serotonin levels in check, but I also do these things as well so I can be on the lowest dosage possible.  My husband likes to have these reminders as well.