Sometimes — more often than I like to admit — I struggle with obsessive thinking. When those obsessive thoughts get stuck on a negative loop, it puts me on a downward spiral into anxiety and depression.
I’ve learned that when this happens, I need to take those thoughts captive and redirect my focus through prayer and time in God’s Word, but at times that is way, way easier said than done. I pray and I pray and I cast my cares on God and I proclaim truth and claim His peace, but inwardly I still wrestle with negative thoughts and feelings. And I in turn feel a lot of guilt and shame because shouldn’t this be working? Shouldn’t this be easier? Is my faith broken? Am I not trusting God enough? Am I a bad Christian?
I’ve felt God speaking truth into my life on this topic this week, and that truth is this: we all struggle like this. We’re made to. Our brains, while not all wired to be obsessive, are wired with a bent toward negativity. Our feelings work against us. This is natural and normal and even Jesus and Paul and King David experienced it. Probably every believer ever has.
The fact that we wrestle like this doesn’t take God by surprise, and it doesn’t make Him displeased with us. It’s not something to feel guilt or shame about. The fact that we wrestle against our thoughts and feelings means that our hearts are turned in the right direction. It just takes our minds a while to catch up to what our hearts already know.
Even more importantly, God uses this struggle for our good. He uses it to strengthen us, teach us, grow us, draw us closer to Him and deeper into His Word.
Today I want to share the posts that helped me arrive at this understanding. These first two laid the groundwork:
“What can we be thankful for?”
His startling words broke the dark night. He knows me well enough to read my thoughts, and so he added, “The Bible doesn’t say we have to be thankful for all things. But God asks us to be thankful in all things. I’m just reaching here. But can we find anything to be thankful for to help us look at the bigger picture?”
The Bible talks about the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. These words never ring more true than when you are stumbling through the valley of loss and searching frantically to find your way to God. A sacrifice of thanks, indeed.
We also don’t have to feel thankful. Our brains are wired with a negativity bias. This means we tend to pay more attention to what’s wrong (like a bear charging at us). This instinct keeps us alive but it also means our emotions and perspective can take time to catch up with our wills. God knows this and we don’t have to feel shame or guilt about the disconnect.
And this one gave me my “A-ha!” moment:
1 Peter 5:10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
In the end, this struggle can be used by God to make me stronger and more capable in my relationships. If I am humble enough to receive from Him in the quiet what He wants to teach me through this, I can rest assured with whatever the outcome is.
It was those words of Peter — “after you have suffered a little while” — that brought it all home for me this morning. Lysa refers to that passage throughout her post, starting with verse 6. Peter walks us through the process of humbling ourselves before God, casting our anxiety on Him, remembering who our true enemy is and resisting him, promising that the end result will be that God will make us strong, firm and steadfast — but only after we have struggled a while.
Y’all, God knows this stuff takes time. He knows it isn’t easy, and He’s okay with that. He doesn’t condemn us for it. Instead He patiently helps us through it.
We have a good, good God, you guys.
PS – Find more encouragement at the following linkups: