“Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to be with you again.” ~ Simon and Garfunkle
As I have noted before in my blog, despair is kind of my default setting. But I’ve been feeling unusually morose the past couple weeks since my kitty Anabelle disappeared. She’s been MIA for 30 days now. I don’t think I’ll see her again. That makes me unusually sad. She is the living entity who has spent the most time with me over the past seven years. She was unusually affectionate and attuned to me—really, kind of a pest at times—wanting to perch in my lap when it wasn’t a bit convenient.
Anabelle aside, the voice of hopelessness in my thoughts has been unusually insistent the past couple months. It goes something like this: “You’re old, you’re broke, and you’re alone.” and then the other voice answers: “Well, the upside is you’ll die sooner rather than later, debt can’t be inherited, and you won’t leave a widow.” That retort is not terribly reassuring.
Feelings of hopelessness are one of the depressive triad along with feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. In short, the clinically depressed person thinks: “Life sucks, things will never change and I’m a piece of crap.” Almost every depressed person has these thoughts. The depressive triad I reframed in my books “The Unwelcome Blessing” and “Satan’s Top ten Tricks” as demonic spirits or strongholds.
What’s really appalling about my own thinking of late is that I’ve just written “Blessings Restored” a 12-step workbook on coping with mood disorders. In my Step-7 I refer to these habitual, self-defeating mind-quirks as ANTs: automatic negative thoughts. They are so much a part of my habitual thought patterns that they pop onto my mind constantly. It is a process that I can’t stop. However, what I can do is be intentional about not allowing myself to dwell on them. As I’ve said in one of my books, “You can’t stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest.” That, in short, is having intentional control of your thoughts.
Last night at my CR meeting Pastor Herb said, “Straight living can’t come from crooked thinking.” That got a laugh. This was part of his lesson on Step-4, making a spiritual inventory. He was talking about the need for the “renewing of the mind” of Romans 12:2. It was a teaching I needed to hear. Others noted that they needed to hear that message as well last night.
There are a lot of ANT-infestations out there right now. Many of us have a consciousness that resembles the flow in a sewer. Like my friend Welton said once, “I shouldn’t be allowed access into my own mind without adult supervision.” When we try to NOT think about something, we dwell on it all the more. It is the one black magic-marker dot on a white-board. But since we’re pretty much defeated when it comes to not thinking about certain things (Rom. 7:15-16), our best strategy becomes renewing the mind with positive content—that, for the Christian, is Holy Scripture. Like we are advised in Deut. 6:4-9: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
God knew the minds He was dealing with—wayward minds, forgetful, and driven by the moment. He knew that we needed constant reminders—constant adult supervision.
We also must remember that the feeling is NOT the reality. How we feel is very compelling. Our mind, with a little help from the enemy, tricks us into believing that our emotional life, is real life. It’s not; they’re just feelings. Because we feel hopeless, helpless and worthless does not mean that we are those things. We must always remember that the God of the universe died to give us life.