Do I want to be happy? You’d think the answer would be “yes”. Technically the answer is “yes, I want to be happy”. But (there’s always a ‘but’)…but sometimes it’s not that easy. Well, it hasn’t been that easy for me. I suffered from depression for well over a decade. And the depression caused me to have some really negative thoughts that impacted every aspect of my life. I let those thoughts control me until it was like second nature. Those thoughts kept me safe and protected. If I didn’t put yourself out there, I couldn’t get hurt. Happiness means you’re vulnerable – at least that’s the way I felt subconsciously.
I was really quick to shoot down anything positive because it seemed dangerous. I thought that staying negative was safer because I was prepared for things to go bad. If they didn’t, then great. What I didn’t realize was that this way of thinking was insidious. There is no room for anything good when you think this way. I wanted to be happy, but did I want to do what it took to be happy? No. That was way too dangerous.
My depression centered around rejection. I used negative thoughts to protect me from future rejection. “Don’t make eye contact with people. They don’t want to talk to you anyway.”, “No one wants you”, “No one has ever really liked or loved you and no one ever will”, “You’re stupid” and on and on. Those thoughts prevented me from trying new things and going after what I really wanted to do. Those thoughts also became what I believed. They started as a way to protect me from being rejected and failing at something I wanted to try. My rationale was ‘if I don’t put myself out there, I can’t be rejected’, ‘if I don’t try, then I haven’t failed’. So as warped as it sounds, I put myself down so that I wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of those things happening. I don’t think I believed all of the things I thought at first, but of course, eventually I believed them.
So when at first I was using those thoughts to protect myself, I then began to believe them which reinforced the thoughts I had, which made me believe what I thought even more – and the cycle continued. I really realized that this was wrong when I was trying to reconcile my thoughts – my beliefs of myself with what I was reading in the Bible. John 10:10 says:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10
You can only get a gift if you actually receive it. It’s like someone depositing money in my bank account and I never bother to withdraw it. Jesus came to give me an abundant life, but I have to accept it and do my part to have that life. An abundant life and negative thoughts don’t mix. The main scripture that comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Because my thoughts eventually became my beliefs, this was (and still can be) very difficult for me. I will literally have a negative thought that pops up in my head like I’ve trained myself to do and I’ll have a fight with myself. My mind wants to think negatively! It is so warm, cozy and safe to safe in Negative Land. I know my way around that town so well! Positive, hopeful thoughts are new territory and who likes change? This is uncharted territory and I don’t have a map. I have Jesus saying He’ll lead me and take care of me, but I’m so used to my negative thoughts keeping me safe that I don’t want to try something new. What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s too hard? What if things don’t go the way I expected? I already know what happens when I shut everything down immediately.
So, after a few times of this happening (me fighting with myself to think something positive -sometimes I accepted the positive thought, sometimes I went back to the comfortable, safe negative thought), I kind of caught myself in the middle of this debate and realized that I was literally trying to decide if I wanted to accept something good! You’d think that would be a no brainer. But, I literally fought against the positive thought because it was new and scary and I didn’t know where it would take me. I literally decided to go with a negative thought because it was easier and I have trained myself to want that thought.
So, do I want to be happy? Yes. Yes, I want to be happy. But capturing those negative thoughts is hard! They don’t just sit there and wait to be captured. They take off and start flying away and it takes work to track them down! But, I know that I want to be happy. Most importantly, I know Abba wants me to be happy and receive everything He has for me. I definitely can’t do that with negative thoughts swirling around my head all the time. The main thing I have to remember is that in this situation and every situation, God is here to help me. He will help me capture these joy stealing thoughts. It’s still an everyday struggle. It is going to take a lot of work to undo all the inroads these negative thoughts have made in my mind. Eventually the positive way of thinking will become my norm. I just have to want it more than I want to be comfortable.
Do you struggle with negative thoughts? How do you handle them?