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My-Daily-Struggle-Against-Negative-Thoughts

My Daily Struggle Against Negative Thoughts

Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

I used to feel like I was on an emotional roller-coaster ride—experiencing a huge range of ups and downs in just one day.

In a typical day, I would wake up to a bright and sunny morning that put me in a good mood. Feeling that life was great and all was rosy, I might even buy some flowers to brighten up my room. However, these feelings of happiness wouldn’t last. By afternoon, I would be feeling so down that life itself would seem meaningless and tiring. Ask me why this drastic change, and I wouldn’t have been able to give you an answer. It could be due to something small that frustrated me, or just a helpless feeling of moodiness that day.

I used to experience these feelings almost daily. They poured on me like a huge storm, leaving me helpless and overwhelmed. I would try to get rid of my thoughts by sleeping early or, if I was unable to do so, calling a friend for a chat. However, these conversations would inevitably end up with dispiriting talk and my friends sharing the same feelings of depression.

The worst thing about having such emotions was that they made it hard to concentrate fully on reading God’s Word. At times like these, I tended to give up reading the Bible entirely. At most, I would just ask for friends to keep me in prayer. This often left me crippled with guilt. “Don’t you find joy in the Lord? If so, why are you still so depressed?” I would chide myself. “Look at your pitiful self! You must be in this state because of your lack of spirituality!” These voices in my head would plunge me into an even deeper abyss of negative thoughts and feelings.

I knew this was the work of Satan attacking me at my weakest point. It was a cycle that would repeat itself and leave me like a weak lamb awaiting slaughter.

One day, I decided that I had enough. It was clear that God had told me to trust Him and rely on His strength. That’s’ when I realized that it is only when we put on the full armor of God, that we can take our stand against the devil’s evil schemes (Ephesians 6:10-11). I resolved not to be a victim of self-pity. Instead, I decided to take up the sword of the Spirit and fight back (Ephesians 6:17). Here are some practical things I did that I found helpful:

 

Achieving victory with prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

This verse encouraged me and I decided to stop avoiding prayer. I wouldn’t hide from my pessimistic feelings or deny that they were there. Instead, I would admit that my lack of desire to pray was due to these feelings and ask the Holy Spirit to calm my heart. When these feelings continued to harass me, I called on Jesus’ name and commanded them to leave my heart.

I personally found such prayers very helpful. The Lord would comfort me and give me a sense of peace. I also came to realize that when I didn’t feel like praying, it was because I was ashamed; I shouldered all my burdens and found it difficult to bring them before the Lord. I learned that in times of distress, the only thing we desperately need is the Lord to change our hearts.

 

Meditating on the Word of God

After the Holy Spirit had taken those negative feelings away from me, I needed something to fill the cavity within. I desperately needed the Word of God to fill me.

That’s when I started to read Bible passages and take my time to think about what God wanted me to learn. I wanted His Word to be deeply etched in my heart.

In Philippians 4:13, Paul says that because of Christ, he can be joyful always: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”. In Revelation 21:3-4, John reminds us about the new heaven and new earth that we can anticipate: “God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Reading these passages gave me great comfort. Through meditating on God’s Word, I came to understand it in a clearer way and was able to stand more firmly in its truths.

Spending Time with God Daily

Ultimately, I believe that daily fellowship with God is important and should not be neglected. It is crucial to set aside a fixed time every day to spend time reading the Bible.

I must admit that I’m not an early riser. Hence, the evenings are a great time for me to read the Word. Recently, I have been training myself to be diligent in prayer. I keep a small book to record my prayers to the Lord, as well as people I pray for individually during my personal time with the Lord.

Having a fixed time to spend with the Lord every day has helped me tremendously in my spiritual growth. My time with Him has taught me that it is only when we have an intimate and personal relationship with Him, that we can resist the strong temptation to wallow in our own negative thoughts and feelings.

If you see yourself in the “old” me, I would like to challenge you to have no fear, for Jesus has already overcome everything­­—even death—for us. Guard yourself from the devil’s sly tricks and put on the full armor of God to fight him. May we learn to rely only on Him and become strong in the Lord.

why-cant-i-feel-god

When I Couldn’t Feel God

Photo taken by Alan Ang
Written By Edna Ho, Malaysia

I glanced across the hall. There were hundreds of people, all from different states across Malaysia, gathered together for the annual convention organized by my church. My heart was bursting with excitement and anticipation. I thought to myself, “This is it. There are so many people here with hungry and thirsty hearts. God is surely going to move in this place. If He’s going to speak to these people, He will surely speak to me.”

I bore high hopes that I would be crying tears of joy and drowning in His unmistakable presence throughout the three-day convention. After all, my pastors and leaders had been encouraging the congregation to expect God to move mightily in the convention lest we fail God through our faithlessness—as the Bible mentioned in Matthew 13:58, “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

After the sermon on the first night, there was a special ministering session where the pastor asked those who felt lost, stagnant, or far away from God to raise their hands and rise from their seats. Many hands went up, including mine. Then he started ministering encouragement while the worship team sang  softly in the background. It was nothing short of powerful and the pastor emphasized that he could “sense” God’s strong presence.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I wasn’t “feeling” God that much at that point of time. Yes I did cry, yes I did feel the words of the songs when I sang them, but I seemed to be missing out on something. All around me, people were in tears, kneeling on the floor, and lifting their hands up high to God. Was there something wrong with me? Why couldn’t I feel God as much? I tried to search deeper in my heart for that same feeling, but nothing came up. I still couldn’t experience Him as much as those around me.

I wasn’t going to give up. I told myself this was just the first night. The following night was the highlight of the convention; it was a healing and prophetic event. Sure enough, the guest speaker started prophesying on the second night. He called some of the participants by their names and stated their specific conditions. Then he called out those who had various illnesses, and got the leaders to pray over them. Some were healed instantly while others saw improvements. Lastly, he got the leaders to stand in a line, with those who needed prayers lining up in front of their assigned leaders. I stood in front of a leader I had not met before (and would therefore not know my innermost needs beforehand), expecting to receive some accurate prophecies. What I got instead was a general prayer.

Honestly, I was disappointed—not so much in the lady, but in God. I questioned Him secretly in my heart, “Oh God, I came with such high expectations. I even fasted and prayed before I came. What’s wrong? Why aren’t You speaking to me? Am I not desperate enough compared to the others? Is there sin in me that’s hindering me?”

God didn’t give me an answer that night. It was only days later when I was reading an article on a Christian blog that I came across these verses in 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT):

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.”

That’s when it hit me.

Just as Elijah had to learn that God could choose to work in quieter ways, God was telling me that He did not need hype or big events to move and speak into our lives. He has been speaking, is speaking, and will continue to speak even in the mundane and the routine, just like a still small voice in our hearts. We shouldn’t be chasing a certain experience or feeling when we worship Him. Instead, the correct way would be to focus on God Himself and His faithfulness. Sooner or later, we’d be enveloped by His overwhelming goodness.

I had been wrongly chasing a certain feeling and experience throughout the entire convention. But not experiencing the feeling did not mean that God was not there. He was still there, and His truths are still the same, equally valid and equally life-changing.

When-Not-to-Follow-Your-Feelings

When (Not) to Follow Your Feelings

Written By Debra Valley, USA

As Christians striving to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we will encounter instances that require us to battle our flesh. It could be moments where we have to deliberately choose to act against our emotions, such as choosing to forgive a person who has hurt us, being kind to someone who has been unkind to us, or refusing to let our anger lead us to violence.

More often than not, the struggle is tough. Though we know that our feelings are categorically wrong and acting on them may even lead us to take actions contrary to God’s will, we may find ourselves trying to justify our emotions.

A few years back, I found myself in such a situation. Yes, it was all about a boy. A boy I fell in love with, a boy that made me consider choosing this mister over the Master. I can almost see you shaking your head in disapproval. It seems as though there are far too many accounts of good Christian girls being “led astray” by their unbelieving boyfriends. But I am grateful for those stories, because they served as words of caution in my time of need.

I met him at work, and as they say, there was instant chemistry. I was attracted to him, not just to his looks, but to his character. He was funny, kind, thoughtful, hardworking, generous, and intelligent. Soon enough, I developed feelings for him. But there was one problem: he was an atheist and hated Christianity.

Every time he praised my work ethic or my generosity, I would tell him it wasn’t me—it was Christ in me. But he would have none of it; he called it “religious jargon”. He insisted that the good in me was because I was a decent person, not because of God. I tried to invite him to church but he would always reject the invitation, saying that religious people were “brainwashed and naïve”. He never gave the reason behind his dislike for God—or any religion for that matter. It was just one subject he would refuse to discuss, and soon enough I stopped asking. I just trusted (and still trust today) that God would reach his heart someday.

Though I knew fully well that the Bible instructs Christians not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), my mind had all the “right” arguments. Like missionary dating, for instance. I thought that as long as I prayed for him and kept living out a good Christian witness, he would come to realize that it was Christ in me. My heart told me that I could change him. After all, how do we bring others to Christ if we don’t befriend them?

But my mind reminded me that it is only God who can change the heart, not man (Ezekiel 36:26). All I could do was to continue to bear witness through my life. Ultimately, it was his choice to make about whom he would serve.

With this realization, I knew that getting myself involved with someone who had fundamentally different standards and beliefs from me would only lead to heartache in the future. Through praying for him and praying for God’s will to be done in my life, I began to seriously consider some pertinent questions: What did I want from the relationship? He had already told me he didn’t believe in waiting till marriage for sex, so would I compromise my faith for him? Could I continue to withstand the pressure? Did I want to get married? Would our children be nurtured in a Christian background? Would we tithe? Would we be engaged in our local church? Would we base our values on God’s word? Would Christ be a part of our home? Would we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God?

The answer was obvious. It was a clear no.

So I prayed for grace to control my feelings. It was difficult avoiding him at work, but God gave me the grace to gradually steer my thoughts to only that of friendship. I did this by focusing more on the work itself, and developing closer ties with the other ladies at work. I took the opportunity to move to the opposite end of the office from him and restricted our conversations to strictly professional matters.

Was the decision to part with someone I fancied but didn’t share my faith difficult? Yes. Did I regret doing it? Absolutely not. I do not regret my decision because I knew all things work for good to those that love God (Romans 8:28). I also knew that God wanted to protect me from a relationship that could lead to harm in the future.

So while reining in my feelings hurt during that period, I believe that the experience strengthened my faith. Now, I am less prone to let my feelings wander beyond control, such as at times when I feel angry or resentful, or when I’m tempted to misplace my love and loyalty. Though it is not easy overcoming my own emotions, I know that God will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). I have learned to wait on God and to guard my heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). I have also learned to fully trust God and wait on His leading before making any decision in life (Proverbs 3:5-6).

when youre misunderstood

When You’re Misunderstood . . .

Have you ever experienced explaining something to someone but no matter how hard you tried, they just didn’t get it? At times, the matter can be a big deal (at least, from your perspective), but to them, you are simply whining and asking for attention, so they shrug you off.

It feels horrible to be misunderstood. It could make you feel small, weak, and fragile.

But thankfully, there is someone who understands us perfectly. The One who created me, knows me better than I do, and much better than any other person in this world.

The Psalmist says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:1-4).

So, don’t take it to heart when people don’t understand you. Instead, be heartened that God understands — perfectly.

Written By Edna Ho for YMI