(developing a healthy heart and overcoming depression and other neurosis the Christian way)
Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11)
Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life. (Prov 4:23)
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. (Rom 8:13)
Secular technique is void of God’s healing, love and disciplines; we are invited to take hold of God’s way of dealing with intrigues and problems of the mind. Most people in the West need to understand these issues as we have more problems in this area than other continents it seems. The Christian perspective begins with God at the top and not with ourselves at the centre, and it acknowledges the existence of malicious spirits who sometimes put subtle thoughts in our minds.
There are many rational ways to try to reeducate our subconscious beliefs and change habits of thought, and it is necessary to use reason to control our attitudes and beliefs. But there is no substitute to the renewing operation that God performs in a submitted soul that is exhausted enough to let go of this world’s values and is ready to take up its cross and honor God more than it honors itself.
A few fundamentals
Self defence and indignation are evidence of a lack of grace in our heart. When we can exercise faith by turning the other cheek then we prove we have received dignity from God’s overflowing supply pf love.
We still have an animal nature even though we do not feel like animals. This body gets tired, feels lethargic, lacks enthusiasm etc for various reasons. We cannot expect to feel happy or calm all of the time. In this media oriented culture social pressure has increased and we are all aware of popular opinion and we see how happy and confident other people appear to be. However everyone is individual and has their own path to walk. Our mind is meant to be like a well ordered garden and the only way to achieve this is for us to exercise discipline over what stays in our mind and over what we believe about ourselves, others and about God.
Our aim should not be to become great and to climb the social ladder, our aim should be to glorify God primarily as this is the key to freedom. We should train our mind to look outward and to be aware of the suppler rather than being aware of our need. Mercy and grace should be at the forefront of our heart. When we have the attitude to bless other people rather than looking for blessing, when we realise we have the power to accept people rather than looking for acceptance it changes our perspective. We do not develop high self esteem, we actually forget to be aware of ourselves at all, and how we feel about ourselves. Yes we should look after ourselves and it is nice to feel good about ourselves, but these things are secondary, they arrive after we pursue the primary goals.
The best kept secret in the universe is that love and significance should not be pursued, they should be given, demonstrated, despite them being the driving force behind all our natural desires. Give honor to get honor.
To avoid low self esteem we build high self esteem, but both low and high esteem are self centred, they are a game we should refuse to play.
Jesus said, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”. Christ was calling them to leave behind natural priorities and ambitions to discover a lasting and more spiritual purpose. You know when you are on the right path when you abandon your own honor and aspire to honor God instead. When you rest in God’s love and enjoy the light in your soul as you submit to him. Then your outlook becomes merciful and accepting, even while you discern and make judgements. Instead of bitterness and irritability you feel peace. Instead of looking for acceptance you show acceptance.
- While anxiety and hurt often comes to us because of what other people have done to us our response must be one of mercy. We must be outward looking rather than dwelling on our feelings and needs.
- Be content with your status while adding to your basic value by living righteously and by sharing your skills.
- Take on personal responsibility rather than relying on others or blaming others for our situation.
- Most anxiety, (other than healthy instinctual fears) are the result of believing lies about ourselves and about God. While we need to interrogate our own beliefs and replace them with truth, we also need to submit to God so he can heal us. Don’t truth all feelings and thoughts.
- Adopt God’s values and attitudes by submitting to him and by abiding in his truth and in his life.(John 15)
- Close the door to the devil so that he cannot plant lies in your mind and mess up your view of people and life.
- Negative feelings are not as profound as they appear, nor as permanent.
Where do Negative Feelings Come From?
Feelings are difficult to describe and they feel profound. Negative feelings might be warnings about the spiritual climate in an area, or they might be our imagination creating a catastrophic scenario based on imagined empathy.
Even if all mental illness arose purely from physical malfunction of the brain, we all have the same basic needs, and require the same basic solutions. The physical damage in the brain results mostly from emotional stress. One reason lonely people seem to be more susceptible to listening to thoughts from the enemy because they are not surrounded by the checks and balances of friendly society.
Obviously mental illness needs to be dealt with on different levels. Propensity towards it is often inherited from our parents epigenetically. Sometimes it can be from spiritual oppression. Medication is useful but it does not fix the root of the problem. Subtle lies or idea enter the mind, and when we allow them to stay the wreak havoc. Gender dysphoria is one example of this. All anxiety has a logic to it, so it is worth investigating the source to check for lies we might have believed. It is so easy to accept and believe a worldview that is not based on God’s truth.
We learn to have free will; to take the option to catch ourselves and to be objective, to then replace them with God’s truth which will rekindle faith and peace. Worship brings us under God’s influence and into appropriate relationship with him, and renews perspective and inner atmosphere. We bring every thought and hand it over to the Spirit to kill, then trust God to replace it with his divine attitudes.
The devil was even able to put ideas into Jesus Christ’s mind, when in the wilderness (whether through suggestion or in physical presence is unclear); ideas about becoming popular and great, instead of the path of meekness and service that God had in mind for him. I have noticed an over emphasis in some churches on appearing polished and confident, and obviously this does not help, however the confident and joyful should not be discouraged from expressing this just because some may choose to feel inferior. I have detailed below a method of replacing negative thoughts in the section called The four R’s -The New Life
Our job is to be willing and to have faith, God then works his righteousness in us.
Prayer for inner healing, encounters with God and deliverance can also help greatly.
The most important fact to grasp and experience is that the creator of everything deeply cares about you personally and has angels guiding your life, especially if you have committed yourself to him. He does not always prevent darkness, nor does he over-ride human choice, but the darkness exists in-order to shine his light in it.
Jesus First Sermon. Matthew 5
Apart from not believing thoughts that enter our mind and handing over negative feelings and thoughts to God to replace, we can use the sermon on the mount as a guide to getting our vision and motivation on track.
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We do not need to define inner poverty, we all know it when we feel it. To accept Christ’s unsearchable riches it helps to acknowledge our spiritual need (but not to dwell on it).
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Those who are dissatisfied with the pointlessness of life without God and who suffer are most likely to find God.. We were all made to commune with God and experience his love joy and peace.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” The meek do not prioritise their own honor, they realise their own worth but allow others to come first in honor and possessions. Defensiveness and stroppiness come from fear and they miss the truth that God defines who we are and he will honor us one day.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. If we desire the best we will get it and all the lesser stuff as a bonus.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” We no longer look for faults, enjoy indignation or assume the worst about people.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” When we submit to God he gives us his own attitudes to live in us. We are all driven by our heart, so let’s make sure it is pure.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” This calls for an outward focus; while we still take care of our own needs, our mind is set on other people’s needs. “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil2)
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we have real oppression we tend to forget our imagined oppression. Generally the world is not against us, unless we are confronting the enemy by being Christ like in our actions. Do not confuse bad relationships for persecution; sometimes it is worth standing our ground but be gentle and caring in intention. We do not always need to be right.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
12 “Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.
The 4 R’s – The New Life
Our reaction in the times of emotional stress and difficulty are what make or break us. We don’t need to be troubled by our surroundings or our inner negative desires, we have a choice even though it does not feel like it.
This really works. I have experienced it and recommend doing it many times a day. Eventually it becomes second nature. Eventually the negative feelings disappear too and the new attitudes become part of our new nature. This is method is based on John 15 and on Romans 8.13.
When bad feelings, fears, negative thoughts, or sinful temptation form somewhere in your soul think you yourself, then hand them over to to Jesus Christ to kill, trust the father to replace it with his attitude. First though submit so that you come in line with Gods heart, you get Him involved, and you can be rid of darkness instantly.
Regard – observe motives, “Be on your guard (watch); stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (1Cor 16, 13-14)
Resign – Submit to Gods will; come in line with his heart again.
Release – don’t hold on to it, let God destroy it. love God more that it.
Replace – trust Him to replace it with His own attitude by His spirit.
Bad thoughts are not necessarily sin, unless they are followed. We don’t need to be disturbed by anything that enters our mind; everything can be dealt with instantly. God wants us to have instant faith, and wants to answer our faith instantly. We thank God for answering before we see the answer. Often just asking for general help can be an excuse not to believe for specific blessing. “Ask and you will receive.”
“We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor 10.5).
Its really liberating to cry out to God “I can’t do it, I give up!”
People who are pessimistic often think they are seeing life more realistically but they are only seeing the darker side of it, and ignoring the other greater reality and all the light and hope that God wants to fill their souls with.
The Biblical way is to exchange the natural for the supernatural. There are plenty of natural ways to be a nice person but they don’t make you a good Christian. When we are in the middle of the storm of trouble and temptation, we need something to hold on to as we don’t have time to or cannot think intellectually.
If we start with a foundation of acceptance despite of all our faults, and then aim for perfection, then we don’t have the pressure to perform. Trusting hoping and resting that we are cared for, valued and empowered, while being outward focused. We are accepted on the basis of what Christ achieved and are perfected as we listen to and walk with the Spirit of resurrection life. Acceptance and respect from a community of people who don’t expect you to impress them also helps to reinforce this. Morality is mainly concerned with pure motives rather than with merely random good works.
Your life is so absolutely important, your body the result of intricate genius, your will is sovereign and the Devil cannot override it, you have the power to do someone good, your thoughts and actions form your destiny for the next thousand years and beyond. This life is a factory for spirits that will take their rank in the new world and new reality, its at test to see what spirits you follow. And yet Christ exemplified humility and shunned popularity, and we are supposed to be like him, with his help. Belief is everything.
There are some people who have had a horrendous upbringing and yet managed to live a good life and be cheerful in their outlook and relationships. It’s worth asking how they managed it. I would suggest its all do with their reactions and the choices they made. It is also because they said yes to God’s gentle ‘voice’ showing them the benefits of reacting with grace rather that with out with anger or self defence. God does not enjoy our guild though, he wants us to commit to him and to forgive us, always.
Remember your worth to God, assume the best about people’s motives, don’t expect kindness from people.
I want to be great
The desire for greatness comes from an addiction to a never satisfied desire for significance and honor. However the desire to do great things can also be well motivated. People who find their worth in God become satisfied, and God’s peace gives them assurance of his presence. Wise and loving parents are supposed to provide a natural sense of worth, and again where this is missing God can provide. We were also created to need God and his steady source of goodness and glory. The desire to do great things can be naturally good; we do them partly for ourselves and partly for others. Let’s do great things because God is great.
Pride is wanting to be better and greater than other people. This is different from the pride people talk about when they are proud of their children or achievements. We don’t have a suitable word in our language for this ; perhaps chuffed is the nearest.
Famous singers fall into this trap, they naturally believe in themselves and consequently everyone else believes in them, which is fine. However they take it further by inventing themselves as an almost super human character, and desire special power and knowledge, as is evidenced by their interest in Gnosticism and the occult, and by the way they design their appearance.
It is possible to be proud while still having an inferiority complex, when this happens we become confused and self destructive. Even in church the priority of some young adults will be to get to the top of the church social ladder. We need to focus our attention on the collective and less on ourselves, our culture has got a problem with individualism. Do not pursue greatness, but rather do great things because God is great. Do fun things and pursue excellence because you enjoy the experience, no matter who is watching.
When we cry out to almighty God with the attitude of “I cannot do it, I give up trying to be good and great, I give up my ways”, then we can lay down our sword and rest in God’s love and defence. King David didn’t defend his honor, instead he made a covenant with God in his heart that he would learn God’s ways and knew that God would take care of him if he did this.
Beliefs are the most important thing in life and they are so easily messed up. Faith comes from revelation and it pushes up through the dark clouds of Human belief. I need to remind myself every morning of my significance to God and my intrinsic human worth. In 1 Cor 13, Paul says that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This is the opposite attitude to the attitude that invents conspiracy theories and enjoys self righteous indignation. If you spend five minutes each day concentrating on someone else’s feelings and two minutes remembering your worth in Christ you will transform. We can get so lost when we dwell too long in our own head space, we need to look outwards and upwards to get perspective. Prayer for others and thanking God for who he is are both very important as they life our perspective from ourselves and create faith in our spirit.
If we focus on our needs we will never be satisfied. Get your inner courage from how significant you are to God and wear it on your face and in your heart. The more you give charity and honor, the more you get.
This Christ-like mindset also sets us free from being surrounded by our feelings and then dependant on other people to provide good feelings. To be only able to see our own feelings and to make other people serve them is narcissistic and very immature. It leads to negative assumptions about people and about ourselves, and the enjoyment of criticism and indignation. To bless someone is different from appeasing someone. (placate please) It is good to submit to each other but does that doesn’t mean we should do whatever they ask.
Perform to please
One of the problems with our society as I see it is that we are all encouraged to project an act, and an act needs a style. We cannot just speak genuinely and express our feeling once over the age of 9. We project an act that we think other people will approve of, and so all of our adult life we are performers, until in our 50s or so, when we realise how pathetic it is.
Even in Church worship is so stylized; this is possibly due to the desire to avoid showing raw feeling. The reason this is a problem is because unless an individual can project a style of speaking that is trendy they are a social outcast. But the style issue aside, in our media society we spend so much energy trying to please society and looking for acceptance rather than just serving people and just being caring. I want to have the attitude that says “I accept you, I honor you”. Then we have the authority in that encounter and we bring out the best in people.
We do not need to please people to serve them; pleasing people is motivated by wanting affirmation in response, but serving should be motivated by concern for their well being.
In conclusion our goal and drive should not be to try and fit in and please people. We are not made healthy so that we can be socially acceptable and popular, but so that we can please God. We will probably please some people too as a by product.
The Chinese and Nepalese that I have encountered seem ok with being genuine, but most other countries though are media influenced.
When I watch an NDE and see how they are loved, and when I see how God’s love has changed lives I can feel it too for myself. It is important to catch the revelation of our worth to God and then demonstrate our faith in this by our actions. This might be by worshipping in prayer in a small group, or by praying for healing for people. However I think it’s a general outlook where we see other people’s needs and rather than focus on our own, and give honor instead of looking for approval. If we know our worth then we can freely honor other people.
God has used a few people who did not believe in their human worth, but who did get their worth from their faith; Gideon, Moses, Saul… initially. Maybe the hardest part is giving up holding onto fear and self pity, but then faith through revelation should replace these. If you are poor in spirit then get rich in God’s spirit.
Aristotle said, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” I think this theory needs challenging personally.
Most people will tell you if you feel good about yourself you can feel good about others. While this is true its also true that if you feel good about yourself you can still feel bad toward others, and if you feel bad about yourself you can still make the decision to be good to someone contrary to your feelings, and start to feel good about them later. Of course Aristotle was talking about friendly feelings, and I’m talking about showing charity/grace. It does often takes a change of atmosphere in our soul first before we can show charity, and this is possible though handing over self centred attitudes and trusting for God’s attitudes.
Practically we cannot easily take care of someone else if we don’t take care of ourselves, but it is possible when we are serving God. We don’t need to feel good about ourselves before we can feel good about other people. We can love even when we are not loved through the cross. One type of self love is where we keep ourselves healthy in practical ways. This type of love is more like charity as it is not based on feelings. When we wrong other people we ultimately wrong ourselves, because we are all connected. When we forgive everyone who has done us wrong and pray for them we are in effect forgiving ourselves. When God has forgiven us we should forgive ourselves too. Taking care of ourselves and feeling good about ourselves is necessary but self absorption and being constantly aware of our needs is not healthy.
If Your Eye is Good
Matt 6:22 seems to be saying that your outlook on life can determine your character. How you see other people, yourself and God. We have a responsibility to look past the obvious suffering and unfairness around us and to see the best in people and in ourselves. God is still love. The darkness exists in order to shine light in it. If we see darkness in everyone and like to criticize then we have darkness in ourselves.
We are not responsible for changing anyone else, and we certainly cannot do it by seeing the worst in them. We need tell people their potential so they can rise to the challenge. Sometimes it is necessary to correct but this must be done humbly without self pity, self righteousness, or aggression.
Depression is a fear of love, and consequently as resistance to it. As every the way to overcome it is to accept everyone, respect everyone and to willingly encourage people.
Depression is a kind of self flagellation that affects sensitive and inward looking people. Depression effectively believes that everyone is selfish, including ourselves, and therefore life loses significance and love. Its a state of disillusionment where child like dreams are shattered by the harsh responsibilities of adult-hood. It may also arise from a refusal to play the cards that we have been deal in life, and accept our talents and responsibilities.