When Mark and I married almost ten years ago, I gained a nine-year old stepdaughter who came to live with us full-time at the age of ten. She recently moved out to go to college. In the second year of our marriage, Mark and I adopted our daughter, who is now eight. Two years ago, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she came to live with us. She has an apartment in our basement. My nephew, who is now almost seventeen, came to live with us two years ago. We have a dog, Zoey, who was added to the family four years ago. Did I mention that I also work full-time and homeschool my eight-year old?
I am currently reading a devotional about anxiety detox called the “7 Day Anxiety Detox” by Brittney Moses (http://brittneyamoses.com). She says, “Just because the thought exists doesn’t make it true.” I have pondered this statement many times since I read it. It seems simple and makes sense, yet I find myself believing negative, untrue thoughts and reacting to negative feelings. Last night, after I slaved over dinner (at least I felt like I did), I cleaned up the dishes and left the kitchen clean the way I like it. A few hours later, I entered the kitchen only to find dishes piled in the sink (although the dishwasher was empty), some substance spilled on the counter, and the empty milk carton left out on the counter waiting for someone to put it in the recycling bin. I honestly felt frustrated and angry over this. I could feel my anxiety building as the thoughts circulated in my head. “Why does everyone leave their dirty dishes for me? Can’t they see they spilled something on the counter? Does the empty milk carton have my name on it? Am I the soul recycling person in the house? Why does everyone dump on me? I work hard, and I’m tired. I feel so disrespected.”
I had to catch myself as my thoughts started to go on a rampage. Usually these thoughts end in anger, a few choice words to my husband and kids about their inability to clean up after themselves, and I feel worn down from the disrespect. My thoughts were negative and the emotions that followed were draining. Then I realized that this is one of the exact ways that satan attacks us. He finds our triggers, the very ones that he knows will start this cascade of negativity. Suddenly, what started out as a mole hill becomes a mountain as we allow our thoughts to overwhelm us.
I took a deep breath. I uttered a small prayer for help. Then I worked hard to intellectually and forcefully remove the negative feelings behind the thoughts. I had to try to replace them with something more positive, and I actually walked away from the kitchen without cleaning any of it or reacting negatively toward my family. I told myself that I am not responsible for everyone’s messes, and that, in time, these messes would be cleaned up by someone other than me. I popped a bowl of popcorn, and I went back to the movie I had been watching before I entered the now-soiled kitchen.
In Brittney Moses’ devotional, she says “You can pause, momentarily separate yourself from your thoughts and begin to discern what’s healthy and what is not; and discard the following.” She gives four steps to work through anxiety: identify the trigger, write down the thoughts that follow (or think about them), note your reaction to those thoughts, and then bring yourself around to reality. We can’t let our negative thoughts dictate our feelings and reactions. I find that this is a hard lesson and one I have to be conscious of on a daily basis. There are many battles that occur in a day, and satan tries to attack us especially when we are weary and overwhelmed. It truly is a spiritual battle, and half of the battle is just knowing when you’ve entered the battle. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the divine power to demolish strongholds. 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.” II Corinthians 10:4-5
What are your battles? Do you recognize them? Do you worry about the safety of your kids, finances, work, health, home maintenance, keeping up with everything? Remember that you can demolish these thoughts that cause anxiety by asking God for help. The feelings may still linger, but don’t allow the negative thoughts to overwhelm you. Believe in God’s sovereignty and His ability to rescue you. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7