I struggled about whether to share my story with you, but when we’re talking about an enemy at work, the first weapon is to bring things to light. Megan Monterrosa shared the power of our stories in this week’s Life and Limb Blog. You should check it out. The reason I struggled is because it started with a not fun introduction to the spiritual realm – and I will tell you, and those of you who know me know, I’m not a heeby jeeby spiritual weirdo. I’m truly a very practical gal. That being said, the spiritual realm is real. We believe in a triune God (Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit) and we believe there is an enemy at work as we’ve stated Ephesians 6:12 many times during our church’s current series – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” so permit me to share what I’m about to share and gift me an open mind and perspective.
When I was five years old my sister and I shared a room and I slept on the top bunk of our bunk beds. I remember the popcorn ceiling above me very well and I would “make it snow on my bed” Haha! Anyway, one night I fell asleep and had a nightmare that I was having a nightmare. In my nightmare, I woke up from my nightmare (are you following? haha) and I did what five year olds do – I got in bed my with my parents, but for whatever reason in this dream, my parents didn’t put me in between them as parents usually do, my dad placed me on the end between him and his nightstand. My parents went back to sleep and I stayed awake – then a snake appeared on my dad’s nightstand ready to strike! I immediately woke up from that dream and the dream about it – I’m now awake in reality. And guess what?
Frozen. Clearly, I can not go get in bed with my parents. It wouldn’t work! My dream has just shown me that! As I laid there frozen staring at my popcorn ceiling, I audibly heard someone laughing at me – a male laugh – dark and mean. As clear and as real as you’re hearing my voice right now. Now, nothing like that has ever happened to me since. But it happened that night. You can think I’m crazy or explain it away, but whatever you believe, it IS my story and what crippled me into anxiety for years to come.
From that night on, I struggled with nightmares until I was 18. The lie I heard AND believed from the young age of five was I’m NOT SAFE. There is NOTHING I can do to protect myself.
Now, back in the pentecostal days of the 80s and 90s, teachers and adults would tell us – would tell me, rebuke Satan in the name of Jesus! So, I would try it during or within a nightmare, but guess what? I’d suddenly go mute and I’d be struck with terror again as I imagined Satan laughing at my futile attempt. I’m. not. safe.
The Mind at Work
What do we do when we’re not safe? Two professors of Psychiatry at Wayne State University, Saab and Javanbakht, say “Our brains are built to respond. A release of stress hormones and a sympathetic nervous system is triggered. This leads to bodily changes that prepare us to be more efficient in a danger: The brain becomes hyperalert, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate and breathing accelerates. Heart rate and blood pressure rise” – the brain becomes hyper alert – which for many of us, causes looping thoughts.
Now remember, the message I’ve learned and am believing is I’M NOT SAFE. So, my looping thoughts are:
- There’s nothing I can do
- No one can help me
- The end is doom
And as I’ve aged these thoughts evolved:
- There is something wrong with me
- No one likes me
- I’m hopeless
You may have your own lie you’re believing which creates your own looping thoughts. The thing about dealing with the pain of mental illness is that our mental and spiritual health are so closely intertwined.
In other words, our mental health impacts our spiritual health and our spiritual health impacts our mental health. Therefore, it’s hard to know where one begins and the other ends. They are that closely aligned. Pastor Chris Cipollone, a popular speaker on this subject, says “This makes it difficult because it’s hard to know exactly what help we need on a day-to-day basis.”
However, what is clear from Scripture is that we are in a spiritual battle. We’ve said many times that we do not battle against flesh and blood, but evil spiritual forces.
Chris also says “That means Satan is at work in those who struggle with mental health, just as is the case with any other Christian who may not face mental health battles.” Now, don’t mishear what I’m saying. I’m not saying that your mental health is primarily caused by Satan – we have fallen minds because we live in a fallen world.
But what Chris and I mean is that Satan is in the background sowing lies and deceit. He loves to take advantage of what’s already broken, seeking to cause further damage. He is actively at work, accusing us of our past sin and telling us that we’re worthless. Satan uses our warped sense of reality to drive us deeper into lies we are already believing.
Guys, the very nature of depression and anxiety are that they tell us lies about what is real, and what is not. It’s all a mind game.
But I have good news…
What Satan means to be a barricade to our whole and healed selves, God turns into a platform. What Satan means to barricade us from God’s intended future, God STEPS IN and helps us STEP UP onto a platform for His purposes. Silly Satan.
Look at Emily Hutchinson – many of you know her as part of The Grove Church. Satan took what was already brokeness – the tragic loss of her baby to SIDS – and used it as a potential barricade to keep her from her natural ability and purpose to shine God’s light. But God took Emily’s hand and said no, come on up here- this is now your platform in Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Satan tried to barricade me with “I’M NOT SAFE” but God said no, step on up this is now your platform to SET OTHERS FREE from anxiety!
Romans 8:28 “God works all things together for our good that we’d become more like Jesus”
Okay. How. How do I turn a barricade into a platform? It’s a matter of mind over matter.
It’s a matter of mind over matter
Who’s been weeding their garden lately? Spring is here! Like weeds, there are horrible things in your life that are absolutely true. They’re fact. They’re reality. However, the thoughts that accompany them can be absolutely false, keeping those horrific things in your life – those weeds alive and well.
The power of the mind is unreal. The power of the mind literally boggles my mind! Our thoughts whether resembling weeds or flowers rule so much of our worlds. I found a quote by some dude named Earl Nightingale that says, “Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become reality”. DUH! Yet, we always forget. Why? Because we are too busy planting and nourishing anything other than the truth. We stand there pointing non stop at the horror in our hearts and minds heralding its existence. “Look what’s here! Can you believe it?”, we wail. So, it keeps standing tall and proud, claiming its territory, sinking its roots in deep. Stop planting and nourishing lies. Just pluck them little buggers outta your brain and start a burn pile!
How to Weed out ‘Dem Buggers:
I don’t know how you weed your garden, but a popular approach is to pull them as soon as you see them. Walking out on your porch to grab that Amazon package before your spouse sees it and notice the intruder in your pansy pot? Pull it. This is the approach I try to take with my thought weeds.
The problem arises when the weed is attractive. Let’s face it; some weeds are kinda pretty. In fact, some people let dandelions run rampant in their yards because they find them so appealing! Not me – but some of ya’ll. Sometimes my thoughts, weedy buggers that they are, are kinda entertaining. They’re kinda intriguing. It’s like a freak show or horrific accident that you can’t look away from. So you sit there, a captive audience just waiting to see what might happen. You know it’s not right but you can’t look away…not yet anyway. Maybe these thoughts are:
● Self harm
● Creating drama
● Leaving your family
● Fantasizing about someone’s doom
● Imagining worst case scenarios
● Contemplating sin
● BELIEVING LIES
So, you sit there intrigued while these thought weeds start to multiply. Then, all of a sudden, you’re overwhelmed by them. They’re killing your favorite plants near them and it takes a lot more work to get rid of them once you finally realize they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Ahhhhh! Best to shut them down at the get go. Best to “take them captive and make them submit”.
Nourishing the Good Stuff:
Weeds, left to their own devices, take over. However, just like anything good in life, the plants we want to keep need attention and nourishment to thrive. The good stuff takes work. The true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy stuff we hear about in Phillippians needs nourishment and all your attention! Feed them with your attention and things like Bible reading and prayer. Purposely plant more of them by memorizing scripture so there’s no room for weed thoughts! Admire and appreciate them often!
Remember, no matter what is real in your life, it’s all a matter of mind over matter. Yeah…
● Your kid may be sick
● You may not be able to pay your bills
● Your friend may not be talking to you
● Lies may appear so very true
● Your world may literally be crumbling around you
What IS true right now? What’s admirable? What’s praise-worthy in the midst of all of this? Yes, life can suck, but the Life Giver brings hope and a promise…of a new reality that whatever happens here was never the point or plan for us and our purpose lies ahead! Feed the hope. Focus on that promise of a better future! Mind over matter, people…every time.
Stepping on My Platform
The reason I say I was set free from nightmares when I was about 18 or so is not because I don’t have them anymore but because my mom helped set me free with some solid truth. I went to her room to tell her I had a nightmare at about 18 or so and she said, “Jennifer! You have got to go back to your room and fight! God is with you!”
So I went down to my room, laid in bed and it dawned on me that I have always thought I’m not safe and have no power to rebuke Satan because I’ll go mute and be speechless but Exodus 4:11-12, a verse I memorized when I was younger suddenly popped into my mind. It says “Who made man’s mouth, the dumb, the seeing or the blind? Hath not I the Lord? Go forth and I’ll show you what to say”. Now I fully realize he was telling this to Moses who was throwing up rejections of why he can’t speak to Israel but what I heard in that moment is God created the MUTE! Why would He leave them powerless! Even if I rebuke Satan under my breath or simply in my heart, he HAS TO FLEE. James 4:7 says RESIST the devil and he’ll flee. What if all I have to do to rebuke is resist – simply turn the other way – pay no mind? I tell you in that exact moment I felt a peace wash over me that gave me goosbumps and that time I STARTED laughing. In that moment my barricade became a platform to not only my freedom but eventually the freedom of those I come in contact with.
What kind of weeds have you left to their own devices in your mind? What are the good things in your life you miss because those weed thoughts are choking them out? What are you gonna do about it?
This weekend is Mother’s Day and I’m a mom so I’m gonna be yours today and I’ll tell ya what to do. You’re gonna go to your room (ha ha), write down and confess in prayer the weeds you’ve let run wild. You’re gonna remind yourself of the beautiful things in your life that are being choked out by thought weeds. You’re gonna put truth and scripture in you. Memorize Philippians 4:8 and 2 Timothy 1:7. Then every time a thought weed comes back, you’re gonna resist it and fertilize the good stuff by reciting the scripture you’ve memorized and pray it out loud.
I’m praying for you. You sure look good on that platform.