I was sharing with a friend not long ago, about the heaviness of spirit that seemed to plague most of my waking hours. It was a struggle for me to make sense of what was feeling like depression.
In Depression – My Story, Nov 17, 2017, I define depression and how I had been instructed to defeat it. I learned depression (a type of bondage) could not take root as long as I planted my thoughts securely in God’s Word.
Yet, here I was again, feeling defeated and discouraged. In spite of the fact that I knew how to fight the negative thoughts and was aware of the resources from God’s Word to extinguish them.
My friend listened to me, then offered this insight. What I thought was depression, was more likely oppression. Satan was exercising his power to plant thoughts (fiery darts) that would weigh heavy on my mind. Thoughts that would produce emotions of discouragement and defeat.
The fact that I did not get caught up in a downward spiral was a clear indication for me that this was oppression, not depression. With depression, I was inclined to believe the negative thinking and the downward spiral was set in motion.
But with oppression, I did not believe the fiery darts to be true. I kept fighting back with God’s Truth thoughts. Though I became emotionally drained by the struggle, God’s Word kept me afloat. My focus during those days was the following:
1 John 4:4, Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Once the confusion was eliminated, I could see clearly what I was fighting against. I knew who was behind the oppression and I knew how to counter attack. I discovered anew, that the power of God’s Word always prevails in setting free the oppressed. (based on Luke 4:18)
My first bout with depression lasted for 2 years and occurred after I gave birth to my first child (43 years ago). I survived it but that’s all. Having a little one who depended 24/7 on my ability to care for her, prioritized my daily routine. Then two years and 4 months later my 2nd daughter was born. Now the well being of two precious little girls depended on my getting it together. After two more children, a daughter and a son, life demanded that I focus on the needs of my 4 children. However, the darkness of depression continued to stalk me.
During a retreat I attended only recently, I listened as a young mother described her bout with depression. Eventually, she was diagnosed with post partum depression (suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue).
I’m pretty sure that my initial years of depression was an undiagnosed case of post partum. During those first two years, I established a pattern of destructive thinking. My times spent in Scripture were consistent but brief (3 to 5 min). Any help I might have gained from them to combat such thoughts was drowned out by the lies swarming within my brain. My thoughts were ruled by those lies. I remember during those dark days my prayers became nothing more than, “God hold on to me.” I had a sense that those negative thoughts were lies but my weakened spiritual state was no match for their dark power.
Several years ago I reached a turning point when God prompted me to take notice of the thoughts that were so troublesome to me. This prompting resulted in increasing my time spent in prayer and bible study. As my knowledge of God’s Truth increased, the lies within those fiery darts were exposed. Eventually, I began to break free of the chains that for years had held me in bondage.
While I continue to battle fiery dart thinking, it no longer rules my thoughts. My thoughts are becoming saturated with God’s Word. Through prayer and bible study, I am learning to recognize & extinguish the lies of fiery darts. Remember, depression stems from the lies of fiery darts. But depression cannot take root in the soil of God’s Truth.
In looking back on my journey, I have often pondered why it took so many years for me to reach the path that led me out of the darkness of my negative thinking. . .Therefore, my hope is that by sharing the lessons I learned, your journey out of the darkness will not be nearly as lengthy as mine. p 14-15, FD 3rd edition
If you’ve noticed you haven’t heard from me in awhile, you would be correct. It seems I am, and have been for quite some time, in a valley. A valley that just stretches out before me with no exits or mountain tops in sight.
Being the author of a book about negative thinking, I have a working knowledge of how to fight the negative thoughts (my constant companions in this valley). Therefore, I know that God’s Truth thoughts are the key to finding my way out. And for brief periods of time, those Truth thoughts lit up a possible exit. But alas, it was only short lived.
At this point, I still find myself in the valley. And I don’t have much hope of leaving this place any time soon. So, what should I do?
May I insert here that while I am living in the valley at the moment, it is NOT a dark valley. God’s Truth thoughts which I focus on prevent such darkness. It is not a valley without hope of finding a way out. While the negative thoughts of despair, discouragement, and thoughts of giving up do tempt me, they do not rule my thinking. They do not prevail!
Also, I find that in this valley, I am tempted with thoughts of self-condemnation. This judgmental attitude towards myself and others (especially those I have complaints against) keep my vision clouded. And yes, I am weary of the fight against feeling sad, disheartened, and discouraged.
So what’s the answer here?
Giving into these fiery darts will only plant me permanently in this desolate valley. I DO NOT DESIRE THAT! Nor does God!
Here’s a thought! Why not just accept this valley time? I ask myself, “Why on earth would I do that?” To which I believe God gave me this reply:
Isaiah 48:17, This is what the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy one of Israel says, I am Yahweh your God, who teaches you for your benefit who leads you in the way you should go.
If I cooperate with the LORD, and instead of asking Him to lift me out of this valley (because really, it’s unpleasant and I don’t like being here), then my time in this valley will produce benefits for me.
So! I should quite spinning my wheels trying to escape this valley I’m stuck in! Instead, I should turn my energies towards cooperating with God in order to learn the lessons He has for me here. Keeping in mind that it is for my benefit.
To Which I reply!
“Okay, not the answer I was striving for! My flesh would much rather You would just lift me out of this valley. Make things easier, you know! But I recognize those fiery darts for what they are. There’s only one way out. That’s Your way, not my way!”
Recently, in the midst of a joyous time of my life (externally), I have been plagued by an onslaught of negative thinking. Odd though it may be that I would be attacked like this when my days were filled with happy events, considering my bent I’m not surprised. For there was a time (starting in my mid twenties and intensifying as the years passed) when negative thinking and God’s Truths waged a battle royal and too often negative thinking won out.
Over the years this negative thinking on my part forged a stronghold that continuously threatened the spiritual renewal that had taken place in the early years of my adulthood. Afterwords as life began to happen, I struggled with maintaining a consistency in my bible study and prayer life. Predictably, the spiritual renewal that was burning within me instead of increasing in strength began to dwindle, leaving me vulnerable to negative thinking. Thus bit by bit, negative thoughts laid the groundwork for a stronghold that could have ruined my life had not I cried out to God for His rescue. Psalm 18:6 God indeed rescued me and enabled me to survive those dark days, but it was only since learning about the enemy’s tactics in the use of fiery darts that I began to make sense out of the whole mess.
This was the stronghold that God addressed when He began exposing the enemy’s tactics that had held me captive for too many years. As dominant as this stronghold was in my life, I now realize I must be diligent in my prayers and bible study (nothing else can substitute). I know my vulnerability and to the degree I stay diligent in these two disciplines, the power this stronghold has over me can be overthrown.
So in the midst of this recent attempted attack by the enemy, God faithfully guided me towards the following words from Jesus Calling:
Although My Presence is a guaranteed promise, that does not necessarily change your feelings… It is through awareness of My Presence that Peace displaces negative feelings.
As I read the above words, it clarified for me how it was that I could harbor such internal negative feelings while in the happy throws of a long awaited family celebration. As long as I was more focused on negative thoughts, my negative feelings would not be displaced, no matter what was going on externally.
So when the enemy tempts me with fiery dart thinking, I have learned that to know Peace I must make a deliberate choice to turn my focus toward God and His presence. It’s been my experience that’s the only sure way to break free of the enemy’s stronghold. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
First we entertain a thought. That thought will cause certain related feelings. Thus, behavior is based on our thoughts and feelings. p.16, FD
Several years ago and over a two year period of time, I suffered from a serious bout of depression. I remember battling suicidal thoughts and deep sadness to the point that my prayers became a desperate cry for God to hold on to me because I had no strength left to hold on to Him. I survived that dark time in my life but that’s about it. It wouldn’t be until several years later as God initiated my training in fiery dart recognition that I would be able to recognize the bondage that defined my existence during those two years.
Here’s what happened to me and I see this same overused but deadly effective tactic of Satan’s still being used today!
Refer to the diagram above. In my case I was a people pleaser. If I felt significant people in my life approved of me, then life was good and I felt good about myself. On the other hand, if there was strife or conflict in these relationships life was not good and I became convinced I had little reason to feel good about myself. Self approval you see was strongly connected to what others thought of me. (Or what I thought they thought!)
Do you see the pattern?
First this negative thought (fiery dart remember) would plant itself into my head producing some very negative feelings or emotions. Never mind that these negative thoughts had no basis in Truth! The poison of these fiery darts seeped into my thinking producing destructive attitudes and behavior.
The purpose of these fiery darts, you see, was to diminish any sense of self worth that I might still possess. I was an easy target because it was way too important for me to have the good opinion of those significant people in my life. As relationships with these people deteriorated, so did my self worth.
I wonder if I have touched a nerve?
Are you sad seemingly all the time? Are you convinced you don’t measure up and that significant persons in your life don’t approve of you? Does the dangerous thought that your family would be better off without you ever sneak into your mind? Please hold on, for I have glorious news for you in my next post. In the meantime hold on to the following verse,
For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Yesterday, a young lady sang a song (who has by the way a voice gifted by God. a natural innocently beautiful voice) during our morning worship service entitled:
Grace will always be greater than sin!
This special music performed by this young lady (who was masterfully accompanied by our choir) reminded us that grace always wins out over sin. So does Romans 5:20,
Romans 5:20, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
But I’m sure you have noticed a discrepancy in the title of my post and the title of the song! Well, this is a blog that deals with fiery darts so hang in there with me while I elucidate! (Okay, I could have said ‘explain’ but where’s the fun in that!)
As my young friend sang her heart out, my mind began pondering the duel between grace and sin in my own life. My mind turns against me often in self-condemning thoughts (or should I say fiery darts!) And even though I believe that Grace is always greater than sin, sometimes my mind’s thoughts reveal the opposite–that sin is greater than grace! That’s the fault of my focus.
Now let me clarify something here.
Yes, I wrestle with self-condemning thoughts BUT they do not rule me because I do not focus on them. A deliberate effort has to be made to focus on Christ instead. Since my Heavenly Father unveiled the Enemy’s plan of attack in the use of fiery darts, I’ve grown in my skill to focus on Christ.
Once Satan’s intentions were exposed and the tactics he was so skillfully using to produce such defeat in my life were revealed, then my instruction on how to counter these attacks began in earnest. p.3, Fiery Darts: Satan’s Weapon of Choice.
You see, my dear readers, those negative thoughts, fiery darts, or self-condemning thoughts use to send me spiraling downward. And excerpt from p. 15 of my book illustrates this.
What we think determines how we feel and what we feel influences our actions. A negative action is often the result of negative thinking. Understandably, if Satan can negatively influence our thinking then temptations to act negatively will be harder for us to resist.
My plan is to apply what I have recently learned (yep, you keep learning as long as you are alive, right?) from the verse Philippines 4:8:
Finally, brothers and sisters whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such thing.
Since negative thoughts pop into my mind so speedily (I mean they are usually the first to arrive), I have learned that the most practical means of slamming the door in their faces is to create an uncomfortable greeting for them the moment they arrive. That’s where Philippines 4:8 comes in. For I am learning that if I fill my head with the kind of thoughts this verse refers to, then the self-condemning thoughts don’t really want to hang around.
Philippines 4:8 leads to the next step in fighting fiery darts which is taken from p. 79 in my book.
Here are five simple steps to keep in mind when you are faced with a fiery dart:
1. Examine the negative thought.
2. Ask yourself this question: What is the purpose of this thought?
3. Acknowledge it as a fiery dart, if the purpose is to pull you down in any way. Then, personalize this prayer based on Isaiah 54:17, “May this weapon formed against me not prevail.” (Keep in mind that conviction brings restoration, a fiery dart brings condemnation.)
4. Search your concordance for a Scripture that addresses that issue, after determining the TRUTH you need to combat the lie of the fiery dart.
5. Call upon the TRUTH of the Scripture from Step 4, every time you are tempted with the fiery dart.
Now I’ve come full circle.
Focusing on the fiery darts, (self-condemning or negative thoughts) more than you do on on the TRUTHS that contradict those thoughts is a sin and will result in stealing your joy. (We are thinking thoughts that attribute more power to sin than grace; so be careful here.)
Focusing on God’s TRUTHS instead will fill your mind with hopeful thoughts. Knowing that His grace is always sufficient and is always greater than our sins, pulls us out of the mire those fiery darts have condemned us to, and the light of God’s grace fills us with hope.
Here’s the wrap up!
Some happy thoughts that I’m focusing on at present (Philip. 4:8, remember) is that God does not ignore my needs,
Philip. 4:19, He supplies ALL of them
and that He doesn’t condemn me
Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:28, AND that all things work together for my good,
AND (drum roll…….)
His Grace is ALWAYS greater than sin!