When Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash sang, “There ain’t no good in an evil-hearted woman…” they may have been singing about me.
On the outside, I’d like to think I look like I’m at peace with the world, just a nice lady minding my own business. Inside, I’m a complaining mess, critical of everything and everybody. I cannot pinpoint exactly where the problem began, but there was a breach in my armor that I didn’t quickly repair, and a tiny crack is all the enemy of my soul needs…a crack that possibly started with a little bit of gossip where I listened and perhaps added my two cents worth? Maybe that exaggeration I didn’t correct? It very well could have been that video I watched that I had no business watching…which led to me watching another one, and yet one more before I finally said, “I shouldn’t be watching this.” Or did that door open when I gave in to my old enemy, gluttony, with all its baggage?
I’m confessing that I did all of these things. Not that any of my actions were dastardly deeds, but it wasn’t long until I found my thought processes out of balance, my mood off-kilter, my happiness depleted, and my peace gone.
Gluttony, though! That’s a sneaky one because it has attachments. It is not the fact that we overeat during a meal, or even for a whole day, it’s the attitude that follows it. Even though Jesus is not condemning us, we do not hesitate to put ourselves under condemnation. We begin to wallow in guilt, forgetting that we don’t succeed in our own strength, but by His grace and with His help. When we make our lives about our weight, not only will we not have lasting weight loss, we’ll be in a constant struggle, riding an emotional roller coaster centered on food.
But this post isn’t about gluttony. It’s about what to do when you find yourself in a place you didn’t mean to go, where you don’t want to be, and how to get out of the ditch in which you’ve landed before you find yourself in the pit. You know you’re in a ditch when you find yourself complaining (even mentally) about everything. I know I’m there when I silently make snide remarks to people near me who are shopping, talking, working, just living their lives. Dark thoughts don’t stop with just what we think. Our actions will follow. Sometimes, unfortunately, I make those ugly comments out loud, not caring if I’m overheard! While traveling about town, the other drivers can’t hear me, but God does. Time spent complaining is a complete waste of precious time, and it makes a bad attitude a really bad attitude. And things can get quite serious if depression decides to follow, which it often does because the seeds are sown and the environment is inviting.
Carefully guard your thoughts,
because they are the source of true life. (CEV)
Above all lease, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)
When I find my thoughts dark and scattered, it’s important to take control right away. Sometimes, however, I want to continue a mental conversation with people I have already chosen to forgive, but there I am…letting them have space in my head, converstating those things I didn’t say but apparently still want to.
I made up the word “converstating.” It means having a one-sided conversation in my head, stating all those things my flesh wants to say, but my heart knows I shouldn’t. Don’t converstate! It is rooted in anger, which is rooted in unforgiveness, which has roots of bitterness. It’s not a good thing.
Unforgiveness, by the way, is sneakier than gluttony, and it will slap you around harder than a piece of cheesecake and all the guilt that tries to follow it.
Confession: As it so often is, just when you think you have it all figured out and what to do to make things better, something happens that piles on top of all you are already feeling. For me this morning, I realize I am even more angry at a person I love very much than I thought I was yesterday. And I have been converstating a lot this a.m. Taking my own advice that follows is like swallowing bad medicine, because I’d really rather hold on to my anger for a while longer than let it go. I have a very active brain. I am always thinking, usually with several thought processes going at once. When negativity (caused by things like anger) is allowed to get out of control, it scurries about in my head dominating every choice I make, including what I might say to others. Words are important and should always be chosen wisely.
Hard as it can be at times to stop and refocus, that’s the only choice we have other than choosing to continue in the darkness. And we do choose that path if we continue traveling it when we recognize we are there.
Take a deep breath, hold for 4 seconds, release slowly, repeat until you remember that you are in control, that you command the direction of your thoughts and not the darkness. Next, repent. This is not just “I’m sorry, Lord,” though it does include that. Repentance is choosing the right way over the wrong path (meaning I must let go of the anger and allow Him to work His will instead of mine). Admittedly, it is hard to change your ways/mind/path when you think the person who contributed to your dilemma should change a bit, as well.
A really good way I have found to gain control of the chaos in my head is to simply begin counting my blessings, out loud when I can. I start with the simple things, “I’m thankful for my eyeglasses that help me see clearly. I’m thankful for flowers, green trees, fall colors, and purple. Thank You, Lord, for my family, my home, my car, my job.” As I adopt this attitude of thanksgiving, I begin to think of the more important things, “Thank You, Lord, for the cross, for salvation, for still loving me when I am unloveable; for protection, for Your goodness, Your faithfulness in the face of my unfaithfulness and faithlessness. Thank You for being completely trustworthy. Thank You for patience and long-suffering, for I am aware that I am desperately needy in both of these areas.”
You get the picture. It’s hard to remain in a dark place with so much light infiltrating the darkness with thankfulness. Put your trust in Him no matter the turmoil around you over which you have no control, but He has all control. There is great comfort in that. He is our peace giver even when the storm is raging, and when we are at the lowest point in our lives.
This post is already over 1000 words, I had a few more things to say, but that can wait until another day. Just remember it only takes a few moments to refocus when you are in the midst of an inner struggle. I may be doing this more than one time today.
Just in case you haven’t heard the Waylon/Johnny song I referenced above: