Wrestling with the Old Self
Once there was a man. He had freedom and the ability to choose to eat anything he desired. In this freedom, he was also given a boundary against one particular food. Yet, out of all his freedom and abundance, he chose the one fruit his Father told him not to eat. When his Father found out, since He was loving, He had to discipline His firstborn son. But this was no ordinary rebellion, this was the very first rebellion of mankind. So when Adam and Eve chose to eat the one fruit in the garden they were commanded not to, there was a curse put on the earth. This curse brought death to the once perfect and eternal human race. (Genesis 1-3) Our bodies are now flawed, and no matter how hard we work to keep them healthy, illness will come and eventually death.
There have been times in my journey under the sun where I’ve made myself right with Jesus, cast out the demons, and still struggle with strong negative emotions. At times like these, I recognize the depression or anxiety I experience comes from my cursed body and mind. But even when that’s the case, I don’t give up. Jesus says in Mark 8:34, “… ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” So I take up these emotions as my metaphorical cross for the day and continue to follow Jesus.
Truth be told, we all have imperfect days. It’s part of being human. If these negative emotions last longer than a week or so- with no specific trigger, I go back to Jesus and ask Him to show me the cause. But on a day to day basis, I have learned that there are days I must simply push through.
Over the years, I have discovered different activities which help me conquer these strong negative emotions. I like to call them “tools”. The following is a list of tools I have used over the years to help me cope with specifically depression and anxiety since those are the primary strong emotions that I wrestle with. I’m sure that some of these can help with other strong negative emotions as well like rage and fear.
Tools against depression. Here, I’m using depression as a general term to mean overwhelming feelings of apathy, low self-esteem, immense sadness or gloom, and suicidal thoughts:
- Write a list of 5-10 things you like about yourself.
- Choose to smile. At others as you pass them, and at yourself in the mirror.
- Do something you have enjoyed in the past, even if you don’t feel like it. Read a book, watch a show, bake, etc.
- Be creative! Write a silly story, draw, paint scribbles, play an instrument, sing, do a dance, cross-stitch, diamond art, sculpt. Anything you do will be “good” because it will have fulfilled its purpose.
Tools against anxiety. Anxiety can be considered as feeling overwhelmed, crippling fear, immense stress, and extreme worry:
- Stop, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Draw in the breath as long as possible, hold the breath as long as possible, and release it as slowly as possible.
- Try to focus on tensing all your muscles, holding, then releasing the tension.
- Rub your thumb on the inside of your opposite hand’s palm.
- Create a mental safe location- an imaginary place in your mind where you feel safe and imagine yourself there.
- Journal about what is bothering you.
These are tools that are effective against both and most likely against other strong emotions
- Make a list of what needs to be accomplished. Prioritize it. Accomplish one at a time.
- Purposefully find ten things that you’re thankful for– one for each finger.
- If negative thoughts are bothering you: write them down, cross them out, and then write the positive.
- Write down a verse from scripture and carry it with you to read it throughout the day.
- Get active. Do a workout.
- Go outside or go for a drive.
- Call your mom or others who are close to you to simply talk.
- Pick one room in your house and clean it.
I realize this list isn’t exhaustive. Start fighting by trying one of them. No matter what, please don’t give up. You are needed in this earth right now for the assignment Christ has called you to. Be encouraged by this verse from 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” There will be rewards once we get to the new earth on how we’ve faced the challenges that were presented to us. And know, you are not facing this alone. The Holy Spirit is with you to help.
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”