How do we address harmful thoughts and voices in our lives?

I am praying right now for several people I love who are dealing with very negative and harmful influences in their lives. The first is a middle school boy who is being verbally assaulted and abused by a kid in school who keeps telling him that he should “kill himself” and is picking on him repeatedly. The other kid is a trans kid with a lot of other issues, and it seems like the school system does not know how to handle the situation without facing a possible lawsuit from the woke movement that cry out for “justice” for “people like us” even while they might be insisting what is unjust and unreasonable and hypocritical. I’m not getting political, because there is injustice and and hypocrisy on the other extreme as well. Then I have friends who are dealing with depression and anxiety who are battling, and who have or who are considering hurting themselves or others. Then I have friends who have faced traumatic circumstances and are facing the unknown, dealing with close personal loss, etc. I. all of these situations, there are thoughts and voices at play — both internal and external — that can be harmful, and that have to be dealt with.

Recognizing, filtering and battling the thoughts and voices that want to tear down instead of build up is not just a life long battle, not just a training ground for our heart and soul, but it is the place where faith grows the wonderful fruit that can be shared with others — our own testimony, our own character, and our own walk.

Doing it alone is treacherous. But even then it offers us the wonderful opportunity to turn to the one who is able and whose grace is sufficient to bring us back from the precipice.

And by being there for others, seeking how we might serve their needs — our own needs and those harmful thoughts and voices seem to gain less traction and less focus on our day.

When we feel isolated and attacked, our best open door escape from that prison is to seek how we might be able to participate with others who are also hurting in their own ways. Whether this is in small groups, in programs like Celebrate Recovery, in charitable organizations, in churches, in corporate worship, in community service projects, or other things that bring us together in selfless acts, that is the sweet prescription — and the underlying love and sacrifice is the cure — the very Holy Spirit of God.

It can seem so counter intuitive to “get up” and “get active” and “serve others” when so much is screaming to us to “hide” and “run” and “shut down”. Having people near me that understand that at times I do need alone time to cope with anxiety and social awkwardness and fatigue — but who also know when and how to use “my love languages” to pour into me in a way that I best receive when my cup is low — really helps. We need others to recharge us, and we need connections to those who naturally pour out in the ways that best fill us up. Community and support will turn what was once debilitating into a wealth of personal experience and wisdom that we can share to help others who are going through the same things.

What doesn’t kill you does hurt a lot, but it makes you stronger — not so you can be seen as strong, but so that you can be a good friend, even be Christ, to those in need around you.

So take pleasure in the trials and the sufferings, as you are sharing with Christ in those “on this side”, you will share with Him as heirs in all the other “on that other side”. Amen!

2‭-‬4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 5‭-‬8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. 9‭-‬11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. 12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. 13‭-‬15 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. 16‭-‬18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. 19‭-‬21 Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. 22‭-‬24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. 25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. 26‭-‬27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
James 1:2‭-‬27 MSG

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I have dealt with depression in my life.  It is in depression that I feel like it is me against the world – or probably more accurately,  I feel like the world is against me. It used to affect my ability to hold down a job or live a “normal” life. But now I realize that my depression stemmed from vanity and self, from separating myself from others and from God’s love and mercy and forgiveness – and it was aggravated further by my self medicating with the escapes of alcohol,  drugs, sex, etc.

Depression is a twisting of the truth by that spiritual enemy. And during the dark wandering years of my twenties, depression led to all kinds of things, including attempted suicide, drugs,  and criminal activity. But the Lord had work in store for me,  and he is now using even the dark world that my youth took me into,  and He is turning all of that to a good purpose.

You see, now I get to go each week and spend time with young men in jail and share the gospel with them and study together with them, and at times provide personal counselling. And even though my life is quite removed from their world at this season of my life,  we have walked similar paths. Before, I was walking purely for self,  now I am working for God’s purpose,  for His Kingdom work to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Now,  I’m looking for more workers,  wherever they can be found – in the workplace, on the Internet, in the streets, in the churches, in the jail cells, in the hospitals, in the bars,  restaurants,  or wherever I go. And I just don’t have time to stay depressed anymore,  there is too much work at hand.

These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.
Luke 10:2 NLT

The fields are everywhere we walk,  friends. And our job is not to burn down the fields trying to set fire to the weeds, it is to share the Love of Christ with others,  so that we will find unity with other believers in truth,  and so that we will walk together in repentance holding each other accountable to this goal of Christ’s righteousness lived out as a testimony of His touch upon our lives.

It isn’t so that I can LOOK humble or righteous to others in order to be recognized or honored – but so that they can see Christ in me and so that they can see His righteousness IS a part of me and that He deserves the honor and praise and glory. Because the bright shining appearance of “perfection” doesn’t draw sinners to the light, it can actually push others away when they feel that they are “not worthy” of coming into our fellowship. But the verbal testimony of our own imperfections, and how Christ has and is touching our lives – that coupled with the clear and evident testimony of our actions demonstrating a life changed and dedicated to working for the Lord – that is the full testimony of a humble and faithful servant that can do great c work for the Lord.

And it only takes two things –
1) acknowledging that you fall short of the glory of God and that you needed Jesus Christ as your Savior, as your example of the truth,  the life, and the way, to bring you into humble fellowship with God’s will and purpose for your life today
2) dedicating yourself to the purpose of walking it out,  following in His footsteps,  sharing the truth,  the life,  and the way with others in a born again,  renewed life serving as a faithful citizen of God’s Kingdom of workers/servants/witnesses

But let’s not stop there in case we might still fall into an us against the world mentality. Let’s pray the prayer of a righteous man,  of a repentant person who is resisting evil, avoiding temptation,  and not participating in sin. Let’s pray the prayer of a humble Child of God who needs His Father’s guidance and power and authority and assistance to see the day’s tasks accomplished. And let’s use this prayer to ask for more workers,  more laborers in the Lord’s work today – because we aren’t meant to go at this life alone.

And the very workers we are praying for are the very citizens of the Kingdom that we need to realize to find unity. And they are the very souls that we need around us to experience the beauty of fellowship. So let’s ask the Lord to rain down laborers upon us within this earthly life, drawing more near with his soft,  still call to the work at hand – and let’s realize that we are the ones sent to deliver His message and His loving touch.

I send you forth as sheep amongst the wolves, you workers of God,  you Children of the one true God,  you saints in the royal priesthood of our Lord – make disciples of the nations,  baptize in His name,  and bring honor and glory to His name by the love and service and example that your life offers as a living testimony today.

Live like Christ if you love my Christ.

If you do not yet Love my Christ,  I pray you will find Him through conviction and surrender,  because the workers are few and the harvest is great.

If you do not yet serve my Christ daily,  I pray that you examine yourself and that you will find Him through conviction and surrender,  because the workers are few and the harvest is great.

Your work is needed today,  friends. There are lost. There are hurting. There are hungry. There are needy. There is oppression. There is injustice. Be the body of Christ that fills the need and that resists the enemy and that lives and serves your fellow man.

Don’t just LOOK like a Christian,
Don’t just SOUND like a Christian,
BE like Christ.