I came to a conclusion in the last few years about how best to handle feelings of melancholy and hopelessness and how to prevent them from taking us into a deeper downward spiral of despair and depression. (I haven’t seen this thought written on by any other Christian writer, it’s something God pressed upon my mind.) The conclusion is that downward emotional spirals start with temptation.
Yes, in many cases we are more vulnerable to emotional spirals due to hormonal changes, during periods of grief, or when dealing with pain or illness. Some people do have chemical imbalances in their brains that sometimes need boosting with supplements or even doctor prescribed medications. Therefore, being vigilant against temptation into despair is even more crucial in those situations.
The Battle Plan
If we are willing to embrace this idea that anxiety and despair starts with temptation from the evil one, we can more readily be on guard and fight it. Each time he takes up his arrow and points it toward us, we can take up our shield of protection.
A Look at this Type of Temptation into Despair
We all know we are to pray, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” What temptation do you think of when you say that prayer?
I have sometimes thought of it as being tempted to get angry, to hurt someone, to cheat or steal something, sexual sin, or to take some other wrong action. Defining temptation this way I tend to put a lot of the onus on myself and my actions. If I do these things, it makes sense I’d blame myself. Then a cycle of self-loathing would begin. But I urge us to put the blame where it needs to be—on the one who put the idea in our head and convinced us to act on it.
Satan’s Modus Operandi
I might picture temptation as walking into a bakeshop, seeing a chocolate brownie with inch-high frosting, and following an unbelievable force (temptation) to buy it and devour it. When I pray for God to not lead me into temptation, in that scenario I suppose I’d be praying that he would keep me from walking into the bakery in the first place.
But the Bible explains Satan’s modus operandi is to use tools that are primarily mental, as outlined in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
We are warned many times to take our thoughts captive. We are warned to test the spirits. We are warned to obey God. We are told to weigh our thoughts to ensure they are from God.
Satan’s modus operandi is to confuse people and get them to live in fear and believe lies. He threatens to steal our trust in God by getting us to doubt God’s involvement in our life. He makes us believe God’s not listening. He causes us to believe things won’t work out for us.
Satan loves us to trust in man or our own thinking to get us out of situations instead of patiently relying on God. Satan would love nothing better than for us to rush ahead with poor decisions or to turn our back on God.
The Bible explains the devil comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). He seeks those he may devour, and in the case of my brownie eating, Satan could actually get me to devour that which is unhealthy for me due to its effect on my already temperamental blood sugar and weight issues. I may have taken the steps toward the brownie, but the idea started in my thoughts.
Lies of Satan
It makes sense that those who choose to end their lives have become entrapped in an endless circle of negative and depressed thinking. It makes sense those caught in depression or a rut, are stuck in the quagmire of Satan’s well-laid mud trap.
Satan loves for people to blame themselves. They might say, “I brought this on myself,” or “I’m useless” or “there’s nothing for me to live for.” Yada yada. But they would be more accurate to say, “Satan brought this upon me by causing me to…” Or, “Satan is making me believe I’m useless because that is what he wants me to think so that I won’t live out God’s plan.” “Satan is making me believe there is nothing to live for. He is short-circuiting my ability to dream and hope.”
Ladies, I urge you to put the blame where it belongs. But I urge you even more to not just live defensively, but offensively.
In order to live defensively, when you begin to feel overwhelmingly lost, sad, melancholic, depressed or in despair and doubt, pray, “Lord, I’m being tempted to into…” (fill in the blank). Then trust God to stop the enemy for you—to fight for you.
Exodus 14:14 (NIV) says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
In Matthew 6, Jesus instructed his disciples to ask God, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” He told them to pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” or that which they would need to get through the day in his will. He suggested they ask him to deliver them from temptation and any evil that may threaten to arrive that day.
In order to live offensively, pray as demonstrated in the Lord’s Prayer. Start each day asking God to keep the temptations of negativity, doubt, and so forth from you.
I plan to write a follow-up post on this topic. In the meantime, put these tools into practice and let me know how they work for you.