“I’m sure no one has ever told you this.”
“It’s so bad. You are going to think terrible things about me.”
“Everyone would hate me if they knew what I was thinking.”
“There is no one who loves me for me.”
I’ve heard each of these helpless words from those who sat on the couch in my office. They are raw, vulnerable, and heartbreaking confessions. The words leak hearts’ crippling loneliness and fears that they are destined to remain alone.
I’ve been there. Discouragement spiraled into depression. I multiplied my angst by entangling myself in sin. I didn’t think anyone would understand. I was too afraid to ask anyone for help. Lies compounded sin.
I remember sitting on the other side, watching my wife slide into depression and then sin. It was debilitating to watch her slip into darkness, and I didn’t know how to get help. I felt frozen. I felt as though there was a layer of me no one would ever know. These were all lies. But they were powerful lies.
Satan traffics in lies. He wants you to believe that God is not good, that you are alone, and that your shame can never be removed. Those are all profound deceptions. In 1 Peter 5:8, we are reminded to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Don’t be deceived, Peter says; you have to fight to stay out of the enemy’s jaws. There is one who intends to destroy you.
How can we fight the enemy’s lies? It’s not an accident that Peter’s admonition to be on guard against Satan comes after his encouragement for elders to shepherd the flock and then a call to humility.
Peter knows that a humble and unified flock is a powerful force against Satan’s wiles. Peter urges us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:6-7). Isn’t that peculiar advice? What is the connection between Satan’s attacks, humbling ourselves, and casting our anxieties on God? Peter puts his finger on our Achilles heel that Satan goes after: anxieties that drive us away from God and community and toward ourselves.
When we deal with our stress and our fear through our pride, Satan is at our heels.
When we experience anxiety it doesn’t feel like our biggest temptation is to be proud. We feel laid low. And yet, do you see how the statements I began with are subtle forms of pride? Take this one: “There is no one who loves me for me.” How does this person know this? Are they omniscient? And do you see the judgment the statement is laced with? The speaker stands over those who attempt to love him and declares their compassion wanting.
By believing that no one else is able to understand or help us in our struggles, we convey upon ourselves a Wonder Woman or Superman-like status. We respond to the overwhelm of anxieties with the foolish belief that if we just buckle down, or if we just try this one other thing, we will be able to solve our problem. They can’t possibly help.
When we draw in on ourselves in our anxieties and sin, we play right into the devil’s hand. The enemy’s tactics are simple: separate the struggling from the flock by enticing them to respond to their sin and anxiety on their own, with pride, and not Christ and community.
When I was a kid, I loved playing basketball. I had a knack for rebounding and wasn’t the worst shot, but my ball-handling skills were sorely lacking. I dreaded playing teams that would defend us with a full-court press. The coach would shift me to the backcourt to help us break the press. When the defense collapses on you, the universal temptation one has is to pick up your dribble (stop dribbling) and pull the ball into your stomach to protect it. It also happens to be the very worst thing you can do. Dribble out of the trap, or better yet, pass out of it! Just don’t pick up your dribble, drop your head, and clutch the ball for dear life.
So it is when anxiety strikes us. Our impulses are entirely wrong. We withdraw and isolate ourselves as we try to work our way out of our mess.
Are you anxious today? Stop. Pick your head up. First, look to God, and then look to the family of God.
The power of the belief that you are alone traps you in the shame cycle. It sucks you into the belief that we can get ourselves out of our messes (See the pride there? See the legalism?).
Break the cycle. Reach out to God. Message a trusted Christian friend. Contact a biblical counselor. I’m here. You can reach out to me. I’ll pray for you and would be happy to point you to some people that might be able to help. You are not alone. You are never alone