I was talking with some friends about how to control our thinking the other day. There are so many good Biblical Counseling articles online about this, and I don’t presume to try to tell you anything new here. But, as my friends and I were talking, I began to examine how I have learned to keep my mind from going to dark places. I’m not always successful at this, and I do have my bad days. But for the most part, I am usually able to avoid the vortex that leads to depression
I like analogies and word pictures a lot. When I am struggling, if someone can give me a visual of the solution, it is much easier for me to make sense of their wisdom. I think this is why Jesus used so many parables and stories. Many of His were agricultural in reference, because most of his listeners were farmers. The world I live in is quite different, but there are still simple analogies that are helpful to me, and today I want to share one of those with you.
Have you ever watched a bathtub as it drains? At first, you can’t really see the vortex near the drain, but as the water gets lower, it is visible. If you drop a speck of anything into it, you can watch it swirl around the drain. It doesn't go directly in at first, but stays on the outer rim of the circling water. As it gets closer to the drain, though, it begins to spin faster, and soon disappears. Now, imagine that the speck is your dark thought, and the drain is depression.
You begin to entertain a thought that makes you sad. I’ll use an example from my own life: I recently saw a video of myself before my surgeries. I was playing with a friend’s children at the park, running, climbing, and basically doing whatever I wanted to. My first response to this was to feel sad that I can no longer do those things. This is the speck, and depression waits at the other end of the tub. The best thing for me to do right now is to pray, and ask the Lord to comfort me and help me to remember that He is good and sovereign, and think on the many good things that have come about as a result of this providential event.
But let’s say I choose not to do that. I choose to continue drifting closer to the drain, feeding my sadness by nurturing angry, resentful thoughts about all that I've lost. I begin to ruminate on all the things I used to do that I can’t do any more. The best thing for me to do now is to remember the Word of God and His promises. He is a high priest who understands my weakness (Heb. 4:15). He loves me, I love Him, and He has a plan to bring good from this (Rom 8:28-29). God can provide a way out of this sadness (1 Cor 10:13).
But I choose not to do that. Instead, I continue thinking on how sad it is that I can’t play with those kids any more. I begin to worry about what will happen when my own grandchildren come along. If I’m this bad now, how will I be when that times come? And then, I’m sad and anxious about that. The best thing for me to do is pray, remembering the Scriptures that tell me I don’t have to worry or be anxious. Philippians 4:6-8 comes to mind, as does Matthew 6:33.
But I quickly shove those Scriptures aside so that I can entertain my own thoughts that I have now made bigger than God’s Word. As the video ends, I am left feeling very sad. The speck has moved from the far end of the tub, into the vortex, and is now circling the drain. The best thing for me to do is to call an accountability partner and tell her what’s going on, so that she can help me with my thinking. She knows me well, and has been in this “tub” with me many times. She knows all the Scripture I need, and will pray with me.
But I choose not to do that. Now, all I want to do is escape. I’m able to hold up my façade until I get home, and I turn on the TV and flop down in front of it. My Bible is on the table beside me, but it is no longer appealing. Instead, I start channel flipping, watching scenes from old sitcoms through tears of hopelessness.
Do you see how that happened? Did you notice what each step had in common? A choice. At each point on the ride from the shallow end of the tub to the drain, I made a choice. I chose to think on my problem instead of thinking on Christ. I chose to allow worry, fear and anxiety to overtake the peace God has promised me. And I chose escape over fellowship.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, remember this analogy the next time you find yourself entertaining thoughts that make you sad or worried. Will you continue circling the drain until you are pulled down into the vortex of depression, or will you choose to take that speck captive before it’s too late? God has shown us, in no uncertain terms, that we have a choice (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 10:5). He is able to rescue us from the vortex of depression. His Word can scoop us out, even at the last minute. But we must be willing to be rescued! Hope is a decision. More on this tomorrow.