How do you keep going?
Honestly, this article isn't written from the mountain top, looking down with the wise vision of 20/20.
I'm writing from within the trenches. There are times where the feelings can begin to overwhelm, pushing you to wonder why it matters, what it's worth, or why keep going. Points exist on the journey within which you sit in the mud on the side of the road, wondering whether to bother standing back up.
The emotions boil through you, the reminders come to the surface, and that voice you thought went away comes roaring back, gloating, “I told you so. You can't make it. This will never get better.”
Times exist in life which will test your perseverance and your strength, courage and faith. Those times can be major, or they can be the soft little cuts that continue to pop up from your past.
In fact, I'd argue the past is vastly more dangerous than anything else, because the past has the ability to drag us down and out without ever doing much work.
Now that I've gotten all poetic, let's go back and clear things up. Times exist when you recognize yourself in an environment or situation which reminds you of the deeper things that haunt you. Sometimes, it comes in the form of people. Other times, it's the result of events. Plenty of times, it's just the feeling of being out of control. These things act upon us, and we hit the point of wondering whether it's worth it to keep going, or to just throw in the towel.
At points in my life, my worst fears have been realized, or the things which I pray against still come to fruition. It gets to be a frustrating, difficult journey in life, when you watch things, you thought you moved past eat away at you. Those things which you thought you had conquered come back to fight your psyche, confidence and heart.
How do we handle these events and times? If I'm going to be vulnerable, I'll admit: this is one of those moments where I have to speak some direction and encouragement to myself. I debate whether to write this article or not. I could easily slap together some surface level story covering the twitter files, or discussing the latest Biden administration event. I could do a simple teaching on the founding fathers or the Constitution, but that dang blinking bar on a blank page kept me from gathering any heart to press forward with something I had no interest in pursuing.
Honestly, I have no interest in pursuing this either, but my utter hope is that it in some way blesses someone going through something similar. My hope and prayer is that people could read this, say, “I know exactly how that feels,” and say, “If he can do this, so can I.”
My issue stems from the depths of things I've battled for a long time. The ability of events and people to poke the vulnerable, soft spots of scar tissue in my heart can drag me pretty low, pretty quick. I can pump myself up in hopes that I'll overcome, but then the voice says, “You can't overcome this. There's that feeling again, and you know it's going to overwhelm you.”
I'm in that dangerous middle spot right now, recognizing that I have to push forward, but not quite sure I have the resolve and the motivation to do so. The small waves of depression are signaling that the tide is threatening to wash away the shore, and I've got to act fast to prevent a total wash-out. If you've ever dealt with depression, you probably understand what I'm talking about. There are the pre-bout waves that signal an issue is at hand, and the slow waves roll up, pulling you by degrees deeper.
Often times, this is a result of a trigger. Whether the trigger is something said, something you did (or failed to do) or an event that happens to you: the trigger causes a flow of thoughts that begin to eat away at whatever mood and confidence you were carrying for the time.
As things deteriorate, the voice within becomes more and more assertive, and holds more confidence in its determination that you hold no worth. The voice is relentless, vicious and downright wicked in its opinion of you. If you allow it to continue on its monologue, it will convince you of not only how worthless you are, but how utterly evil and awful you are, because you're worthless.
I don't want to give too much more description of the process, because it's easy for my own psyche to walk down the path while I'm putting my mindset there. Something similar happened to CS Lewis, when writing The Screwtape Letters. He lamented that he came out of writing those extremely depressed and struggling with the right thoughts. Putting yourself into the mind of evil can have drastic consequences. I don't wish to stroll about that evil street any more than I have to.
Instead, I'd rather explore getting out of the state of mind. For me, the voice is very dangerous, because it can come through the meaning of other people's words, or lack of words. I fight the thoughts, and battle the hardships. That battle begins with the words the voice says.
We tell ourselves the voice must be correct, and often times, we allow the voice to speak to us constantly, becoming passive listeners that forget we are allowed to respond, tell the voice to be silent, and to speak to ourselves a more positive position of reality. After all, I've said it plenty of times: we cannot assume that negative is more real or accurate than positive. Those positions are angles on the truth, and both of them can hold an aspect of truth. However, which do we give more credence to? Plenty of us only listen to the negative, and decide any positive is just lying to ourselves with fantastical thoughts.
It's easy for me to navigate myself into a pretty air-tight case as to why the negative voice is so accurate. But a deeper, softer voice questions that conclusion: is the negative really the truth? Is that really what God would say to you?
Our first step is to silence the voice, or at least stop it in its tracks. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Much like a habit, you can build your response and weaken the negative voice by not feeding it. So, you reject the voice's space to speak. It'll be very subversive, popping up with tiny little comments. Those comments are baits on a hook. They're fishing for you to bite. When you bite, it hooks you and pulls you deeper, not upwards. It adds on the weight, pounding you with more and more as you become passive in your response. You accept your fate, drowning in the wicked nature of the voice.
When it first speaks, and it will after a trigger, your first step is to reject the authority of that voice. You reject it forcefully. This comes with capturing the word, and responding with the voice of Christ. He wants you to be His. The Father requests you to be His adopted child. That automatically places more value within you than you can possibly imagine. So you can ask yourself, would a good Father actually say this to His child? Would it be something you would say to someone else? If not, then there is a good chance that you need to silence the voice, and begin to tell yourself truth.
Having other people speak truth to you is valuable, however doing battle with your own voice holds a lot more significance. It's your battle, but the word of the Lord is powerful enough to fight the battle for you. This doesn't mean the process is easy. It can be a fight for a while to overcome the power of that voice of condemnation.
When you've stopped the initial onslaught of the voice, it may retreat a little, but it will regroup and try to find another way to exploit your weaknesses. For me, the voice pays attention not only to things said or done, but things not said or not done. The absence of, say, a word of affirmation from someone can quickly sour into, “They don't say anything because they think you're an absolute failure.”
This is probably more dangerous for me personally than an outright nasty word. The nasty word is at least spoken, and I can usually trace the origin of why someone would say that. So often, that origin has nothing to do with me. But when nothing is said, the imagination runs wild.
Our imaginations run wild and create whole story lines in our heads, and when somebody doesn't explicitly express how they feel, we decide we know exactly what they're thinking. We need to bring that imagination into check. We cannot assume what they're thinking, and we cannot solely rely on what we feel might be in their intentions.
A lot of people are very focused on themselves, not on what you're doing. But even if they are, we're wasting time and energy on something that hasn't come to fruition.
While it's difficult to center ourselves on something like that and pull ourselves back up into a normal state, we can at least recognize the pattern and process.
Once you've placed yourself back into command with the voice, then the next step is becoming active in how you approach your own inner voice. This means taking your inner voice, and speaking a positive truth to yourself. The journey is not complete, and you haven't made it this far without some type of getting by. You have more to yourself than the negative, and that shadowy side of yourself is interested only in slowing you down.
Take note of what you should be saying to yourself. Whether it's as simple as, “I'll make it,” or as truthful as, “The Lord has created me, will not forsake me, loves me, and He will finish what he's started;” either way, you can speak to yourself. Remember, condemnation is not the Lord. There is now no condemnation in Jesus Christ. He wouldn't go through everything He did just to let you slip back away. You're in His hands, and a stumble is not what He's concerned with. He's concerned with whether you get back up.
Our minds are extremely powerful things, and they can run away on us in a very speedy way. If we don't take time to control the thoughts and provide active measures in fighting, then we risk taking a damaging, destructive, downward spiral. The fight can be long, and it can take many times of stopping the voice in its tracks, but sooner or later, the enemy slinks away.
As someone who certainly must take his advice in the moment, I urge you: don't allow the voice space to speak. Speak a positive truth to yourself.