In continuing to share some of the things the Lord has been teaching me about dealing with anxiety and depression, I'd like to discuss the topic of balance, particularly in regards to Biblical methods versus New Age methods. As I've studied the issue over the past few weeks, one thing has become apparent--there is no shortage of advice out there, but how much of it is actually Bible-based? That's where things became a bit fuzzy.
Unfortunately, our world is full of warped philosophies that are part truth and part lie. They sound good on the surface, but if you break it down, you'll discover that it's not Scriptural. I'm referring to health and wealth teaching and many of the other New Age practices that the success gurus are spouting. They lead people to believe that they can do anything or have anything if they'll only believe it hard enough. They promote the law of attraction and the principle of karma. Their claim is that we all control our own destinies, and if we want to get anywhere in life, we need to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and make it happen. And the real trouble is that they'll often use Scripture (which they have perverted) to back up their claims.
I'm grounded enough in the Bible to see through this web of deception and not fall victim to these ploys, but here's where I had trouble. I was so leery of this teaching and so adamant to not get caught up in it that I swung too far the other way and dismissed the Bible's teachings about some of the very tactics recommended by these false teachers. Take, for example, affirmations. An affirmation, by definition, is a statement or proclamation of something that is true. What could be wrong with that, right?
The issue is that these prosperity teachers instruct us to use affirmations to change our destinies, but instead of speaking truth, we are supposed to speak what we want to be true. The catchy phrase is "speak what you seek." So, if you want to be a millionaire, you should consistently use affirmations like, "I have more money than I know what to do with," "Everything I touch turns to gold," or "I will never want for anything in my life." The same principle applies to losing weight or getting healthy. Some traditional affirmations in this category are "I am in the best shape of my life," "I am healthy and trim," and "Food is no longer a temptation to me."
On the surface, this doesn't sound too bad, but as I said earlier, if you dig down, you'll see the root of the problem. For starters, none of those statements is true. Just because we want something to be true doesn't mean it is. I guess this is why these types of affirmations have never really enticed me because it doesn't matter how many times I say I'm healthy and wealthy, I know it isn't true. I only make myself a liar. Secondly, it's all focused on self and selfish desires. Where is God's will in all of this? It's all about me and what I want. And we know that's not what the Bible teaches.
So, with those accusations against affirmations, I considered them dangerous and tried to move on. But as the Lord worked on my heart, I realized that true affirmations are a good thing and can be used to help combat anxiety and depression, not to mention a host of other deadly darts from the devil. Furthermore, he opened my eyes to many of the Bible "greats" who used affirmations--particularly David and Paul--to encourage themselves in the Lord. What is a true affirmation? It is a statement or proclamation of something that is true, and in our situation, that comes directly from God's Word. Instead of proclaiming what we want, real affirmations state what God has said. And to use these affirmations as a weapon, I have found that it works best to make it personal. Don't just mindlessly quote a verse. Claim it! Put yourself into it, knowing that if God said it (and if it's in the Bible, He did), then it's true and can be believed. Over the course of a few days, I jotted down several pages of these, but I'll just share with you a few to give you an idea of how affirmations can be used to counter the attacks of Satan and of our own fleshly nature, just like Jesus did during his forty days in the wilderness.
The Lord has planned my future, and I trust that it will all play out for my good and His glory. - Jeremiah 29:11
I declare myself to be free because Jesus Himself set me free. - John 8:36
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13
I will not lack any good thing. - Psalm 34:8
My faith makes me whole in spirit, soul and body. - Mark 5:34
My body is a living and holy sacrifice unto the Lord. - Romans 12:1
I will be kind and do good to others. - I Thessalonians 5:15
I forgive those who hurt me because God forgives me. - Matthew 6:14-15
I honor God by taking care of my body which is His temple. - I Corinthians 6:19-20
There is nothing I will face today that God will not provide a way of escape. - I Corinthians 10:13
God is doing a good work in and through me. - Philippians 2:12-13
It may sound simple, but let me tell you, it is effective. Having these affirmations ready and speaking them when I feel the vicious attacks on my soul has kept me from sinking into despair when things don't work out the way I wish. I have found myself much more focused on God as my strength and refuge and less focused on my circumstances. These statements have helped me resist temptations and cravings and have even kept my attitude much more positive.
In short, affirmations do work, and there's nothing wrong with them as long as they are founded in and based on Scripture. I encourage you to give it a try. When the attacks come, instead of complaining or allowing yourself to be swayed by your circumstances or emotions, try speaking aloud some affirming statements from the Word of God. Make it personal. Apply it to your life right now. Claim God's promises. Hold fast to His truth. Something amazing happens when we turn our eyes off what we want and instead focus on the truth that God has given us. Try it and see, but remember, this is not a timid exercise. Speak it aloud and be bold about it. It will have little effect if you don't believe what you're saying. But if you do believe, let everyone know it, including the devil. Remember, he can't read your mind, so he won't know that you're quoting Scripture, but if you speak it, he'll know, and pretty soon, he'll flee. Put it to the test, and be sure to let me know the results.
Lord willing, tomorrow we'll discuss another topic of finding the balance between good practices that have been twisted to promote self rather than God.