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3 Steps to Stop the Downward Spiral of Negative Thinking

3 Steps to Stop the Downward Spiral of Negative Thinking

The first winter we lived in our current house, we discovered a local favorite: the sledding hill.

As Oklahomans, we never know if we will be buried by a blizzard, struck by an ice storm, or see not a drop of winter precipitation. So when we have a good snow, it is absolutely essential that we take advantage of one of God’s most wonderful creations.

We were blessed to have the perfect snow the first winter we were here. We pulled out our winter best, bundled up tightly, and grabbed the sleds.

But we had no idea what kind of adventure we were chasing.

As we walked to the top of the hill, it appeared to be more of a mountain. It was a far cry from the golf course driving range we had always sledded on!

The hill was steep and seemed never-ending. There was a sense of adventure mixing with a healthy dose of fear as we placed the sled on the snow at the top. The two boys climbed on, and down they went. Laughter mixed with screaming. They conquered their fears…and the hill!

Next it was my daughter’s turn. She climbed on her sledding disc, and down she went.

But her trip down the hill was not filled with glee.

As she started down the hill, she began to spin. Eventually, the disc toppled and sent my daughter tumbling the rest of the way down the hill. Instead of laughter, we were met with tears. Instead of joy, we were met with pain.

What was the difference? The boys had been on a sled with a rudder. My daughter was on a disc with no rudder. As inexperienced sledders, we didn’t realize the hill was too steep and too long to travel without a rudder. I’m not sure my daughter has ever fully recovered from her trip down the sledding hill.

In many ways, I have found myself on a similarly precarious trip downhill recently. It’s not been a physical trip, but instead an emotional journey.

I’m facing some difficult and painful circumstances. My heart aches as I try to understand what’s being thrown at me.

And I find myself frequently spiraling downward in my thoughts. Playing the game of what ifs. Planning responses to possible situations. Trying to anticipate the next move in hopes I can stay one step ahead.

The more my mind plays these games, the more my emotions tend to spiral right along with my mind. My peace vanishes. Depression sets in. I withdraw from people.

Fear overtakes my faith.

I am careening precariously without a rudder to keep me upright and on the straight path.

This weekend, I spent some time alone with God as the sadness again overtook me, as my mind spiraled and threatened to topple me.

And God said, “The Lordhimself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” -Exodus 14:14

Yes, He will fight for me. There is no reason for my downward spiral; instead, I must simply stay calm. Wait for Him. Be quiet.

When our lives are spiraling downward, how do we stay calm and let God fight for us? What is the small rudder that keeps our sleds upright and prevents us from spiraling out of control? I have found several keys in scripture.

Change the way you think. I have allowed my mind to go in directions that are not right for God’s holy people. I have chosen to think in worldly ways rather than godly ways. I have allowed the enemy to step in and steal my thoughts.

God reminded me that as His chosen child, it is my responsibility to be transformed by changing the way I think. It is my responsibility to take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

How do I take my thoughts captive? When I catch my thoughts spiraling downward into negative thinking, I am actively choosing to replace those thoughts with scripture. I am reminding myself that God fights for me and I only need to be still and quiet before Him. And I am finding that as I change my way of thinking, my depression lessens and I return to the joy-filled life.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ->Romans 12:2

Fix my thoughts. Even as I change the way I think, it can’t take place outside regular time in the Word of God. I must make sure I have steady diet of scripture to keep my mind focused.

I try to start my day with a Bible study. I spend a fair amount of time in my car, and I try to listen to sermons or scripture. When I’m at my house, I keep praise music playing around the clock. I find that if I am constantly bathing my mind in the things of God, my thinking automatically tends to be more in line with His word.

And, as He promises, I experience His perfect peace instead of the downward spiral that threatens to overtake me.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! ->Isaiah 26:3

Pray. It should go without saying that prayer is a huge key in preventing (or stopping) the downward spiral. But how many of us as Christians really place the necessary time and emphasis on prayer to experience the benefits?

Several years ago, I was facing a difficult situation. My heart was broken, and I ran to God. I had just read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and I committed to doing a literal prayer walk around our home for as long as it took.

For several months, I walked around my house and prayed a hedge of protection around my family. I begged God to step in and change our circumstances. I asked Him to be in control. My circumstances didn’t change immediately, but what I found was far greater: I experienced a peace with the situation as I released it to God and let Him fight the battle. Through a series of experiences, God did win the battle. And I was able to rest peacefully while he fought for me.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ->Philippians 4:6-7

I don’t know what circumstances might have you careening downwardly, threatening to spin out of control. But I do know that our God is bigger. And He is able. And He is waiting for you to call out to Him.  I do know that a downward spiral is certain evidence we are not trusting Him, that we don’t believe He is who He says He is. I do know God has a better way for you to live your life, that He wants to give you His perfect peace to guard your heart and mind as you travel this often difficult journey known as life.

Change the way you think. Keep your eyes on Him. Pray like you’ve never prayed before.

Remember He is trustworthy…forever and always.

Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three amazing kids. Her greatest desire is to use her darkest days—days marred by adultery and divorce—to encourage others to find the joy of a life restored by Jesus Christ.

Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization with a mission of bringing hope to lives broken by the pain of this world. Her first book, Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding Your Life After the Storms of Adultery and Divorce, will be released later this year.

In her spare time, Dena works as a Registered Nurse and is a regular contributor at Crosswalk.com. If you would like to contact Dena, please feel free to interact with her on her blog Dena Johnson Ministries or email her at Dena@denajohnson.com.

Publication date: July 25, 2016