Lies in Darkness, Life in Light



"I go in to get away from everyone...but when I finally come out everything's all jacked up. I've got a stack of calls to return, have to smooth things over. I've got to find a new job. You know, in the past 12 years I've held over 25 jobs, never more than for a few months.

It's like a cave, and I hate that I prefer the cave" he concludes and stares at his feet.

***

"My girls are everything to me. When the youngest was born I promised God that I would take care of her. I enjoy every minute with them and then these thoughts creep in. 

It's like a dark cloud I can't get away from" and the man begins to cry.

***

"Guys like him don't date women like me. They go for the girl who doesn't have kids, who isn't broken and a mess. I get the guy who expects me to go with him to the motel because he took me to see a movie.

I guess that's what I deserve," still wringing her hands, she sighs in exasperation. 

***
It's not supposed to be this way: dark, cold, and hopeless. Why can't I be happy? The nightmares, the fear of darkness. Daytime is not so bad, but at night I maybe sleep 2-3 hours. Never rested. It's all too familiar. PTSD, Depression, Anxiety. The diagnoses change but the underlying theme remains. A theme of darkness, shame and guilt. 

These definitions are worn like new names and identities in a world that seems to continue on as normal. What if, instead, it's not the person? What if it's bigger than that, a battles one has been brought into? What if, instead of fighting yourself in the self-defeating talk of what's wrong with me? or Why do I have to let everyone down? instead, we recognized the battle that rages around us. It's not you or me we are fighting. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. -Eph 6:12

The evil one prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1Peter5:8, 2 Cor 2:11). He knows his time is short. And he's already been defeated. The final outcome has been decided. 

We learn to pick up our weapons and fight the darkness by preparing our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13). This begins when we start to recognize the language of evil: lies. (John 8:44) Lies such as why did God make me harsh and cold? You see, my dear brother, God did not make you harsh and cold. That is not in His nature, that is not his desire or his language. The battle is raging and the evil one knows he's lost because Jesus conquered death when he rose again. Only now do I realize the significance of rising from the dead, the whole Easter thing. It's not a cool story. The evil one's ultimate goal is death. By Jesus raising again, it shows that He is not bound by death and that His people are not either. That's huge. Revelation gives account of the end when Christ will come and ultimately get rid of the evil one forever. 

However, until Christ returns, the evil one is taking down everyone he can win over. He's a furious loser. From the beginning with Adam and Eve, we see them deceived into the evil one's lie when he first tempts Eve. When she chose to believe the lie she stepped out of God's perfect holy light. And that's what the evil one is doing all the time...planting seeds of lies that grow and choke, leading to doubt, hatred, worry, and that darkness. In John 8 Jesus defines the evil one and what his sole purpose is: "a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

***

You're going to see a lot in this job she said as we got into her car. Five years had passed since that Thursday afternoon when Dr. R invited me into her office and now at this job I would begin to make connections to the initial advice she provided me. In the coming months the realities of a broken world would slap me in the face. Who knew suburban Georgia would be home to such poverty, brokenness, and darkness. Who knew mental health was was so rampant and that national initiatives would pass in efforts to address?

My coworker was right. I quickly began to see a lot. One thing was consistent: maladaptive thoughts, all-or-nothing thinking, distorted perceptions, low self-esteem...all of which boil down to a lie. I'm not worth it, there's no purpose for me, everything is terrible. The battle around me became so much more apparent. I began to struggle again, feeling pulled into the caves of others. Babies learn the language they hear the most...people become like those they are around the most. Those are facts of life. I felt like the language of lies began to shape my perceptions too. 

It took some FaceTiming with a friend who also joined in the day we sat with Dr. R to be reminded that we are children of light. I began to shift my personal approach to combating the battle, as well as my therapeutic approach for clients. We began to look at the lies, the language of darkness. And when we could more clearly see it as not something wrong with us, but recognizing the end goal of the lie - our destruction (broken relationships, violence, isolation, suicide, etc) - we were no longer fighting and hating ourselves. We took up our armor and fought for light, life, and love.

Light, life, and love are the language of God. We were made for that. That is who we are. That's what Jesus died for and what he guaranteed when he defeated death and rose again. 
***

Throughout childhood, and particularly as a freshman in college, I struggled with anxiety. It felt like a cloud that would envelop me, especially towards the end of day. Nighttime was the worst. I was particularly worried about something and one of my professors pulled me aside to check in and listened as I disclosed what was going on. Then she asked when I had been discussing that topic. I explained it was a late night conversation and she advised me to avoid dark discussions/movies/reading at night. That was a game changer for me. 

I began to consider the power of physical darkness in impacting my mood and carefully examined my thoughts in the light of day. In taking my thoughts captive, I was also beginning to hold them up against truth. In counseling we call this "fact checking", "thought stopping" and redirecting.  In scripture we find this principle specifically in Philippians 4 where Paul writes to a weary church to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. 

Truth became the quest. When a feeling hovered over me, I would break down what thoughts could be driving that feeling and began to refute the thoughts with truth. It was difficult. I started to be mindful of what I was watching, reading, and talking about. When I began to worry, I recognized the underlying lies and began to expose those lies with light. 

***

That was the beginning. At the time I didn't intend to be working in mental health. I was just an 18 year old who was afraid to fall asleep at night, felt weighed down by stress and expectations. Years have since passed, I started that first counseling job and began to see the overlap. Lies and darkness are everywhere and they are a trap that a roaring lion sets out in hopes we will not see. What he doesn't know if that even just small specks of light expel darkness. For me, when darkness crawls, I use the Word of God as my flashlight, speaking it directly. It also means being more assertive. When mistreated, I'm learning to gently confront someone to rectify the situation and communicate that I know I am worthy of love and belonging...rather than internalizing their comments or actions and letting it fester in darkness where I know it will only grow into a deeper cave. It means apologizing when I've wronged someone and doing my best to not do it again. The evil one delights in broken relationships. God has called us to be ministers of reconciliation. It means standing up for those who cannot defend themselves. It means being a good steward of my body, finances, and mind so that they are capable of benefitting others. For the evil one delights in selfishness, using the lies what do I need them for? And I've earned this, it's mine." God calls us to love one another, share with each other and meet each other's needs for our reward is in heaven, not in things that moths and rust destroy.

This is hard. And I fail over and over again. But I have a God who sympathizes with me in my weaknesses and is strong when I am not. He promises never to leave or forsake me. He's with me in this battle and promises the victory as he has already overcome.

I've only scratched the surface but wanted to get something out there as a starting point for discussion. Whoever is reading this, you are loved. 

***

The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans: 13:12The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5).






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