I’d been aware of it for a few years, but the reality of it only really hit last year. I knew it happened, but suddenly, I became very aware of the fact that as the evenings darkened in, so too did my general mood. I had remembered enough from previous years to have a sense of dread about the impending seasonal adjustment, but I think it was probably just last year when, for the first time, I realised I actually had a choice.
As my thoughts have turned to the darkening evenings and the shortening days, the awareness that the time when the ‘darkness’ will, most likely, start to close in again, I have been reminding myself that it doesn’t have to be this way.
During the mid term holidays last year, when there should have been delight at a break from routine and homework and the demands of ‘normal’ life, I found myself feeling an increasing sadness and anxiety, neither of which were justified in their existence and yet, there they were. As I tried to embrace the wonders of the season with the girls, a season which I love, I found I was struggling, and it was hard. Patience was limited, my ‘fuse’ was shorter than it should have been and I seemed to spend my days waiting for the ‘darkness’ to descend as night fell earlier with each passing day, wasting the day with worry about what was to come later that evening.
As each evening brought with it the dreaded gloom within me as night fell outside, I believed my plight was an inevitable one. Par for the course. Just something that happened that I had to deal with, like it or not. And, like it I most certainly did not. But, that was before I realised the immense power and influence our own minds can have on us.
During a particularly dark moment, I allowed negative thoughts not only to creep in, but to bore down deep and to change my entire view on a situation that had been on my mind. Reason and sense went out the window and, before long, I had turned a simple misunderstanding into a major issue and as I verbally spilled some of my thoughts, it was like I was watching someone else speak. Somehow, I seemed to realise that I was being completely unreasonable; that my reaction was totally unnecessary and most worryingly, incredibly destructive. As the tears fell and the power of my thoughts became blatantly clear to me, I realised that while our minds are a part of us, and while they can be a force for our good, they can, in the same way, turn us against ourselves.
I don’t believe that the ‘darkness’ was simply down to the seasonal change. Instead, I believe that that was only a part of it. It is my firm belief that in those moments of darkness, when the actual light around me faded, I allowed the power of darkness to take my mind captive and that is, undoubtedly, a dangerous road. As the reality of this sunk in, I was reminded that there is a solution: to cancel out darkness, we need light. And what better light to canel darkness, than the Light of the World.
In a previous post, I mentioned the book ‘Goliath Must Fall’ and I make no apology for mentioning it here again. As I have been reading it, the reality of the power of our mindset that struck me with such clarity last year, has been amplified. Giglio speaks of how we often allow negative thoughts to filter into our minds and how we can spend so much of our time allowing these to fester but, he brings a stark reminder and warning:
Jesus is, in fact, the Lion of Judah. His roar rules the nations. His voice shatters the Enemy. But, for a short while the spiritual fight wages on planet Earth, and Satan prowls and roars and looks for a crack or a crevice through which he can insert himself into our minds, and thus our situations. If you don’t stop him, then he’ll be sitting at your table … Don’t give the Enemy a seat at your table.
These words struck such a chord with me. All those times I had allowed the negative, destructive, dark thoughts to fill my mind, I had been doing just that: giving the Enemy a seat at my table. And, we know all too well, that once the seat has been taken and the feet are under the table, it’s a lot more difficult to empty that seat again. But, thankfully, it can be done and we don’t have to do it alone.
Sceientists, and others, have, in recent years, promoted the benefits of reaching upwards – looking above and beyond ourselves – as a means to help to lift our mood. This can seem like such a simple idea and yet, when we consider that reaching upwards and lifting our eyes heavenward is, actually, what we are called to do, I don’t suppose we should really be surprised that this response has such a positive outcome. In Romans 12 in The Message we read: ‘… fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.’
It is no easy task to brush away a negative a mood or to lift a heart that is weary and burdened, but God reminds us again and again that He wants us to turn to Him. That He wants to be the One to help us in our weakness and to give us the grace and strength we need for each and every day. In Philippians 4 verses 6 – 7 we read: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ We are not told to worry and fret and fear and let anxieties overpower us. Rather, we are clearly instructed to take ‘every situation’, whatever it may be, to God. In doing so, we give control of those situations where we feel powerless, competely over to Him and allow the God of Mark 10 or Luke 1, for whom ‘nothing is impossible’, to take control and do for us what we alone cannot do for ourselves.
A friend once told me of the benefits she had personally experienced from speaking words of scripture out loud into situations that were troubling her and this is advice that I have learned the benefits of too. His words of power help to cancel the darkness and bring light into our situations and our daily lives. Psalm 119 tells us: ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.’ The more light we can shine along the way, the less the darkness will be able to overshadow us. The first verse of the William Cowper hymn, ‘O for a Closer Walk’ puts it so well:
O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heav’nly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!
The more of His light we immesrse ourselves in, the less of a hold the darkness can have on us and the closer to Him we are drawn.
As I thought about this time of year, words from the Matt Redman chorus rang in my mind: When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say, Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Even in the ‘desert place’, or the ‘wilderness’, in the ‘suffering’ and in the ‘pain’, in all of those, we are called to praise, in other words, to lift all that is in our hearts and on our minds and offer it up to God, who promises to lead us and guide us and uphold us, even though we have no power within to do this for ourselves.
Philippians 4 in The Message sums up the path we ought to allow our minds to take. We are not encouraged to follow the dark thoughts, the anxieties or fears, even the ones that seem to come out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. He doesn’t want you or me to dwell on these. Instead, Paul told the Philippians: ‘… friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful not the ugly; things to praise not to curse.’
Focus on what is true and lovely – that you are loved and that the One who loves you more than anyone else ever could, does not want you to feel pain or fear or worry or anxiety. He wants to fill your heart and mind with good things; with His perfect peace. He wants to break the chains of darkness that weigh us down and hold us back and to let His amazing grace fill our hearts and minds, lighting the path around and ahead of us. We shouldn’t let our focus turn on oursleves either – surprising as it may be, the world does not revolve around us and it’s when we realise that we are not the centre of the universe and allow Jesus to be the centre of it all, that we can allow our focus to centre on Him, lifting the view away from ourselves and all our flaws and failings.
If the ‘darkness closes in’ around you, don’t let the lie that it is inevitable hold you back. Remember that the Light of the World wants to walk with you and, as He promises in John 8 verse 12, ‘I am the Light of the world: He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ Don’t let the dread of the darkness hold you back: live and walk in the power of the Light of Life.