Lies, lies, lies!

I was talking to a friend lately who struggles with eating issues, and she told me that one of the techniques she is using to combat her anxiety is something called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). If I’ve understood her correctly, ACT is when you try to keep your thoughts focused on the present instead of allowing them to drift off in all sorts of unhelpful directions. So, for example, when she gets a craving for a cookie and starts to think that she couldn’t possibly get through the afternoon without one, she acknowledges that she’s had that thought, points out to herself that what her brain is telling her is a lie (i.e. that she can get through the afternoon without a cookie, and she knows that because she’s done it before), and then moves on with the rest of her day.

While this is a simplification, it seems the trick is to change your thinking by taking a step backwards from your thoughts, accepting that you’ve reacted this way, and evaluating your thoughts and reactions to see whether what you’re thinking is valid or a product of overthinking or overimagination. Many unhelpful thoughts can be debunked when you realize that you’ve been thinking too far ahead, you have no real basis for that view, or you can’t really know that other person’s actual opinion of you. You have to train your brain to acknowledge the lies, figure out where those lies are coming from (i.e. why you are thinking such things? Is it because you are afraid?), then choose not to listen to them and move on with your life.

It may be because I’m transitioning from simply being a wife to being a wife and a mother (which may mean that I feel more vulnerable than normal), but it seems to me that at the moment I am having a little more difficulty waging war against the lies than before. It is tempting to give in to the fiction that I’m a bad mother, or that I’m completely unattractive now because my body is riddled with stretch marks, or that I am a waste of space because I am no longer drawing an income. I find I’m expending a lot of mental energy refuting these falsehoods and refusing to listen to them. Furthermore, it’s worse when I’m tired or feeling low, which I often am these days, looking after an infant.

It struck me recently that so much of living the Christian life is about combating such lies with the gospel. For example, when you are tempted to believe that your identity and worth is bound up in what you do and how much money you earn, remember that the Bible tells you that you are not your own; you were bought at a price, you now belong to him who rules all, and your identity is found in him and him alone (1 Cor 6:19b-20a). When you are tempted to think that you are unlovable and unattractive, remember the God who loved you so much that, even though you were dead in your sins, he sent his only Son to die to save you (Eph 2:17; John 3:16). When you find yourself worrying about the size of your assets or the direction of your career, remember that one day it’s all going to be destroyed, and that the God who surely clothes the birds of the air and the grass of the field will provide for your needs, as he knows them better than you do (Rev 21:1; 2 Pet 3:12; Matt 6:25-34).

Furthermore, once you hold up these lies against the light of God’s word, they’re exposed as laughable. Isn’t it ridiculous that the world thinks that the measure of a person is in their job—as if lawyers are any more respectable than garbage collectors! Isn’t it superficial to judge a man or a woman solely on the basis of their looks? In a few years, they’ll shrivel up and lose their hair just like the rest of us. Isn’t it futile to be clinging to houses, cars and bank accounts as if they can protect you from the ravages of time and the evils of the world? They could easily be swept away in one stroke; just ask the victims of the recent cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis. The Bible is right; we are better off seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness (Matt 6:33).

Unfortunately slicing through the lies with the sword of God’s word (Eph 6:17) is a lifelong exercise. You can never let your guard down or be complacent—not if you’re a lawyer, a garbage collector, a preacher or a mum. The devil, the father of lies, is always on the prowl, looking for someone to devour (John 8:44; 1 Pet 5:8), and I know I will never be immune from him until the day I am taken into glory—or the day the Lord returns! The task now is the same as it was so many years ago when Paul first composed these words in Romans 12: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (v. 2). The lie is a lie and nothing more; the Lord will get me through it.

And knowing that, I move on with the rest of my day.

8 thoughts on “Lies, lies, lies!

  1. Tim Chester’s book ‘You Can Change’ does a good job unpacking some of these ideas and applying them.

  2. Thanks for your honesty, Karen.

    Times of transition are often the times of greatest temptation to not trust the truth.

    Neil Anderson’s
    “Victory Over the Darkness” was the popular Ameri-Evangelical book in the early 90’s that really opened this up to the ‘mainstream’.

    It’s good to read someone acknowledging this as a challenge.and it’s also a process, because it’s not just an intellectual exercise.

    The emotions and will are also heavily involved, which I why I love praying the Psalms that reflect my emotions when I struggle with trusting God’s promises.

    Fellowship with other who model these truths and are Christ-like to each other give flesh and physical grace to the words of truth.

  3. To my mind, Karen, we women need to devote a little more time to Galatians 5:1.  Most of us seem to spend too much time putting fresh yokes on ourselves, and this is something that has come out of our culture: you aren’t a proper mother unless you never buy baby food or disposable nappies or smack.
    Don’t get me started…

  4. Thank you Karen, for your honesty. I think this will become required daily reading for me, at this stage in my life.

    I struggle with making short term sacrifices for long term gains. I need to remind myself in times of temptation that the end result of obedience and self discipline really is worth the short term sacrifice of hard work now, or missing out on something that might be enjoyable now.

    As a stay at home, home-educating mother of four young children, I struggle with believing that my contribution to this world and to eternity is meaningful in any sense. Thank you for your honesty, particularly at this challenging stage of your life.

  5. Hi Karen!

    Thanks for an encouraging and helpful post. Your battle sounds very, very familiar – and, as you say, lifelong. Thanks for the reminder to combat the lies of our minds with God’s truth – especially during hard times.

    And hang in there, mum! It’s great to hear about your life and struggles, and I pray God will help you to keep turning to his truth.

    Love Jean.

  6. Sorry for the belated response! It’s been hard trying to get to this in the midst of baby things. But I just wanted to say thank you so much for the suggestions and encouragement; they are very much appreciated!

  7. Hi Karen,
    I say this to encourage not to be blase, “Congratulations you are absolutely normal”. In the ‘nice-ianity’ of the church, people don’t often express what is ‘really’ going on in their heads. Every mum I know is feeling the same way sister.

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