Forty-five years after I was first sexually assaulted, and forty-two years after the last of several attacks, you might think I’d be free from negative thoughts. I certainly thought I would be. But even now I must combat negative thoughts with the help of Jesus.
Recent Negative Thought Patterns
I have a row of ancient rose bushes that separate my yard from the street. The pink, yellow, white, and red blooms bless us all summer long. My job is to keep them deadheaded so that new blooms will thrive. Usually I can get all the spent roses while standing in my yard, with the roses between me and the road. But sometimes, to avoid my clothes being snagged by thorns, I have to clip from the other side.
Last week, I had to venture into the gravel next to the road to remove some hard-to-reach flowers. My brown paper grocery bag sat on the ground next to me as I reach out to grab hold of a stem with a spent rose on the end. Just then I heard someone coming up the road behind me.
What if he rapes me? This unsettling thought seemingly came from nowhere. If it hadn’t flitted through my mind so many times in my life, I might have been caught off guard. Thankfully, the vestiges PTSD are so faint in my life now, they do not even slow me down.
Taking This Thought Captive to Christ
The thought stayed only for a split-second before I was able to combat it with the truth.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV).
The truth I used to combat this thought was three-fold.
First, the likelihood that someone would attack and rape me in broad daylight in my active small city neighborhood was slim to none. And I’m pretty sure slim was out of town. The thought had no merit. It came from a place of fear.
Second, even if someone did attack me, that would not change who I am in Christ. I would remain loved and saved by Jesus, a child of God my creator.
Third, fear doesn’t come from God, but from the enemy. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT).
The Battle to Combat Negative Thoughts Is Real
There was a time in my life when such negative thoughts did derail me. Being alone in an elevator with a man I didn’t know, even for a mere three or four floors, would cause my heart to race because of my fear of what he might do.
I remember a time when I took a leisurely walk with my dog Bette in our wholesome, quiet neighborhood. Out of the blue, a man on a corner lot revved his lawn mower and spooked me. For a brief moment, visions of him attacking me swirled in my mind. I hurried past. Then two houses down, a man came out from behind a hedge with large clippers. Already on edge from the mower, I was startled again.
“Hi,” he said. “Beautiful day for a walk, isn’t it?”
I nodded and forced a smile, but didn’t reply. All I could think was, Oh, my God, he’s going to rape me. I have to get out of here.
My heart raced as I picked up speed and took the shortest route home, no longer interested in meandering. Bette tried to sniff a grassy spot, but I pulled her away and hurried toward home. I passed three other guys, two walking their dogs and one working in his yard. The same panicked thought raced through my mind at each encounter.
Steeping in the Truth
Overcoming such negative thought patterns didn’t happen overnight. I have spent years steeping my soul in the truth of God’s Word, reminding myself of who I am. Learning how to replace negative thoughts with positive truthful ones takes practice and perseverance. It is a daily habit to put on the armor of God to combat negative thoughts. (See Ephesians 6:10-20).
If you want to cultivate a daily habit of reading God’s Word to help you combat negative thoughts or self-image, I suggest following a Bible reading plan. There are many to choose from at Bible Gateway, whether you want to tackle the whole Bible or simply find the verses you need right now.
I do highly recommend reading the entire Bible at some point, because getting the big picture of the story of God’s relationship with His creation helps in understanding individual passages. Think of it like your favorite novel. You wouldn’t flip to the middle of The Lord of the Rings or Anne of Green Gables, start reading, and expect to understand what is going on.
Heavenly Father, I pray today that You would reveal truth to all who read this post. If a reader is struggling with negative thoughts, I pray You would come along side them and remind them of who they are in You. Bring hope and healing, through Your Word and the wise counsel of a good, seasoned counselor. Surround each soul with friends and loved ones to support them and help them grow in Your truth, combatting each negative thought with Your help. In Jesus’ name, amen.