Loneliness can be dangerous. When I let myself dwell on it, and let my heart feel empty, it becomes a vacuum that will suck in whatever is placed in front of it. I struggle with the longing in my heart to be loved and have romance, yet I know that these desires can be deceptive. We humans want to try to fill ourselves with whatever we perceive to be missing, and it isn’t usually what we need. I know this from experience, so I try to be cautious. My aim in life is to find joy and contentment in Christ, so I try to fill my mind and heart with God-centered thinking. It is easier said than done. I wonder how much Scripture I would have to memorize to match the quantity of movie and TV show quotes that are stored in my brain. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve intentionally become more discerning about what I read and what I watch. But honestly, for me it is so easy for my mind to be filled with fiction. Fiction, in and of itself, isn’t bad, but when I let it fill my mind, it keeps me from living in the present. It keeps my mind and heart focused on things that aren’t real, instead of communing with God.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
I don’t know if this problem stems from my creative side, or if it spins off from the constant narrative that already exists in my mind. I am a story-teller, so when characters from a book or TV show capture me, I find myself writing my own plots and dialogues in my head, whenever I am alone to think. I have come to realize that this is essentially the same as if I were daydreaming about my own life. I’ve been there, too; I’ve occupied my mind with elaborate fantasies before. When I was in my teens and twenties, I probably spent half of my time lost in my mind that way. I learned something important from this: it isn’t a recipe for happiness. Like reading too much romantic fiction, it simply increases the longing and the restlessness within my heart. It turns into a cycle where I need it more and more to try to forget reality. Reality can seem so empty and lonely compared to dreams, but this is a lie. It is the dreams that leave us feeling emptier than when we started.
Breaking away from this cycle was essential for me to be able to find joy and keep control of my depression. There is peace and contentment to be found in the Savior. But it requires me to be disciplined and to strive to keep my mind filled with the truth of God. I suppose it is just the way my brain is wired that it is so easy for me to fall back into these bad thought patterns. I have to remind myself that it must please Satan when my mind is occupied with worthless things. I have to be careful, not just with what I take in, but with how much. I try to balance fiction with non-fiction, and keep my non-fiction reading focused on expanding my knowledge of God and my faith in Him. The most important antidote is time spent in God’s Word and in prayer.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, be ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
When I am alone with my thoughts, I have to be purposeful to turn them toward Jesus. I have found that regular Scripture reading and prayer help my mind to stay on track. I am also trying to fill my mind with as much memorized Scripture as I can, though having a weekly blog has taken time away from that discipline. But even writing a blog every week, with a mind to honor God and include reflection on Scripture, does help keep my mind on God.
I am sure the temptations are different for every person. God created me to be an introvert and a writer. I enjoy spending quiet time in my own thoughts. I would like to be able to say that I don’t give sin the kind of openings that I used to and that I have taken “every thought captive to obey Christ.” It is a daily battle. Sin only needs a crack to blow things wide open and suck worldly things in to push God out. It’s like a movie that exaggerates the effects of explosive decompression in an airplane: one bullet hole and people are getting sucked out the side of the plane. It’s like that, but the opposite. You let a little in and then the flood gate opens. At least that’s how it is with me. Just when I think I have everything under control, a character or story line will resonate with me too much, and off I go escaping to fiction in my mind. Depression is sure to follow.
The first step is realizing that I am having a problem; next, I must remember that I am waging a war against the Liar. But I know the truth: God is the only One who fills.