Taking Thoughts Captive

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CraterLabs
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Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by CraterLabs » May 7th, 2018, 12:50 am

tl;dr - I've been having weird emotional thoughts about faith lately, and I'm praying that they either stop or that I get better equipped at handling them. Also, praises that they're a whole lot better than they once were!

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This is a super weird one, and it has a lot of story built into it, sorry about that, but they deal with issues of faith and trust and such. Basically, for the better part of a year now (roughly when I started taking some medication for dealing with blood pressure, though that might just be coincidence) I've had weird bouts of fear creeping into my head, and while I know that those fears are ill-founded they're still *there*. Oh, and also, I'll go into some minor spoilers for season 3 of The Flash, which is kind of a silly thing to get into in what otherwise feels like a serious topic. :P

Basically, there was a day when someone said something about God, and I heard the phrase "because He doesn't exist" in my head, and this freaked me out since, well, I've been a believer all my life. I entered a quick little panic period but calmed down a bit, prayed about it, and reassured myself that it was fine. Shortly after (a day or so, I think) I was in the bathroom and I felt another weirdly fully-formed thought saying "What if you just tried being an atheist for a day?" And, well... no? That's not going to happen. In no uncertain terms I reminded myself that you just don't flip switches to believe something new; like, I compared it to suddenly choosing to believe that Christopher Columbus had never sailed to the new world. You don't just try a new belief on for size. This freaked me out even more, and I prayed more and tried settling on what was going on, and felt more weird thoughts. Not fully formed ones, more like notions or inklings. They said things like "You're wrong about things a lot, odds are good you're wrong about this too."

The stark panic of the fully formed thoughts just popping up faded, thankfully, and I never really encountered anything quite like that again. I didn't want to just call it a spiritual attack or say "a demon's comin' for me!" but that kind of thought did cross my mind; I also know that I'd just started taking a new medication, and that emotional side effects can pop up, even though this was my first real medication of the sort that would be expected to do that kind of thing, and I've got no prior experience with that sort of thing so I don't know if I'd recognize it. Also, I'm a writer, and I tend to think of "what happens next?" things, even in my own life, so it might just be my imagination coming up with something dire to mull over, and this is just the next thing it's discovered on the mulling menu. With this in mind, though, the general mood of "what if you just drifted away and suddenly found yourself not believing?" And that's... not really a rational thought? But at the same time, the thought kept coming.

And for a humorous instance of how it affected me, I was watching a lot of Netflix with my sister at the time, and we were trying to catch up with The Flash since that show's better than it deserves to be. There was a weird sub-plot where one main character, Caitlin Snow, encountered an evil version of herself in another reality called Killer Frost, and she just developed this belief that if she gained super powers she'd just "turn evil" all of a sudden, and she built up that fear in her mind and, well, sure enough she got powers and tried doing things to stop them from manifesting, and whenever they did she just "went evil" while all her friends told her "You know you're not evil, right?" It was... a weird plot. Still, watching it amid all this was weird. It was like once an episode, someone would mention Killer Frost and a goofy voice in my head would say "Atheist..." like a ghost.

One upshot of all this is that it inspired more Bible reading, something I'd definitely been slacking on. James was a particularly fun book; he spoke about those times when you're plagued with doubts and troubles, and to thank God for them because they not only build up your spiritual endurance, but when you endure them and continue to worship and praise God and keep the faith in spite of them, it ultimately brings God more glory, and I could totally get behind that sentiment. And, well... I realized that ultimately, none of this had anything to do with my belief in God. God is stronger than anything I do or don't believe, so the fears I was feeling ultimately had to do more with my faith in myself than they had to do with faith in God. And that realization, that I was more freaked out by the possibility of my own fallibility than I was about anything to do with God, was very comforting. So all in all, one could say that these moments of panic followed by dull fear were good things.

Having said that, I'd still like them to stop.

And hey, the good news is that they do! They've stopped about three times now, and each time they stop they stop for longer. I've brought this up at my Monday night house church, and while I was a little scared to tell everyone the exact depths of what I've been going through, I said enough that they said "So, do you think it's a spiritual attack?" and also things like "Yeah, hey man, we've all been there, you're not alone" and stuff. And that was nice. So I bring it up to them whenever it flares up. I've started saying "Get behind me, Satan!" in my head whenever I feel rumblings of the notions again. I figure that God's got this, and even if these thoughts are the result of chemical imbalances instead of spiritual attacks, I shouldn't dismiss the possibility of spiritual attack. Especially since last week at church our pastor confirmed that pretty much everyone in the church leadership was being hit, and hard, with spiritual attacks. I don't really see myself in the "leadership" of the church, per se, but I do teach some Sunday school classes and Bible studies and help pray over prayer requests once a week, so I'm definitely involved. And the weird thing is, the tenor of the thoughts has changed a bit; now it's less "one day you might wake up and realize you're an atheist" and more "so are you sure you're not an atheist?" And I'm proud to say that yes, I'm sure, I believe in God and that Jesus died for my sins and rose again. However, the fact that the direction of the thoughts has changed is a concern to me. I don't want to give them the validity of a response since I think the suggestion is ludicrous, but I also don't want to just ignore that it's still happening. Worse, sometimes after praying I'll think "See? Good job there, you totally believe", and I don't like that a part of my mind is taking these emotional thoughts seriously enough to feel the need for that kind of affirmation. (On the other hand, maybe I should embrace the affirmation? Nothing wrong in reveling in continued faith, after all.)

Anyway, I felt those mumblings build up again this weekend and get stronger than normal today, and I ignored them (except for praying to God about it, of course). I got home and decided to read the Bible on my phone's app for it, and it had a daily verse from James saying to bring forth your sickness or troubles to the church for prayer so that you could find healing. I thought about that and, well... I've been shouldering a lot of this on my own. While I've technically talked about it at house church, I've not really talked about the full extent of it, which is why I've written this gigantic book of explanatory notes. So I think I should talk to my house church about it again tomorrow for prayer requests, and it hit me that I could post something here without waiting for tomorrow. No reason I can't let the healing begin now, right?

Gotta say, it was harder than I expected to type some of this. Shook a little in my chest, so I think I was probably holding onto something harder than I should've. So, uh... in conclusion, I'd like prayers that these troubling thoughts stop, or that I become better equipped to handle them whenever they flare up. And also praises that they're not nearly as scary as they once were, and praises that I've got numerous support structures for prayer requests and things. Sorry it took forever to write all this. :-P
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by Kesarahk » May 7th, 2018, 1:49 am

Hey, I don't think we've talked before, but I'm glad you posted this. I'm praying right now, and while the details vary from mine I can assure you that you're not alone in your struggles with intrusive thoughts.

You know about our new Discord server? Come hang out with us if you can and would like to. There's prayer meeting on Tuesdays, Bible study on Thursdays (though if you have local church events at those times we encourage people to attend those instead).
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by CraterLabs » May 7th, 2018, 2:06 am

I've not joined yet; I've heard about it a few times on TF2 nights and meant to sign up then, but I always forget to turn Discord on when I get to my laptop. I should do that right now.

Sadly, I do have pretty busy Tuesdays, with church activities. I run what I like to think of as the church's "tabletop ministry" at 3 (though I've not quite made that an official thing yet), and I teach the youth class on Tuesday nights when everyone gathers for a church dinner and study time. If I'm lucky I can hit up the TF2 matches after that, but that's a rarity, I'm afraid.
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by Kesarahk » May 7th, 2018, 2:15 am

There's a mobile version of Discord too (if you don't already know); it's free, and works pretty well. It's allowed me to keep one foot in the community when on break at work, etc. I find the chatter comforting.

Let me know if/when you join what your Discord ID is, and I'll make sure you get Trusted at least so you can use the text channels as well as the voice ones. Perma invite link can be found in the forum menu near the top; keep going right after "Quick Links" and it's right of the Calender. You can find a comprehensive list of server events there, weekly game nights, etc.

:thup:
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by Kesarahk » May 7th, 2018, 2:17 am

That you? #6634?
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by Kesarahk » May 7th, 2018, 3:07 am

All set up. Welcome! :biggrin: Hopefully the microphone issue will be resolved soon. I seem to remember that it's common for people to have problems when first joining, and the fixes are usually simple... I think...
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by Grizz Gallant » May 7th, 2018, 5:54 am

I am praying for you and your not at all alone in this issue. I don’t think we are necessarily responsible for what pops into our heads. Only for what we do with that thought afterwards. Personally I like to respond to thoughts like this with by saying part of Mark 9:24 out loud “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”. God is with us always and He is never to busy to help.
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by GingerAvenger » May 7th, 2018, 7:12 am

We've all dealt with that. I think that's where the faith part, prayer and resolve to fight back makes all the difference. I will commit to praying for you daily specifically on this front. Hugs Crater.
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Re: Taking Thoughts Captive

Post by Crosser » May 7th, 2018, 9:22 am

I think it's absolutely healthy to question beliefs to see if there is evidence to support them. Here are some common questions:

Why are we ultimately here?
Is truth relative?
Does God exist?
Are miracles possible?
Can we trust the New Testament documents to be historically reliable?
Did Jesus really rise from death?
If a God does exist, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?

I used to be a person that would shy away from such questions, trying to simply ignore or block them out of my mind. But since I began learning about Christian Apologetics, I've since come out the other side with a bold confidence in my faith in Christ.

Like others have mentioned, if you want answers to some of these important and fair questions, hit me up on discord. I'll also recommend these two books:

I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler)
On Guard (by William Lane Craig)
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