The holidays are upon us, and in what should be one of the happiest times of the year, so many continue to struggle with depression and anxiety. Perhaps this season is a painful reminder of loss in your life, or maybe you’re affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder or anxiety. Whatever your situation, I know that it can be so easy to get caught up in the craziness of life and allow worry, fear and heaviness to begin creeping in. Thankfully, Jesus knew that we would have trouble in this world and he did not leave us empty-handed! When we look to scripture, we can find tools that help us to overcome our emotions and begin healing our minds.
Isaiah 61:3 told us that Jesus came to give us “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” We get so caught up trying to figure out how to take off the spirit of heaviness. I know I’ve been guilty of putting so much energy into thinking my way out of negative emotions to no avail. But God is telling us not to worry about that – that’s His job. Our responsibility is simple – we just have to put on praise.
In the Bible, every time that praise is mentioned, it is always accompanied by an outward expression. Praise is always seen or heard. It is not just a thought! Recently, when negative feelings like heaviness, despair, or loneliness try to overwhelm me, I have been turning on praise songs that dwell on the goodness of God and forcing myself to sing out loud even when that’s the opposite of what I feel like doing. It’s not being fake; it’s being obedient! This is just one way to encourage yourself in the Lord, but any physical, outward expression will do. It doesn’t take long until you can begin to feel your spirit encouraged and lifted up.
What about anxiety, fear, and worry? In Phillippians 4:6-7, the Bible tells us that our weapon against anxiety is gratitude. It says, “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with OVERFLOWING GRATITUDE. Tell him every detail of your life, THEN God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ” (emphasis added). Thankfulness literally unlocks peace in our lives. It is how we practically take our thoughts captive to the submission of Christ. So next time you begin to feel overwhelmed, I encourage you to make a list or even speak out loud everything you’re thankful for and why! Do this, and wait for the peace of God to come rushing in.
We shouldn’t be surprised to find out that science actually supports scripture in this regard. According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude actually changes the molecular structure of the brain and makes us healthier and happier. Thankfulness literally boosts neurotransmitter serotonin and activates the brain stem to produce dopamine.
I’m so thankful that we don’t have to be slaves to our emotions and anxious minds! Just like David “was greatly distressed… but [he] encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6 KJV), we have the same authority through Jesus. I’m praying for you, that during this holiday season, you will refuse to allow the enemy to steal your joy and peace! I’m praying that you will put on a garment of praise and throw off the spirit of heaviness, and that thankfulness would become a weapon in your hand against the attacks of the enemy.