“I can’t help it! I just feel that way. Nobody can help how they feel,” the teenager lamented. She put into words one of the most dangerous lies perpetrated by the adversary. The liberating truth is we CAN help the way we feel because our feelings are literally a consequence of the content of our chosen thoughts. Satan is well aware of that connection; all the tools in his arsenal tempt us to focus on thoughts that make us feel miserable.
Thoughts Determines Feelings: Scriptural Example
Carefully observe the obvious connection between thoughts and feelings in the following scripture verses:
“And again, when they thought of their brethren who had been slain by the Lamanites they were filled with sorrow, and even shed many tears of sorrow.
“And again, when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and of bondage they did raise their voices and give thanks to God.
“And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.” (Mosiah 25: 9-11)
“But again, when they beheld [and focused their thoughts on] those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy.” (Mosiah 25: 8)
What we choose to think this very moment determines how we feel this very moment. Because Satan wants us to feel miserable, he continually plants misery-producing thoughts in our minds that we must quickly cast out.
Searching for a way to illustrate this principle from real life and present the “how-tos” in a meaningful way, I remembered an e-mail interchange I’ve been having with a Meridian reader, Robin Jablon. I asked for her permission to share some of it with you:
Robin: I just read your article about the “over-reactor” and “under-reactor.” I’m the “under-reactor” and tonight Satan has got a hold on me so strong I cannot pry him lose. He has pulled me down so far that for the first time in my life I am wondering if I have any faith left.
I know I was directed to your article, but sometimes when I read great content like this I beat myself up more. How does one learn to have the perfect emotions to deal with all the frustrations and heartache of the world? I have very little fight left in me.
Darla: Oh, how I relate! I have gone through a similar time recently. Here’s what I’m learning: many times what is needed is not to “fight” Satan, but to realize how simple it is to “change channels.” Anything that makes us feel bad about ourselves is the “Satan channel.” Anything that reminds us of our connection with God, of His love for us, of our faith in Him, of our gratitude to Him is the “Holy Ghost channel.”
When God gave us agency, the one area Satan can’t usurp is our agency to change our thoughts. He can motivate others to coerce and even imprison our bodies, but the only way he can imprison our minds is if he can get us to “own” the bad thoughts he places there, believing they are our own. As long as we realize they are NOT are own, that they are his temptation, his way to get us to belittle and even loathe ourselves, we can say in our minds, “get thee behind me, Satan” and choose different thoughts. Bad thoughts about ourselves are almost always lies, usually tinged with just enough truth to get us to buy them. Any thought that makes us miserable is from the master of lies. It is as simple as that.
How do we “change the channel” and thwart him?
First, ask the Lord’s help daily to recognize and throw out thoughts that come from Satan. Pray in your mind for help the instant you recognize negative thoughts starting.
Second, practice stopping bad thoughts about yourself (or anyone or anything else) immediately. I don’t know about you, but I have a “downward spiral” that if I don’t catch quickly can be like a slide into the pit of discouragement and depression where all I can see is the negative-especially about myself. I’m learning to recognize the pattern and stop it quickly. How?
Here’s some ways:
- Visualize Jesus putting a shield of light all around me protecting me from Satan’s fiery darts and lies.
- Fill your mind with gratitude thoughts-of every little thing to be grateful for-Here’s mine today: the light I can see right now as the sun rises, the trees outside my window, the pleasant room I’m sitting in, the fact that I don’t have to worry about food to eat today or a place to sleep, memories of times the Lord has blessed me in very obvious ways.
- Write pages of positive things that remind you of good things and good times and faith-affirming events.
- Say to yourself, “I choose the light. I choose the light. I choose the light.” Play and sing hymns. (We can “sing” hymns in our mind no matter where we are, and the hymns have a tangible power to bring the Spirit.)
Changing thought habits Is possible!
Mainly, we have to remember that allowing negative thoughts is habitual. I’ve come to a solemn realization recently that I have allowed some negative thought habits to get ingrained in my mind-mostly berating, beating myself up because of all the light and truth I’ve been given and how much of the time I still find myself dwelling on disappointments, failures, and weaknesses. Satan tells us that such a focus is being humble, or facing reality, or just owning up to the way things are. Hogwash! It is simply his way of pulling us down.
We can choose to stop owning those thoughts. When we tune into the Holy Ghost channel, when light and truth returns, we can see that “all things work together for our good” and that everything that has happened to us can give us experience and teach us things for our benefit. Most importantly, we can see that the atonement not only covers every sin and grief resulting from others’ bad choices but also every error in judgment, weakness, and lack in ourselves. We have so much reason to rejoice when we see things more clearly-which is exactly what happens whenever we cast Satan out of our minds!
The power of light is always greater than the power of darkness and I know we can both triumph with God’s help! God bless you, Robin. Let’s pray for each other.
Robin: My patriarchal blessing says: “you were a choice daughter of your Father in Heaven and you sang for the plan that was presented to you.” I think of those words so frequently, but I ask myself, why then, here on Earth, do I feel so isolated and as if I have been cast off? I truly believe the words you have written to me, but at this point I feel so spiritually beat up I will have to dig deep to find the energy to put them into action. I want to try-really I do. I am trying so hard not to give up.
I feel so alone-obviously, or else I would not be writing to a complete stranger, but I do believe I need to say, “get thee behind me, Satan.
” Maybe I will begin with that small statement. I think you are right; I have allowed Satan to convince me I am NOT “a choice daughter” of my Heavenly Father. I have forever doubted my worth, and it will be difficult to, as you say, “change channels.” Why is it so much easier to believe the bad things about ourselves than it is the good things?
Darla: I’m so glad you wrote back. I really believe that Satan only bothers to lay siege to those who really have the potential to make a positive difference-those who ARE choice sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. If he can get us to believe otherwise-to buy into his lies, he has won a major battle. But Robin, I think all it takes to be sure he doesn’t win is the absolute conviction that the negatives he puts into our minds ARE lies. We ARE choice daughters of Heavenly Father and anything he says to the contrary is a lie.
I, too have had a mighty struggle to feel my worth. I think it is only easier to believe the bad things because Satan doesn’t wait to be invited into our minds-he breaks down the door. Every second we don’t choose to keep our minds on positive thoughts, he storms right in with negative ones. On the other hand, Jesus stands at the door and knocks, waiting to be invited in. He honors agency. Satan does not. However, because God and Jesus rule, agency rules, and in the final analysis WE DO CHOOSE-light or darkness, spiritual salvation or Satan’s destruction. Not only that, all we have to do is ask and the Lord will give us the strength to keep trying, keep choosing light, keep saying “Get thee behind me, Satan.”
I sometimes wonder if we will ever be free of the struggle until our last breath (although I know it is a true principle that with sufficient faith we can enter into the rest of the Lord in this lifetime). One thing is sure: while Satan is always there trying to get us, the Lord is always there wanting to save us, so we are not alone, and we just have to get clear about our choices-especially our choices about what we focus our minds on.
I’ll add my prayers to yours that we will both have the strength to choose Light and Life every moment. That we will allow the Lord to heal all the hurting places. I too know what it feels like to be “spiritually beat up.” I know the Lord will be right there with you helping you to pull up out of this hard time. You won’t give up. There are so many people here and on the other side that care about you and are rooting for you. You are not alone!
Robin: I wanted to tell you that I have actually applied that advice of, “get thee behind me, Satan.” and it has worked wonders. I have actually sternly said it out loud a few times and it feels amazing. I have become very good at just yelling at Satan, “leave me alone” and I take back power over my own life. It’s liberating. Thank you so much.
New question. I went back to school after raising my family. I am done in a couple weeks but have 4 board exams to pass before I can be licensed in the medical field. I’m scared, overwhelmed, exhausted and feeling so discouraged. I’m studying every waking moment and doing everything I can do to be successful at this. The past four years of school has been difficult. My husband has had two heart attacks, we lost our house, he lost his job, we have to move out of state as soon as I graduate. I’m living amongst boxes right now, studying studying studying and I want to believe that Heavenly Father will be there for me as I take these important tests. I play the “glad game” a lot – even have it on my license plates as my motto. There is always something to be glad about. However, my energy is failing and I just would like some peace. Will Heavenly Father only help me if I have enough faith? And what if I don’t pass-how do I find the strength to not lose faith? I keep saying, “there is something I am supposed to learn from all this.” I’m not sure what, but I continue to be positive. I want to be successful in my education, but more importantly I want to succeed spiritually and prove to Heavenly Father I CAN make it through the hard times.
Maybe there is no question in there-maybe I just needed a friend to listen. School has caused me to be so isolated from life-it’s been all-consuming. It’s almost over though and I will be able to reconnect with life. Thanks Darla – I know you don’t know me, but I do appreciate that you are out there listening.
Darla: I am awed by how many stresses you’ve had all at once. Pat yourself on the back that you are still up and moving forward! I know Heavenly Father helps us when we ask even if our faith wavers. Remember the man who brought his son to Jesus for healing? He said, “Help thou my unbelief.” The Lord did, and still healed his son.
I think your statement: “I want to be successful in my education, but more importantly I want to succeed spiritually and prove to Heavenly Father I CAN make it through the hard times.” is one of the most important and wise statements you could make:
However, it is you that you need to prove it to. He already knows that you can. And look what you’ve already been through. Seems to me you’ve already proved it to yourself and everyone else!
Your dilemma now is a classic example of what we face constantly but don’t always recognize: fear thoughts vs faith thoughts. The battleground really is in our minds. Every doubt and fear thought comes from Satan, so the same thing works: just say whenever the fear comes up, “get thee behind me, Satan” and thank the Lord that His power is always greater than Satan’s.
There is an elderly man in our ward that is such a great example to me of faith. He fell recently and cracked some disks in his neck and has been in a brace 24/7. His neck hasn’t healed and he is in a life and death situation-if the disk moves a fraction of an inch one way he would be paralyzed, the other way, he would be dead. So the doctor is going to perform a dangerous operation inserting pins to stabilize the neck so it can’t move. The operation is today. Sunday night I went over and played the piano so he could sing-he might lose his voice and he loves to sing. When I was leaving I told him I would be praying for him and wishing him well on Tuesday and that I hoped his operation would have the results he would like.
He said, “Whatever happens will be all right. The Lord loves us and that’s all I need to know.” I was quite awestruck. I really could detect no fear in him. So maybe after the “get thee behind me,” we need to add, “The Lord loves me and whatever happens will be all right.”
Robin: Thank you! The Spirit filled me up when I read your response. It felt so good. I will be praying for your friend today. It’s so wonderful to be a part of this wonderful gospel and have the support and encouragement of others who are on the same path. I just feel so blessed. My exam is tomorrow!
Darla: Oh Robin, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Do let me know how it all goes!
Robin: Oh wow – that assurance of your prayers was so nice – if only you knew how much that meant to me. As far as my test – I won’t know the results until today at 1:00, but it was so hard that I’m not feeling too positive. I went to the temple yesterday before the test to do initiatory work and just feel close to Heavenly Father. I wanted Him to know how important this is to me and how badly I needed His help. Now my dilemma is: how do I deal with all this if I fail? What will that mean? I’ve worked so hard and come so far and then to fail – what will He be telling me. I guess I’ll ask all those questions if the time comes. It is what it is now – I will let you know tonight. I so hope I have good news.
Darla: Just remember one thing, Robin. If you fail the test, you haven’t failed ANYTHING but the test.
Robin: Guess what, Darla I passed! I’m so excited and so blessed and thankful. What a day – so emotional. When I found out my score I was filled with so many emotions. It was the hardest test I ever took and I know Heavenly Father helped me. I cried and cried out of relief, exhaustion, gratitude and love. I so wanted to wrap my arms around Heavenly Father and thank him from the bottom of my heart. I know I worked hard for this, but I couldn’t have done this on my own. I love that I am a member of this church. I love that I have a testimony so I believe that I am not alone and can call for Heavenly help. I keep thinking about the quote by Wilma Rudolf, “The reward is not so great without the struggle”. How true is that? Thanks for allowing me to talk to you.
No wonder we have so many scriptural admonitions to watch our thoughts, to direct our thoughts, to turn our thoughts to the Lord. Our thoughts determine our feelings, and so much of the time our feelings motivate our actions. D&C 33:1 tells us that “The Lord is discerner of thoughts.” Our thoughts matter enormously!
“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard, concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” (Mosiah 4:30)
A medical doctor, who didn’t even have the perspectives of the Restored Gospel said of this life, “We are in a school for gods, where-in slow motion-we learn the consequence of thought.”
More and more research shows that our health, our happiness, our very destiny is determined by our thoughts.
The Lord wants us to feel happy, to know joy in this life and hereafter. And He has given us the formula in so many scriptures such as:
. D&C 6:36 “Look unto God in all thy thoughts; doubt not, fear not.”
- Alma 37:36 tells us, “Let thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord.
- D&C 88:69 admonishes us to “cast away idle thoughts.”
- D&C 121:45 tells us to: “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.”
We CAN help how we feel. With the Lord’s help we can cast Satan out of our thoughts, choose to focus our thoughts on the Savior and His might power to save, and we can feel the joy of His redeeming love!
Note: Visit Darla at her new web site: http://www.darlaisackson.com/index.php
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