Weak and frail, illness stole a third of my body weight from my already small frame. Rainbow colored bruises all in different stages of healing tattooed my arms and legs, leaving the telltale signs of the IVs used to keep me hydrated, fed, and in as minimal pain as possible. During the months when illness ravaged my body, dehydration drained my energy like a slow leak. One day rolled seamlessly into another. I lost track of the day of the week and I gave up on even guessing the date.
As illness stole my physical health, my mental acuity quickly followed and I struggled to put coherent sentences together. As physical illness beat me down, it left me in a state of despair. I detested my reflection in the mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw in the reflection of my soul either. It left me questioning: surely if I didn’t like what I saw, how could others? How could God?
That was the open door. Once I believed that, the enemy of my soul, spoken of in Scripture as the accuser of the brethren, had open access to the playground of my mind, dancing and playing and infiltrating it with all his lies, leading me down the path into the valley of depression.
While depression certainly has chemical and genetic contributors, physical illness can contribute as well. But I would argue, as a neuropsychologist who has treated patients for over 20 years and who has walked through depression’s valley myself, that one of the fastest tracks to depression is through our thought-life.
The enemy of our soul is always looking for an open door to steal our joy, and one of the quickest and easiest ways he does this is by attacking our thoughts.
It often starts slow with a thought or two: “No one understands.” “I’m just weak.” Yet if we don’t counter those thoughts with truth then those thoughts become habitual, holding us captive: “I’ll always feel this way.” “I’ll never feel better.” “I’m just joy immune.”
I lived there. It was miserable. Desperation finally made me willing to change.
In my desperation I prayed three things every day:
- That God would give me a more accurate view of Him.
- That God would show me how He viewed me.
- That God would restore my joy to me.
Scripture tells us to take our thoughts captive and make sure they align with the Word of God. That’s the only way to combat the lies of the enemy.
“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
So when I have thoughts like, “I’m weak,” I need to remember that God says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Or when I feel like I am a failure, that’s when I must stand on the truth that says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
Or when I begin to believe that I will always be or feel sick or down or discouraged, that’s when I have to firmly stand on God’s truth which declares, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
As I started searching the scriptures for God’s truth and promises, He answered my three prayers. He gave me a more accurate view of Him. He helped me see myself from His perspective. And He returned my joy.
There is little question that prolonged illness not only effects our physical well being, but it can also impact our mental and emotional well being as well. What’s vital is that we look to our Heavenly Father for His perspective of us and that His truth rules in our hearts and minds. We must be diligent to take our thoughts captive and align them with His truth, so that our minds don’t become a playground for the enemy’s lies, and fertile ground for depression and anxiety.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
The enemy comes to steal from us—to steal our joy and kill our peace and attempt to destroy our identity through illness and depression. But, friend, Christ came to give us life, abundant life in Him. That’s truth that we must stand on! Despite what we see and what we feel, because of Him #HopePrevails!
Dr. Michelle Bengston
Neuropsychologist and Author
Dr. Bengston is an international speaker and the author of the best-selling Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises. She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. She is in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of 30 years have two teenage sons, and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.