How Can You Combat Negative Feelings?
DO YOU ever struggle with negative feelings? Really, who does not? Our times are marked by economic hardship, pervasive violence, and wanton injustice. Not surprisingly, countless people are plagued by overwhelming sadness, excessive guilt, and a sense of personal worthlessness.
Such feelings can be dangerous. They may undermine our confidence, paralyze our ability to reason, and rob us of joy. The Bible says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” (Proverbs 24:10) We need our power, our energy, in order to keep going in this troubled world. Therefore, it is essential to keep negative feelings under control.*
The Bible provides some strong defenses against negative feelings. Jehovah God, the Creator and the Sustainer of all life, does not want you to give out under the weight of despair or hopelessness. (Psalm 36:9) So let us consider three ways in which his Word can help us to combat negative feelings.
Be Aware of God’s Interest in You
Some people think that God is too occupied with other matters to give attention to their personal feelings. Is that how you feel? Actually, the Bible assures us that our Creator is concerned about our feelings. The psalmist said: “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Psalm 34:18) How comforting it is to know that the almighty Sovereign is near to us when we are in distress!
God is not cold or aloof. The Bible says that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) He loves people and is sensitive toward those who suffer. For example, when the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt some 3,500 years ago, he said: “Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry as a result of those who drive them to work; because I well know the pains they suffer. And I am proceeding to go down to deliver them.”—Exodus 3:7, 8.
God well knows our emotional makeup. After all, “it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalm 100:3) Thus, even when we feel that our fellow humans do not understand us, we can be sure that God understands. God’s Word states: “Not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Even our innermost feelings are not hidden from God.
Granted, Jehovah is also aware of our mistakes and flaws. But we can be thankful that our loving Maker is forgiving. The inspired Bible writer David said: “As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13, 14) God sees us as we may not see ourselves. He looks for the good and dismisses the bad, as long as we repent of our sins.—Psalm 139:1-3, 23, 24.
Thus, when we are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, we need to be determined to fight back. We must remember how God sees us!—1 John 3:20.
Develop a Close Friendship With God
How do we benefit if we see ourselves as God sees us? We will find it easier to take the next step in overcoming negative feelings—building a close friendship with God. Is that really possible?
As a loving Father, Jehovah God is eager to help us develop a close friendship with him. The Bible urges us: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:8) Here is an amazing truth: Weak and sinful though we are, we can build a warm personal friendship with the Sovereign of the universe.
God has revealed himself in the Bible so that we can get to know him as a person. By reading the Bible regularly, we can learn about God’s appealing qualities.* As we meditate on such knowledge, we will feel ever closer to Jehovah. We will see him more clearly for what he truly is—a loving, compassionate Father.
Thinking deeply about what we read in the Bible does still more for us. We draw closer to our heavenly Father by taking his thoughts into our mind and heart, allowing them to correct, console, and guide us. We especially need to do so when we are struggling with thoughts and feelings that trouble or disquiet us. The psalmist put it this way: “When I was burdened with worries, you comforted me and made me feel secure.” (Psalm 94:19, Contemporary English Version) God’s Word can be profoundly comforting. If we humbly accept his message of truth, we may find that our negative feelings are gradually displaced by the comfort and the peace that only God can provide. Jehovah thus consoles us as a loving parent might soothe a hurt or upset child.
Another key to becoming God’s friend involves talking to him regularly. The Bible assures us that “no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, [God] hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Whatever fears or anxieties we may have, we can pray to God and ask for his help. If we open our hearts to God, we gain peace of mind. The apostle Paul wrote: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
As you adhere to a program of Bible reading, meditation, and personal prayer, you will no doubt find that you are building a close bond with your heavenly Father. That bond is a powerful weapon to wield against negative feelings. What else may help?
Focus On a Sure Hope for the Future
Even when we are under the most trying circumstances, we can keep our mind on good things. How so? God gives us a sure hope for the future. The apostle Peter summed up this wonderful hope in these words: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to [God’s] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) What does that mean?
The expression “new heavens” actually refers to a government—God’s heavenly Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ. “New earth” refers to a new human society here on earth having God’s approval. Under the rule of the “new heavens,” the new earthly society will be free of all the things that cause negative feelings. Regarding faithful humans living then, the Bible assures us that God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Revelation 21:4.
Surely you would agree that those are delightful, encouraging thoughts. That is why the Bible speaks of the future prospects God has provided for true Christians as “the happy hope.” (Titus 2:13) If we focus our mind on God’s promises for mankind’s future—and on the reasons why those promises are reliable and sure—we push aside negative thoughts.—Philippians 4:8.
The Bible compares our hope of salvation to a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:8) In ancient times, a soldier would not dare engage in battle without his helmet. He knew that it would cushion many a blow and cause many a missile to glance off harmlessly. As a helmet protects the head, so hope protects the mind. Dwelling on thoughts that fill us with hope can keep us from negative, fearful, pessimistic thinking.
So it is possible to combat negative feelings. You can do it! Contemplate how God views you, draw closer to him, and focus on your hope for the future. Then you can be sure that you will see the day when negative feelings are gone for good!—Psalm 37:29.
Those who struggle with extended or profound depression may need to consult a qualified doctor.—Matthew 9:12.
The August 1, 2009, issue of The Watchtower features a practical and useful schedule for reading the Bible.
[Blurb on page 19]
“I well know the pains they suffer.”—EXODUS 3:7, 8
[Blurb on page 20]
“When I was burdened with worries, you comforted me and made me feel secure.”—PSALM 94:19, CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH VERSION
[Blurb on page 21]
“The peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers.”—PHILIPPIANS 4:7
[Box/Picture on page 20, 21]
Comforting Scriptures About Jehovah God
“Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”—EXODUS 34:6.
“His eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.”—2 CHRONICLES 16:9.
“Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”—PSALM 34:18.
“You, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive.”—PSALM 86:5.
“Jehovah is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works.”—PSALM 145:9.
“I, Jehovah your God, am grasping your right hand, the One saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.’”—ISAIAH 41:13.
“Blessed be . . . the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.”—2 CORINTHIANS 1:3.
“We shall assure our hearts before him as regards whatever our hearts may condemn us in, because God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.”—1 JOHN 3:19, 20.
[Box/Pictures on page 22]
They Are Successfully Coping With Negative Feelings
“My father is an alcoholic, and he has caused me much suffering. I have been plagued by feelings of worthlessness for as long as I can remember. But when I accepted a Bible study with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I learned about the promise of everlasting life on earth. This hope filled my mind and heart with joy. Bible reading became a regular part of my life. I always have a Bible close by. When I am overwhelmed by negative feelings, I reach for it and read comforting scriptures. Reading about God’s appealing qualities assures me how precious I am in his eyes.”—Kátia, a 33-year-old woman.*
“I was addicted to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, and I sniffed glue. Having lost almost everything I owned, I became a beggar. But after accepting the offer of a Bible study with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I changed my life completely. I came to know God as a Person. Even though I still have to fight against feelings of guilt and worthlessness, I have learned to lean upon God’s mercy and loving-kindness. I am sure that God will continue to give me the strength to overcome my negative feelings. Getting to know Bible truth is the best thing that ever happened to me.”—Renato, a 37-year-old man.
“Ever since I was small, I used to compare myself with my older brother. I always felt inferior to him. I still have a great sense of insecurity, doubting my abilities. But I am determined to win this battle. I have prayed incessantly to Jehovah, and he has helped me to overcome my feelings of inadequacy. It is heartwarming to know that God truly loves and cares for me!”—Roberta, a 45-year-old woman.
Some names were changed.