Mind Wars: Overcoming Shame and Thought-Attacks

The letter you wanted to write, but didn’t:

Dear Andrea,

I’ve been saved/come back to the Lord, and turned away from a sinful past. I know He forgives me, so why do I still feel so ashamed? I’m trying to live right, and He’s helping me to. Why do I still have evil thoughts? Why do I feel condemned and like he will reject me?

Dear heart,

At times like this, it helps to understand the modus operandi of the enemy we’re up against. Where we’ve shown ourselves weak in the past, Satan will hit us again–and again. He’ll seem to have given up for a while, only for something to come flying at us and–wham–emotionally, we’re taken right back to the mire we left behind. It’s definitely emotionally disturbing even when we don’t actually stumble again.

The devil loves to grab us by the ears, turn us around, and rub our noses in the dung of our past sins and failures. Part of why is many of us let this sense of shame interfere with serving the Lord today.

When we resist, he will flee, I promise. Arm yourself with the scripture (ideally, by memorizing them so you can fire back these when the enemy comes roaring about):

Ps 34:18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Ps 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-These, O God, You will not despise.
Heb 13:5 For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Heb 13:6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Mt 28:20b “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Phil 1:6 He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; [a reference to the Second Coming]
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

I’d recommend you read/study the whole chapter of Romans 8 until you’ve internalized what it says and can fire these truths back at the accuser on the spot. If you’re ever in a spot and can’t remember, go get your bible and open it up to this chapter, maybe leave it bookmarked. Also, you can write these out on note cards or print them up, and carry them with you, so you can take them out and read them (preferably out loud) when the enemy attacks. That way even the paralysis of fear can’t block the truth.

Lastly, force yourself past the condemnation and shame the devil’s heaping on you to prevent this, and talk to someone you can trust about these struggles. Accountability is an important tool to staying on the narrow road.

Does this person need to know all the details of every battle you fight? Probably not, but when you’re struggling, having someone you can talk to can mean the difference between life and death.

I realize this can be hard with the shame being flung at us along with the wicked thoughts the devil loves to plant. How do you know where the thought’s coming from? Is your gut reaction to it any where in the neighborhood of disgust, shock, or loathing? Then it’s likely the devil, and there’s no need to be ashamed of that thought. Rebuke him and move on.

If you’re attacked like I’ve described, do tell someone it’s happening–so they can pray for you. But it may not be necessary to share in detail; that can even be counter productive. The last thing you should do is what the devil wants: to take ownership over the evil seed he planted. Take every thought captive and examine it by the Word. If it’s not of God, rebuke the thought with the truth (whether you’re feeling it at the moment or not.)

Also, there’s no shame in fleeing temptation if you really just can’t handle a situation.

Along with rejecting/disowning the sinful thought, it helps to purposely turn our thoughts to what is good and right: turn on praise and worship and sing along (though many of the old hymns are better for this purpose). Pull out your bible and read, or maybe some other spiritually uplifting publication that stirs you to remember the truth. Think about the cross and all the blessings God had given you. You could post a picture of the crucifixion, or carry one with you, and look upon Him in the most literal sense when satan comes a calling with his lies, too.

And most of all, when the accuser comes throwing the past in your face, just say, “it’s under the blood.” Jesus has cleansed the filth of the past away. It’s gone. The devil can come slinging old mud, but it doesn’t change finished work of Christ. You don’t have to worry about past sin anymore. By his grace, it’s been removed far from you, as far as the east is from the west. Do like Paul in Philipians 3:13-14: forget those things which are behind and “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

In Christ’s Victory,
Andrea Graham