by Cris Corzine-McCloskey
Ever heard the phrase ‘you need a check-up from the neck-up’? Here’s a DIY method. When you feel stressed, check in with your head. See what negative thoughts you are dwelling on. Write them down and look for a theme. For myself, when I’m stressed, I’m usually worrying about ‘what if’s’ or I’ve relapsed into people pleasing. Those are my chronic joy-suckers.
We all have joy-suckers. They are the habitual thought patterns that sneak in and steal our peace. Often we believe that people and problems are the joy-suckers, but it’s the way we think about people and problems that is the real culprit.
Psychology calls these destructive thought patterns ‘cognitive distortions,’ but in the bible they are called strongholds. In ancient times a stronghold was a place where the enemy could dig in and launch an assault. They operate the same way in our minds. We develop a habit of ‘stinking-thinking,’ and those thought patterns assault our good mental health.
For example, we believe worry is disaster preparedness. We convince ourselves it is prudent to worry, so when disaster comes, we are ready for it. We overlook the fact that 99% of the time what we fear doesn’t happen, and worry is dominating our lives. It’s a joy-sucker, but we are too entrenched in the pattern to realize it’s destructiveness.
These thought patterns are like mental shorthand. We take offense before considering how much simpler, and less emotionally taxing it is, to let it go. We over-commit, when we should say no, then feel stressed and angry. We self-deprecate without knowing we are damaging ourselves. We watch a news channel obsessively, convinced that staying hyper-informed is helpful, while in truth it is causing fear.
So what’s your joy-sucker? Is it constant worry, an over-packed schedule, or too much time watching the news? The thing joy-suckers have in common is they don’t leave room for God. Since the “Joy of the Lord is our strength,” then His joy can become ours. We need to invite Him in to crush our joy-suckers.
Here is my favorite joy-sucker buster verse for worry, “You need not be afraid of sudden disaster…for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap” (Proverbs 3:25-26). Now, take that verse and speak it out loud 3x a day, just like you would a prescription, and see if it’s not better than a tranquilizer. And while it may be habit-forming, it’s a good, life-enhancing habit. Plus, you will like the side effects. Now, find scriptures that combat your other joy-suckers, and apply liberally.