Have you ever cried yourself to sleep, or found yourself listless for days on end? While clinical depression is real and can often be helped by professionals and medication, I want to address something else. I think many of us are prone to the doldrums that result from hurt feelings, grief, betrayal, grudges, fear, abuse, even worry— that occur in everyday mortality.
These moments can fill our minds with such hopelessness that it’s hard to come up for air. And that’s exactly the way Satan wants it. For example, every time we sin, he will whisper that we are unworthy to pray. If we’re struggling to forgive a slight, he reminds us that we are too weak to forgive—or the slight was too big. When we were passed over for a promotion, he gets us doubting our abilities. When someone betrays us he tells us the whole world is like that, so get used to it. Nobody cares about you, you’re all alone. No matter what hardships occur, Satan is there to make matters worse.
Think about the sinner (which is all of us). When we do something wrong, Satan magnifies it. He tells you it’s too late to undo your mistake, so why try? He tells you our commandments are too rigid, too outdated. He tells you to stay away from those who seem not to have sinned because they’ll judge you harshly and make you feel worse (in other words, drop your standards and hang out with people who are a bad influence). Your misery delights him. He wants to keep you there, and then help you descend even further.
Now contrast that with Christ. Again, let’s talk about the person who has sinned in some way. Jesus will never pull out a whip and beat you the way Satan does. When we feel honest regret, he forgives. He wants to help you find your footing again. His entire focus is on helping you get past the mistake, forgive yourself, and grow so much that you can’t even imagine doing that again. He wants you to feel peace, to glow with Christ’s love, to start again. He is cheering you on, and knows your beautiful potential.
What a contrast! Imagine having a blue day and stopping to consider which voice you’re listening to. Are you filled with angst, guilt, anger, lack of confidence, or discouragement? You know whose messages those are. Or are you drawing strength from God, turning to Him in prayer, and letting Him heal you? Are you thinking about the Atonement of Christ, and realizing that He already paid the price for you? Are you making a plan to repair the situation if possible? Taking positive action, baring your soul to Christ, and taking hold of His extended hand will fill you with calm. It’s the exact opposite of what Satan offers.
Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy said that one tactic used by Satan is discouragement. “He uses this tool effectively on the most faithful Saints, when everything else seems to fail. For me, when I begin to feel discouraged, it helps me to recognize who is trying to get me down. This makes me mad enough to cheer up, just to spite the devil.”
Sometimes we’re simply worn down with life’s responsibilities and we see no light at the end of the tunnel. I love what Patricia Holland once said: “If I were Satan and wanted to destroy a society, I think I would stage a full blown blitz on its women. I would keep them so distraught and distracted that they would never find the calming strength and serenity for which their sex has always been known.”
My husband, Bob, has a slick way of getting right to the source of our feelings at dark times. He says, “S.O.S. — Are you listening to the Savior or Satan?” I’ve used this method to shake off self-pity, resentments, and discouragement, and bring my focus back to our precious Lord, serving others, forgiving, and remembering my own strengths.
I’m not saying it’s easy to snap your fingers and cheer up. Sometimes it’s a battle just to breathe, just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But it helps to stop and analyze whose voice you’re letting in. You might even stop and write down what the Adversary is telling you, versus what Christ wants you to know.
Think about this when you find yourself envying someone else’s social media posts. The second you start feeling sorry for yourself, recognize the voice Satan. He wants you to compare and come up short. And when you’re genuinely happy for someone else’s great moments, know that Christ’s light is in your heart.
Other helps are Priesthood blessings, prayer, and scripture study. A good friend can be a sounding board, pulling you back from negative feelings as well. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling disheartened before we even realize what happened. This is evidence of the craftiness of Satan. We need to live consciously, deliberately, and take our spiritual temperature, so to speak, before we get ensnared in one of his traps. The minute you start feeling low, say S.O.S. and thwart Lucifer’s tactics.
Live to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s promptings, and listen for His voice. This can be a protection like no other. Don’t let Satan implant negative labels in your head. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, “Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins, instead of your divine potential. Don’t listen to him.”
Last, remember who you are. You are a child of God. You have a divine potential. You have a Savior who loves you more than you can imagine. You have the strength and faith to resist discouragement, and to send Satan packing. Let’s do it.
Hilton’s book, A Little Christmas Prayer, is the perfect Christmas gift. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.