Believing, Feeling, and Doing

Mental health professionals use a variety of interventions to address psychological and emotional problems, but one of the most commonly used methods is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. According to one study in the UK, CBT represented 72.7% of all therapies used by counselors.

As described by the UK’s National Health Service, “CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a negative cycle.” In other words, the thoughts that we have affect our emotions, and our emotions affect our behaviors. This can lead us into cycles of depression and anxiety that are difficult to end.

For example, suppose “Alex” is suffering from anxiety and depression. He worries that he is not earning enough money in his job to pay the bills. The more that he thinks about his financial difficulties, the worse he feels about himself. These thoughts make him feel hopeless and trapped. To escape these negative feelings, he drinks a few beers before bed each night. However, the alcohol makes him feel even worse about himself because he doesn’t rest very well during sleep, and he has difficulty waking up for work when his alarm sounds. His depressed emotions lead him to feel detached from others at work, and he is overlooked when opportunities for promotions arise because of his negative attitude and sluggish work ethic. This drives Alex to feel more anxious, more depressed, and less hopeful.

And the cycle continues.

In this example, we can see how Alex’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are connected. Alex THINKS that he won’t be able to earn enough money to pay bills, which causes him to FEEL anxious and depressed. As a result, he BEHAVES in a manner that reinforces these negative thoughts and feelings. The cycle looks like this:

To interrupt this cycle, we must learn to manage our thoughts. The Bible describes the victorious life as one in which we “take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As we learn to take control of negative thoughts, our negative feelings and behaviors will also be controlled.

Once again, consider Alex’s situation. His cycle is rooted in thoughts about himself not being able to earn enough money to pay his bills. Fundamentally, Alex has developed a poor evaluation of himself. In other words, he doesn’t THINK he is worth very much, which causes him to FEEL that he is not worth very much, which results in BEHAVIORS that reflect a lifestyle of poverty, devaluation, and lack. To interrupt this cycle, Alex will need to begin replacing negative thoughts about himself with positive thoughts.

You may ask, though, what gives Alex the right to change his thinking about himself? The answer is found in the Bible. Alex’s worth is not defined by how he thinks about himself nor by how others think about him. Instead, his value is determined in the eyes of God. In fact, Alex’s value exceeds anything that can be purchased with silver or gold, for his life was purchased by God with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

To interrupt this cycle of poverty and depression, Alex will need to change his thinking. He will need to begin thinking about himself the same way that God thinks about him. Any time Alex begins to think that he will not be able to pay the bills, he can replace this negative thought with the truth from God’s Word: “My God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19). Any time Alex feels that he is unworthy of love, he can choose to believe what God says about him instead: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Jesus has said: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

As Alex begins to trust the truth of what the Bible says about his value, his feelings will change. As he begins to BELIEVE that he is loved, he will begin to FEEL loved. As he FEELS loved, he will BEHAVE as a person who is loved.

[Are you having difficulty believing the truth of what God says about your situation? Talking with someone can help. Click here to set up an appointment with a Christian counselor].

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