Last updated on November 2, 2020
I am 17 years old. I have been having so many problems lately with my thoughts. About a year ago God told me to die to self. I resisted, afraid that He wanted me to physically die. Finally, I understood, and I started to surrender. But my anxiety and worse thoughts came back. As soon as one started, even worse ones came. Here are some examples: “Would I sell my soul for this?” These changed to “Summon evil in my thoughts.” Then they changed to images of my family dead, thinking what if I wished my family dead or had cancer. Then it changed to where I am now “cursing,” like curse this, curse that. Then I have to throw away whatever that thought is or ask the person for forgiveness, even though they don’t know what I’m apologizing for.
I’ve tried calling hotlines for help, but nobody answers. I’ve only told my 8-year-old sister. I’ve been Catholic all my life. I can’t stop these thoughts. I’ve been trying so hard, but I feel depressed, anxious, and scared that people will get hurt because of me. I’ve prayed for forgiveness, but these thoughts keep coming. I want to stop these thoughts and be happy.
I find it interesting that the only person you’ve told is someone who cannot truly understand the situation and who can’t do something about it. This tells me that deep down you really don’t want to admit that you have a problem. That same avoidance explains why you haven’t exerted control over your thoughts.
The teaching to die to self did not come directly to you in your thoughts. It is loosely found in the Scriptures:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (II Corinthians 5:15).
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
The concept of dying to self is to consider our desires for things of this world and its sins to no longer exist. I suspect that you vaguely heard the phrase is some lesson, but not examining the source of the statement, you came away with the wrong impression.
The reason for going into detail is to show you two things: First, your thoughts are not God speaking to you. Second, things become clearer when you go back to the true source of truth (John 17:17). When you depend on what God has said, things become stable because God’s Word doesn’t change.
Weigh what you might think against what God has said. Instead of wallowing in a panic over your thoughts, acknowledge that some things are not worth spending time considering. Then purposely focus on better things. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).