What troubles your mind today?
What distressing thoughts or concerns are stealing your peace and joy? Poor self-image? Negative self-defeatism? A wayward child? A Prodigal past? Unanswered prayers? God’s silence in the midst of your storms? Job stress or possible loss? Home foreclosure or other financial needs? Confusion about God’s will for your life? What you can and cannot control?
There are many things in life that are causes for concern. A very dear friend of mine recently told me, “It’s hard to focus on the beautiful stars when I’m in the middle of a storm.” Sometimes the worries of life and “what if” scenarios race through my mind on unending playback loops. You know the kind – the scenarios seem to be front and center no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing. With a direct correlation between what you think and how you feel, these nagging thoughts can literally suck the life out of you.
Is there any relief from such crippling thoughts? If so, what can we do to gain that victory?
The cool thing about Scripture is its appeal to rational thought. Yes, there is the element of faith to believe something that may not make logical sense. But there is also an overwhelming amount of Scripture that deals with our rational minds – beginning with “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). So walk with me now through some biblical insight into our minds and how to conquer our troubling thoughts.
Understanding the “What”
Paul tells us the battle taking place in our minds is spiritual. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:5-8). When he says, “have their minds set,” he refers to our individual choice on what we allow in our minds. Think of it like a mind game in which we can choose to either dwell on worldly, worrisome thoughts or on spiritual, godly thoughts. That choice sums up the battle of the mind.
Knowing we need help with this battle, Paul warns us against being conformed to a worldly mindset and encourages us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2). Such a peaceful mindset sounds so appealing! But with all the stressors in life, is such a utopian mindset possible? Or is it just some far-fetched notion for only those people with no problems in their lives? Undoubtedly, God would not include something like this in His Word just to tease or torment us. By that, we may presume it is included for our encouragement and application to life.
Incorporating the “How”
To determine how we can “renew” our minds, let’s look at a few words from Romans 12:2. The word “transform” means metamorphosis, or a changing from one state of being into another. “Renew” means renovation, as in a home improvement project. The word “mind” encompasses your thoughts, feelings, and understanding, yes, even your will. So wrapping them all together would give us a paraphrase of: “Change your mind! Renovate your thoughts, feelings, understanding, and your freewill choice by replacing the old worrisome, nagging, negative junk with brand new stuff!”
Throw out the old junk
We do this by actively taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Picture your mind’s landscape as an open field in which you are a cowboy or cowgirl watching over your herd. When you find your mind invaded by disturbing and defeating thoughts, stop yourself and say, “Stray thought, I am taking you as my prisoner – I am revoking your unfettered access to my mind. I’m lassoing you and dragging you to the cross of Christ where you must yield. Together we will brand you as Not Welcome Here and you must leave.” As in any battle, this is not a one-time round-up. It is a difficult, ongoing process of capturing every thought, imagination, fantasy, self-doubt, perception, and reasoning and willfully making them all obedient to Christ. Just how do we do this?
Think brand new stuff
In essence, retrain your brain. We do this by thinking only about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). When you find yourself dwelling on a distressing thought, ask yourself, ”Is this true? Is this noble? Is this right? Is this pure? Is this lovely? Is this admirable? Is this excellent? Is this praiseworthy?” If the negative thought doesn’t pass those tests, it doesn’t deserve space in your mind. Toss it out and replace it with something that is true, noble, right, pure…..
Partner with the Holy Spirit
Satan wages war on your mind specifically to distract you from your purpose, to steal the peace and joy from your life, and to render you spiritually powerless. However, God has given you the ability, the tools, and the choice to not only fight back, but to win the battle. The most effective tools are Scripture and prayer. When your mind slips into old habits, grab your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth, and prayerfully fill your mind with His promises. Then praise God for His blessings and for being Who He is.
It isn’t easy – especially when you are breaking habits that have formed over many years. But it is always encouraging to take that first step – to capture that first unwanted thought and bring it to Christ.
Yippee-ki-yay, cowboys and cowgirls! Spur your horses and ready your lassos! The battle for your minds is on!