This has been on my heart for awhile and something I have been really working on over the last year. I feel like this message has been coming at me from several angles, so I know it’s something the Lord wants me to learn & pass along.
Sometimes when I learn something it just ‘clicks’ and that’s the end of it. I get it, I change, and it’s not an issue anymore. I looove when it works like that.don’t you? But sometimes it doesn’t seem to quite make it through this thick ole head, and it’s more of a process that takes continual effort and renewal of my mind. This is one of those things I have to really be conscious and intentional about.
Thinking. Y’all, our thoughts are SO powerful. If you want to change your life, you have to change your thinking.
Honestly, most of us are so busy that we don’t even really think about our thinking. (That’s deep, I know.) But it’s something I encourage you to reflect on and consider. If you’re unhappy with some area of your life, it can usually be improved by changing your thinking about it. It’s alllll about perspective. (Instead of “Why can’t I lose weight?” …try thinking “What can I do differently to lose weight?” Instead of thinking “This is not how I pictured my marriage being. I really wish my husband would change!” …try thinking…”What can I do to improve my marriage & better serve my husband?”)
2 Corinthians 2:15 instructs us to “take every thought captive to Christ.”
I have learned (over the past year especially) that our thoughts often realize into truth & control our lives. Our thoughts control our attitude, our relationships, our habits, our circumstances, our actions, and our reactions. That is powerful, so naturally the enemy wants to attack our minds. It gives him power and control over our lives, which is why we need to FIGHT to protect our thoughts. We can’t even allow the enemy a single inch because you better believe he’ll take a mile. He is the thief who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. (I’ve used the analogy before, but it’s similar to a rat. If a rat can find a tiny hole somewhere to get in a house, it can squeeze all the way through and take up residency. YUCK!)
I am overall a pretty positive person, but there are times in my life when I struggle with negative thoughts. Doubts, fear, insecurity, unforgiveness, bitterness, inadequacy. I catch them creeping in ocassionally when I let my guard down. (Fear seems to be the one I have struggled with most recently.)
When I was younger, I didn’t realize that I actually CAN control my thoughts. Nobody really taught me that. I assumed if I felt a certain way or thought a certain way, I just couldn’t help it; it was just the way I was and it must be true. But that’s not the truth. You, my friend, can control how you think.
Sometimes the thoughts might be about yourself. (I’m not _______ enough. I’ll never be able to do _______.) Sometimes about others. (My children are driving me crazy. My husband is so insensitive. My boss is a jerk. My in-laws don’t treat me fairly.) Or maybe even about your circumstances. (If only I had ________, I’d be happy. This isn’t my fault. This happened because ______.)
God gives us free will, and that includes our choices and our THINKING. I believe some people are more predisposed to negative thinking from their upbringing, personality, etc., but the good news is that we do have control and can change that. We can train our thinking so that it glorifies God. It’s just like working out…we train our muscles with repetition and practice, and eventually muscle memory kicks in and it becomes easier and more natural. In the same way, we can train our minds & learn to filter our thoughts if we are intentional about it.
So here’s how we can combat negative thinking & retrain our brain. It’s really simple actually, even though we tend to overcomplicate and overanalyze (why am I feeling this way? What is the root? Etc.)
First, we have to understand that our thoughts come from one of three places: from the Lord, from the enemy, or from the flesh.
So, how do we know if it’s a thought we generated out of flesh, or if it’s from God, or if it’s from the enemy?
In many other cultures, children get into the family business at a young age. They grow up working alongside their parents because they will eventually take over. And do you know how the older generations teach the younger ones to recognize counterfeit money? They study REAL money so fervently- how it looks, feels, smells- every detail- that they would easily be able to recognize a fake because they genuinely KNOW the REAL thing. Did y’all catch that?? (I hope so because it is SO, so good.) We don’t have to know all of the enemies schemes and lies to recognize them…but rather become so immersed in the TRUTH…in studying the Word and the character of God…that anything counterfeit stands out.
Once we know the Lord well enough through studying the Word, prayer, and developing a personal relationship, it becomes easier to recognize thoughts coming from him. That does take effort on our part, but God will meet you in that and honor your effort. And just like with working out, if you’re disicplined and consistent, it becomes easier over time (and you can challenge yourself to grow deeper at that point).
We have to learn to ask ourself if a thought is glorifying God and bringing us closer to HIS plans for us and the goals we have for ourselves. If not, simply choose to STOP that thought. (Visually picture yourself throwing it in the garbage or tying it to a rock and throwing it into the deepest part of the ocean.) And here’s the fun part- then replace it with TRUTH. So, for example, instead of allowing youself to think a negative thought about yourself or someone else, choose to focus on the TRUTH- that person (you or someone else) is made in the image of God and deeply loved by him. If we allow ourselves to see others through a goldy lens, the TRUTH, it will change everything.
One last thing I’ve learned about this issue is that a “thought” problem is trypically more of a “heart problem.” Proverbs 4:23 says “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Some versions say GUARD your heart. Again, we have to put on the armor of God and FIGHT for it.) A “heart” issue is generally a reflection of your relationship with the Lord. Sometimes we try to look elsewhere and displace the blame, but it can almost always be traced back to an area in your spiritual life that could use some pruning or growth.
God knows the power of our thoughts, so the Word addresses that for us and he gives us some instructions. Here are a few Scriptures about our thoughts.
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” – Luke 6:45
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
“make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:2-8
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there isanything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” –Philippians 4:8
Is there a specific area where you need to be more disciplined in taking your throughts captive to Christ?