“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” ―Laird Hamilton
The mind is a wonderful, terrible, beautiful thing. We have all been tortured by our thoughts at one time or another. Those nights that have been spent tossing and turning wondering if you will ever be able to turn your mind off. Those memories that you want to get rid of and those that you want to live over again. All the information, the failures, the success, the dreams that swirl around in your head both limiting you and pushing you forward. It’s crazy that they can all inhabit the same space in our being. With all that going on it is important that we take time to understand and care for our minds.
It is our minds job to think. It is designed to gather and store information, to plan, organize, evaluate, decide, discern, learn, assimilate, concentrate, choose, create, dream and imagine. It is the command center for the body. Sometimes you are fully conscious of it’s activities and sometimes things are occurring in your subconscious unbeknownst to you. Whether you are aware of not, your mind is always working, and it has an incredibly powerful impact on your perception, your attitude, and your ability to accomplish your goals.
Our minds have so much to offer, yet we often find ourselves falling victim to intrusive thoughts and confusion which thwart even the best intentions. Here are some of the ways our thought life gets us into trouble:
1.) Cognitive distortions. Some types of cognitive distortions are: filtering, black and white thinking, over generalization, jumping to conclusions, magnifying or minimizing awfulizing, personalization, control fallacies, blaming, “should, must, ought”, emotional reasoning, fallacy of change, and global labeling. When you engage in these patterns of thinking you believe you have lost your personal power for change and problems become distorted in your mind.
2.) Fantasy. While some forms of fantasy and imagination are wonderful, some forms can be destructive. Destructive fantasies are those that are counter to God’s will and plan and lead to sin.
3.) Automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts are images or mental activity that occur as a response to a trigger (like an action or event). They are automatic and ‘pop up’ or ‘flash’ in your mind without conscious thought. These thoughts are often linked back to memories or trauma. They have become ingrained as a habitual way of responding to a trigger.
4.) Intrusive thoughts. An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate.
5.) Lack of information. Some times we simply lack the needed information and facts to make an informed decision.
6.) Lies. These can be lies that others have told us, that we tell ourselves, or that the enemy has convinced us to believe.
In God’s word He talks about taking every thought into captivity, bringing our thoughts into obedience, and intentionally dwelling on good things. Often his word speaks of being thankful and offering praise. He also advises us to seek out truth and wisdom, to be aware of the devil and his lies. This is God’s formula for changing our perspective and our attitude. When we feed our minds good and true information, and follow God’s word regarding how to manage our thought life, we have the ability to change our perspective, which has the power to change our attitude, which will result in being able to find more peace and contentment along with clarity to make good decisions. Additionally He has said in his word that if any one lacks wisdom to ask and he will grant it! What a wonderful promise for those who are struggling with life decisions, with confusing circumstances, or even dealing with people who are abusive, manipulative or deceitful!
Let’s talk for a minute about some of your rights and responsibilities as they relate to your thoughts. You have the right to acquire new information and skills, to expand your horizons. You also have the right to change your decisions or your opinion. You have the right to ask questions, to study, to explore and to understand. You have the right to create and imagine. You have the right to share information, memories, and dreams. You have the right to have and express your opinions, your likes and your dislikes even if they are different from other people. All of these manners of thinking are part of what make you uniquely you. You also have some responsibilities. You have a responsibility to seek out and share truth. You have a responsibility to make choices and bear the consequences of those choices. You have a responsibility to monitor and control your thoughts. You have a responsibility to seek counsel and advice when you need information or when are struggling with your thoughts life and/or memories. You are responsible for what you put in your mind. If you continually feed it junk and lies you will find that you are not only misinformed, but you will also find your self discontent and set up for struggles with temptation, sin and self sabotage. Your mind needs a steady diet of truth to stay healthy. You also have a responsibility to understand that others will not always think they way you think and to allow them the right to their thoughts.
“Reign it in!” That’s the thought that came to me as my mind wandered all over. Tossing and turning over every single thing hanging out there waiting to be resolved. I tried mercilessly to solve my problems. I gathered information, I examined all the pro’s and cons, I looked at all my options. Truly there was nothing I could do. Everything was outside of my control. Still I felt the need to try to solve the problem. As I waded through my situation I felt the familiar tug of shame pulling me to think about the things I had done wrong. How I had messed up. What I should’ve done instead. The names from my past felt like they were plastered on my chest like a name badge, telling the whole world of my mistakes. I felt desperate and hopeless. My mind was thick in despair as I replayed my failures. Then again I heard it in my being. “Reign it in!” It was a familiar voice. One I have come to recognize as the Lord. I began to think on His words and his truth. I remembered the verses that I had learned long ago that reminded me that he has a plan and purpose for me. That he will finish his work. That he loves me. That he is in control. These are themes from his word that I have had to rely on when life gets hard and my thoughts consume me. I sometimes need to be reminded that I don’t need to solve all the world’s problems. Heck, I don’t even need to solve all my problems. God has this, He has me….and beloved….He has you as well.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but 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 NIV)
For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, of love and of sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
(Psalm 139:23 NIV)
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9 NIV)
I confess that sometimes my thoughts are out of control. I confess that I find myself worrying when I need to trust. I confess that I believe lies and that sometimes I even tell lies. Help me to be truthful in all my dealings. Help me to focus on your truth and to find you in all circumstances. I am so thankful that you have given me your word to guide me. How wonderful to know that I can seek you in all situations and you will grant me wisdom and peace. I desperately need both of those! Thank you for loving me despite the craziness that sometimes goes on in my mind. Help me to be a good steward of all that you have entrusted me. Help me to attend to the situations in my life with your guidance and your wisdom. Lead me in truth. Protect me from the schemes of the evil one who seeks only to kill, steal, and destroy. Guard my heart and my mind so that I might glorify you in all my dreams and desires. Help me to submit to you and your plans for my life knowing that you know all things and have already prepared a way for me.
In Jesus Name, Amen
REFLECTIONS: In which ways do you struggle with your thought life? What do you need to do to “reign it in”? Which verse from the scripture meditation list stands out to you the most and why?
ACTIVITY OPTIONS: 1.) Practice journaling your thoughts about a specific situation and scriptural responses to them as if God was speaking the answers to you. 2.) Each day read some scripture. Meditate on it. Look for ways through out the day that it applies to the situations you are facing. 3.) Make a “whatever” list. Use the Philippians 4:8 passage and list specific things for each attribute. When your thoughts seem out of control get the list and begin reviewing and thinking about the things on that list. 4.) Begin a gratitude journal. Each day list 5 things you are thankful for. 5.) Gather facts regarding your situation. Get information and counsel from experts or people you trust to advise you. List pro’s and con’s. Apply scriptural instruction. Acknowledge your opinions and preferences. Make a decision and play out the result. 6.) Mindfulness exercise. Train your mind to focus on something. Find some place still. Pay close attention to a specific details for a designated amount of time. For example, sit by a creek and listen to the sounds it makes, or choose a verse from scripture and focus solely on that verse and it’s meaning. If you notice your mind starts to wander, don’t give up or be harsh on yourself, simply go back to the verse again. In this way you are training your mind to do what you want it to do.