*Disclaimer: My prayer is that these blog posts will be encouraging and helpful to you, but know that I am not a counselor. While I believe the Bible is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16), I do believe there are times when it is good and healthy for a believer to seek professional counseling.
Read Intro post here.
The War in our Minds
When I think of taking every thought captive, I think of one word: battle.
Maybe you can relate?
Because overcoming sinful thought patterns in my life has been nothing short of an all out war, my life marked by battle after battle with fear and anxiety, bitterness and anger, despair and shame, pride, insecurity and discontentment.
-As a child and young adult, my life was marked by bitterness. God softened my heart when I became a believer, allowing me to forgive for the first time in my life, the burden of bitterness and anger lifted from me.
-My experience with severe postpartum depression exposed deeply ingrained anxious and negative thought patterns that I was unaware of. God graciously used that season as an opportunity to teach me how to transform my thoughts and know Him more intimately.
-As well, our family has endured four long deployments, where I often didn’t hear from Geoff. I remember struggling with intense fear, as I was SURE he would die, especially during his third deployment.
Yes, I’ve struggled deeply with my thoughts.
The truth is, we all struggle with our thoughts.
And to add insult to injury, often the roots of our thoughts grow from deep wounds inflicted by others, seeds of lies sown throughout our lives. Like deep-rooted weeds, these thoughts are stubborn, difficult to remove, as they’ve been reinforced by years and years of habitual thinking. These habitual thoughts actually create pathways in our brains, causing us to develop thought patterns that color how we interact with God, ourselves and the world around us.
And the garden of our minds ends up overgrown with weeds and thorns, with destructive thoughts that paralyze us and choke out the abundant life God has for us.
“Why do bad things always happen to me?”
“I can’t forgive ________. He/she hurt me too badly”.
“I’m a failure.”
“What if _____________ happens?”
“I can’t go on.”
“God can’t love me. I’ve screwed up too many times.”
“There’s something deeply wrong with me.”
And the war wages on. The battle ensues.
And it’s exhausting.
At times we are defeated by the Enemy.
At other times we triumph.
But despite the outcome, by the grace of God, we can continue to grow closer to our Savior and ultimate victor, Jesus Christ, as He helps us pull the weeds and plant new seeds of life-giving Truth.
Because the great news is that we can create new pathways in our brains by planting these seeds of Truth and deliberately changing our thought patterns, which can in turn transform our lives. Not only is this concept taught in modern neuroscience, but it has its roots in God’s Word.
Taking Every Thought Captive
2 Cor. 10:3-5:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
Paul, in the context of these verses, was referring to the arguments and lies being taught by the false teachers to the Corinthian church, but I believe we can make a secondary application to our own lives here.
I believe we can derive 3 big ideas from these verses:
1. We are in a spiritual battle for our minds.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we live in a constant spiritual battle. This includes the battle for our minds.
Because our thoughts are powerful. And Satan knows it.
thoughts influence our beliefs,
beliefs determine our actions
and actions create our lives.
And if Satan can win the battle for our minds, he can directly influence our lives.
BUT, we don’t have to live defeated!
Because, if we are in Christ, Jesus won the battle for us, and we now have access to the weapons of warfare that are “not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
What are these spiritual weapons?
- the Holy Spirit
- the Word of God
God, in His great grace, has given us Himself and His Word to fight the spiritual battles in our minds!
2. We all have strongholds that need to be destroyed.
A stronghold is another word for fortress.
In the context of these verses, stronghold is used metaphorically, referring to a thought pattern or thought “fortress” that holds you prisoner. These thoughts, according to the verse, are “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (v.5).
According to a message by Rick Warren, strongholds can include:
- Worldview: “materialism, hedonism, Darwinism, secularism, relativism, communism, atheism. All of the different -isms are mental strongholds that people set up against the knowledge of God.”
- Personal Attitude: “Worry can be a stronghold. Seeking the approval of other people can be a stronghold. Anything that you make an idol in your life can be a stronghold — fear, guilt, resentment, insecurity. All of these things can be strongholds in your mind. And the Bible says that we are to tear them down.”
These thoughts come in the form of lies that distort the truth about:
- who God is
- who we are in Christ
- the gospel
Let’s look at a few examples of negative thoughts and the lies at the root of the thoughts:
1. “God can’t love me. I’ve screwed up too many times.”
Possible lies at the root of the thought:
- God only loves good people.
- I need to be perfect for God to love me.
- I need to earn God’s favor.
2. “What if ___________ happens???”
Possible lies at the root of the thought:
- God is not in control and He is not good.
- God wants to harm me.
- I do not have access to God’s strength to get me through difficult circumstances.
No matter what stronghold we struggle with, we will find lies clinging to its root.
3. We destroy strongholds by taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
In the battle over my thoughts, I have come to the realization that I’ve allowed negative thoughts to penetrate my mind, millions of arrows flying at me at once, feeling completely helpless against the barrage.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized, with the help of a wonderful counselor, that I can capture those thoughts before they hook into me and seek to destroy me.
I don’t have to allow the lies to penetrate my mind.
In the same way that we grab a trowel and dig up stubborn weeds by their roots and throw them away, so too must we treat our negative thought patterns.
We capture the thought,
destroy it if it’s a lie,
and replace it with the fruit-bearing seeds of Truth from the Word of God.
We plant these seeds in the fertile soil of prayer and meditation, and allow the Holy Spirit to grow the seed into a new thought pattern that will bear good fruit in its season.
Just like Joshua and the Israelites, who by God’s power took down the walls of Jericho, so too will our strongholds be destroyed by God’s power through the working of the Holy Spirit, through His Word, and through prayer.
We can do this!! Are you in??? Are you ready to be transformed???
In the next 4 weeks we will look at:
- Inward-focused thoughts and how they negatively affect our lives (fear, anxiety, shame, pride, self-centeredness, self-loathing, unbelief, despair, self-consciousness…)
- Outward-focused thoughts and how they negatively affect our lives (thoughts focused on others and our circumstances: bitterness, fear and anxiety, jealousy, envy, anger, blame, pride)
- Upward-focused thoughts and how focusing on God, our identity in Christ, the gospel and truths from Scripture can transform us!
- Practical tools to help us transform our thoughts and transform our lives!
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In the coming week, I’d like for you to bravely examine your thought life:
What thoughts seem to repeat themselves over and over in your mind?
What thoughts paralyze you?
What thoughts cause you to act in a negative manner toward God and others?
What lies about God, your identity in Christ and the gospel can you see are attached to these negative thoughts?
How do these negative thoughts affect how you interact with yourself, God, and others?
Write down your observations. Journal through these questions.
I’d love for you to write to me or leave a comment, so that we can share our struggles and encourage one another! We will grow so much more if we walk through this with a community of other women who are on the same journey. You are NOT alone. We’re in this thing together, sweet friend. 🙂
Lord, You are such a patient, gentle, and kind God. I thank you that You are Truth. I thank you that you are Light and that in You there is no darkness at all. I ask that you’d soften our hearts as you reveal negative thought patterns in our lives. I ask that you’d give us courage as we do this. I pray that you would pour out your grace and love on us as we move forward toward more freedom and the abundant life You have for us in Christ. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Next Post in the series: Every Thought Captive 2/3