“I’m a failure of a wife and mom.”
“My kids are making me crazy! Why can’t they just clean up after themselves?!?”
“Surely I’m not supposed to lead a ministry. I’m too much of a mess.”
“What if that person doesn’t like me?”
“There is no way God can be pleased with me right now.”
“I can’t survive another day as a military wife. It’s too hard.”
These are thoughts that have repeatedly plagued my mind over the years. They have caused great anxiety and despair and frustration.
The truth is, we all battle negative thoughts.
Life Change and Thought Transformation
As we discussed in the last post in the series, where we choose to focus our thoughts will greatly impact:
-how we feel
-how we relate to God, ourselves and others
-and how we live our lives.
We also learned in the first post in the series that to transform our thoughts, God calls us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). And transforming our thoughts can lead to dramatic life change.
Thankfully, God, in His word, gives us practical remedies to do just that: to transform our thought patterns and therefore create life change that lasts.
As we break this down into practical steps, it is important to remember that the process in which we are transformed doesn’t always perfectly follow a formula. What we can cling to, though, is that God is working in us and promises to complete the good work He began in us (Phil. 1:6).
So be encouraged, my friend. 🙂
3 Steps to Transform your Thoughts:
1. A Surrendered Life
2. An Upward-Focused Mind
3. A Consistent Practice
A Surrendered Life
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2, emphasis mine).
As a first step to transformation and renewal, God calls us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.
No longer are we called to present animal and grain sacrifices to God, because Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial law completely and perfectly. Yet, in the New Testament, we are called to sacrifice our lives to Christ, surrendered fully to Him, living for Him alone, out of love and worship of Him.
As a part of doing this, we choose to no longer be conformed to this world: to its ideas, philosophies, actions or ways of thinking. Instead, we are to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”
This implies a means through which we are transformed into the likeness of Christ is to renew our minds, because:
A transformed life begins with a transformed mind.
And that we would learn to:
-Love what God loves
-Grieve where God grieves
-Rejoice in the things God rejoices in
…and that our hearts would align with the heart of God, and that we would fall in love with Him more and more every day.
This is the first step, but it can be the most difficult step. Our hearts cling to old habits and ways of thinking. We struggle to trust God and believe that His ways are truly higher than our ways.
Don’t rush through this process. Pray. Linger here. Ask God to reveal to you areas in your mind and life that you have yet to fully surrender to Him. Pray that the Holy Spirit would strengthen you and give you the grace to do so. It’s only by the power of His Spirit that we are able to surrender to Him.
An Upward-Focused Mind
Before we became believers, our minds were “set on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19). We, in our ignorance, lived for ourselves and for the things of the world.
But God calls us, as believers, to renew our minds and commands us to:
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2-3).
Practically speaking, we are to focus our minds on eternal truths from Scripture:
-who God is
-what He has done and can do
-our identity in Christ
As well, we are commanded to think about:
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Because when we deliberately choose to think on these things, the negative thought patterns start to have less and less power over us.
The default negative thought patterns begin to change. We begin to forge new patterns of thinking that glorify God and encourage and empower us.
And we can see the power of the gospel and biblical truth work in our lives as we become renewed and transformed, which will lead to lasting life change.
Using Scripture to Transform Thoughts:
Our negative thoughts are rooted in lies. Lies about:
-Who God is
-What He has done or can do
-Our identity in Christ
A great tool to overcome these negative thoughts is to:
-Identify the lie behind the negative thought.
-Replace the lie with truth from Scripture.
Negative thought: “I am such a failure as a Mom.”
Possible lies I’m believing:
-God wants me to be the perfect mom
-God’s won’t forgive my failures
Take those thoughts captive, replace them with TRUTH from Scripture:
“Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Practical Tools to Transform Thoughts:
MEMORIZE the chosen bible verses.
POST STICKY NOTES with the bible verses all over your house, in your car, on your phone, EVERYWHERE to help you to SATURATE your mind with truth as you go about your day.
SPEAK these truths out loud.
JOURNAL through these truths.
When I was in the depths of postpartum depression, God taught me the power of journaling to help me transform my thoughts and take every thought captive to obey Christ. I was able to go from feeling utter despair to experiencing the hope of Christ and joy in the midst of suffering.
It was such a wonderful tool to help me to deliberately set my mind on things above.
I read a wonderful book by Elyse Fitzpatrick, called Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety, which I highly recommend. In the book she not only uncovers the root of much of our worry and fear, but she gives practical tools to help transform anxious thought patterns.
I modified some of her journaling exercises to apply to all aspects of negative thinking, and came up with a wonderful journal exercise we can do to transform our thoughts.
Use this free downloadable Every Thought Captive Journal Chart to journal your thoughts.
In the column on the left side of a page, we write down all of our Inward and Outward-Focused Thoughts:
-raw and honest negative thoughts and feelings
In the right column, we combat these negative thoughts with Upward-Focused thoughts and TRUTH from Scripture:
-Who God is
-What He has done and what He can do
-Who we are in Christ
Example from my own journal when I had postpartum depression:
Inward/Upward Focused Thoughts: “Oh no. I haven’t slept in days, and I couldn’t sleep last night. I’m going to feel terrible today. How am I going to make it through the day?” I feel weak and tired and emotional and anxious. I hate this. I’m so done!”
Upward-Focused Thoughts: “Lord, I feel weak today. I had a hard time sleeping again and I feel weak and emotional and anxious. Thank you, Lord, that you are my strength when I am weak. Thank you that in the same way that you provided manna in the desert for the Israelites and water came forth out of the rock, you can provide for me today. I am asking that you be my strength today, that you may be glorified. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see you provide in a miraculous way and to be glorified in this jar of clay. Thank you for using me despite myself. I can’t wait to see how you work in me and through me today. To You be the glory!”
These are all very practical tools to help us “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (1 Cor. 10:5)! We take the negative thought captive, get rid of it, and replace it with God’s truth!
Before long, whenever the negative thoughts pop into our minds, God’s truth will speak louder. The default of our minds will change, and we will be transformed.
A Consistent Practice
After Paul tells us to think about “whatever is true, noble, right, pure…” (Phil. 4:8), he encourages us:
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9).
We are to follow Paul’s example. We are to continually, daily practice the things that Paul commands, including thinking about and meditating on truths from Scripture.
I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to get excited about doing something new, just to soon fall off the wagon when the novelty wears off.
But that is not to be the habit of the believer. For lasting life change, we are to diligently practice these things with a grace-driven effort, fueled by love for and worship of Jesus.
We can do this, my friend!
I’d love to hear from you!
What practical tools do you use to transform your thoughts?
What thought patterns have you been able to transform? How have you been able to transform your life by focusing upward to Jesus and meditating on His truth?
Where do you struggle?
Oh, friend, I pray that you will use these tools to help transform your thoughts! I pray that God would work in your heart, reveal His truth to you, and that you would lay hold of and courageously live out of the truths of who God is, who you are in Christ, and the gospel. I pray that your heart and life would be transformed, and that you would, through these exercises, fall more and more in love with Jesus. I pray that not only would your mind be transformed but that your life would be transformed. I pray that through these exercises, you would grow closer to your Savior, Jesus Christ.