Controlling Your Thoughts
If I am being completely honest this article was not the easiest to write. You never know if what you have to say is going to impact anyone at all, but when what you have to say is so deeply personal, fear takes on a whole new meaning. The problem for this article isn’t the writing in itself, it is the topic. Thoughts. In a simple statement, our thoughts control everything. They enhance our joy, they enhance our pain, they steer us in right or wrong directions, they are helpful or hurtful, they can guide our lives.
“And be not conformed to this world: but yet be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2, King James Version)
The Bible is littered with countless verses about thoughts, assuming, and being correct, that it is because, thoughts are an important topic. As a culture, we find it easier to say no to sin when we are confronted face to face with it. Getting drunk on the weekend, probably not. Murdering someone, heck no! Lying about something, no thank you. When someone or something that you can see or feel confronts you, it is easy to turn them down, the problem is, our thoughts are not a tactile thing. They are in our head and only we know what they are saying. You can say yes or no to them, but guess what, they are always there, for better or for worse, us and our thoughts for the rest of our lives!
I truly believe everyone, everywhere, at some point in their lives have struggled with negative thoughts, big or small, they have struggled. I was never really the person who did have negative thoughts, if something bad came through, it left as soon as it entered and I couldn’t even remember what is was. That was my life for many years until I became a young adult. I was sick a lot, on the couch most of my teenage years, watching television, reading, listening to the radio. I was not prepared for the attack on my mind that was soon coming. Every day I saw the news and the negativity that was our world and I started to think. “How do people do that?” “Why do people do that?” “What if I did that?” “You thought something bad, you are a bad person!” “You don’t even deserve to be here!” “I can’t believe you thought that!” “Oh my goodness, you are going to do that!” etc. etc. etc. May not seem too awful bad, but when you are unprepared, these thoughts can bombard you at any time and say many, many horrid things. “You aren’t good enough.” “You don’t deserve love.” “You are a terrible person.” “You are never going to get what you desire.” “You are going to do horrible things.” “Just do what everyone else is doing, it isn’t that bad.” The list can go on, almost undendidly. Suddenly, a young girl with no prior problems with thoughts all of a sudden was faced with a whole new scheme from the devil; because if we are being honest, that’s where these thoughts are from. These are not good thoughts, if they aren’t good, they aren’t of the Lord. I didn’t really understand that at the time and for years I dwelled on these negative thoughts like they were my breathe. I ran over and over them making myself sick and wondering why I was such a terrible person who couldn’t control my own thinking. I poured my heart out to the one person I knew I could trust to hold my deepest secret. I cried and cried and every time a new thought would pop up and I would run to her and confess I thought this, and that, and the other, and she would tell me stories of people in the bible, give me verses, talk about why I was letting my thoughts control me so much, so on and so on. She did everything right, until one day the worst thing I could possibly think happened. She looked at me and said, Lisa I love you, but I don’t care! I DON’T CARE!!! What the heck kind of loving confidant is that, if they tell you they don’t care about your problems? Didn’t she know this was eating me up inside and I couldn’t control my thoughts and I was sad and lonely and didn’t know what to do. The thing was, she did care. She cared more than anyone, but she knew that I needed to stop taking my problems to her and take them to the Lord once and for all.
This all seems very dramatic, I understand, but our thoughts rule our lives, whether we like it or not and negative thoughts were ruling mine.
At that singular moment in time I took a stand and decided I could not live a Christ centered life if I barraged myself constantly with negativity. I bought every book, every article, I downloaded songs and I started to finally realize how to change those thoughts.
The devil is very keen. I don’t like to give him credit for anything, but there is no point in denying it. He is a trickster. He thrives on making our lives anything but glorifying to the Lord. He may not be inventive, but he sure is consistent. And consistency is what wears us down. We can fight something off a couple times, but a couple hundred times, it starts to get old real fast. I don’t know if you struggle with thinking you aren’t good enough, or maybe you don’t deserve things, you are always going to be alone, or you just want to fit in, whatever it may be, it is real and denying it does not help. I have to admit I am not perfect at my thoughts now. I still have moments when I want to give in to that little voice that whispers negatively into my ear. Sometimes I do give in and sometimes I stand strong, but the point is that you recognize that every single person on this planet has had negative thoughts and you are not alone. There are so many verses, and books, and podcasts, and people who can help, but ultimately you have to be willing to take your struggle to the Lord and say, I don’t know how to fix this rut I am in, but I am going to do it with your help. Eventually, day by day, week by week, you will be able to look back and see a difference in your thoughts.
“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, New International Version)
I would and still do, dwell on the verse above and repeat it in my head over and over and over again until I could decide if the thought I had fell into any of those categories. I would repeat that verse 300 times a day if I had to. I would claim it in the name of Jesus. I would do whatever it took to keep my thoughts focused on the Lord. I think one of the most helpful tools I found was Rebecca St. James’ book “Pure.” It is a daily bible devotional for your Mind, Body, and Spirit. On day three she says “Developing pure minds begins with making a decision concerning which voice we will follow – the voices we hear all around us telling us to please ourselves first and foremost, to do this and that, not worrying about the consequences; or the voice of our loving Shepherd, telling us to follow only Him, go against the tide of popularity, and make decisions that will impact ourselves and others for eternity. The battle of the mind is fought and won by putting a stake in the ground that says, “I choose to think and act on thoughts that are motivated by my heavenly father, not the thinking that comes through the negative influences of this world.” (Pg. 9) That excerpt had such an impact on me, that now, 8 years later, I still recall it and keep it in the forefront of my mind.
I don’t want to be the person who is driven by thoughts that aren’t Godly. Think about today’s world. Most people drink or sleep their sorrows away, take meds, do whatever they need so they don’t have to be alone with themselves. I don’t care if you don’t know the Lord or not, that is no way to live. If we can’t be alone with ourselves, what kind of people are we? Today, I encourage you to put a stake in the ground saying that you will no longer allow the thoughts of this world or the thoughts of the devil to take place in any part of your mind. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was, “You can’t always control what comes into your mind, but you can control what happens to it once it is there.” I urge all of us to make our minds a place of peace and solace, especially in a world filled with such chaos.