Thoughts can be interesting things. One moment you could be sitting in silence & the next laughing at something that flitted through your mind.
They can bring tears of joy…or sadness.
They can keep you awake at night in anticipation…or fear.
They can spur you to act…or keep you frozen in place.
They can lead to new innovations & life changing moments.
It (ironically) blows my mind that something so intangible can make SUCH a difference in our daily lives.
You can’t touch a thought but it can touch you.
Thoughts make such a huge difference.
Our thoughts influence our actions which is why what we allow ourselves to think is so important. Despite what you may believe or have been taught, we generally can* control what we think. (*This doesn’t mean there aren’t actual medical conditions such as clinical depression that impact our thoughts. If you think you are dealing with this I absolutely encourage you to seek medical & diagnostic aid).
The thoughts we allow ourselves to think, especially the ones we play on repeat, influence what we believe…about ourselves, others, & what we’re capable of.
When it comes to my own thoughts, I’ve been having to really start warring against them. An important defensive aspect in warfare is being able to spot & get rid of the “spy,” the agents that don’t belong, the ones that may do damage to your cause. That’s what I’ve been having to do with my own thoughts. I’ve always had big dreams & goals but I’ve rarely followed through because instead of believing my dreams were possible & believing I could do what God was calling my heart to do, I listened to the fear-filled “thought spies” which froze me & hurt His cause. Now I’m learning to identify those sneaky “spies,” challenge them, & kick them out of my mind.
My “thought-spies” sound a little like this:
– “People are going to think I’m so lame for this.”
– “No one will really support this.”
– “I’m never going to succeed, why bother trying?”
– “Just give it up. It’s too hard.”
– “What if I fail? What will people think?”
– “I’ve failed & not followed through before. It’s going to be that way again & I’m going to humiliate myself.”
– “It’s not good enough, no one else will like it either.”
– “Don’t try to hang out with them, they won’t like you & you won’t fit in.”
– “Making that friend is just going to hurt when they abandon you like the others. Spare yourself. They won’t like you anyways.”
Do any of those sound familiar? Have any of those “thought spies” shown up in your life? Maybe you have your own little spies holding you back from your goals, dreams, or what God has called you to do. You’re definitely not alone, if that’s the case. Now that I’m starting to recognize when my spies show up I’m starting to attack them instead of passively accepting them. Part of how I’ve done that is through God’s Word & accountability with others.
God’s Word tells us to take every thought captive & He gives us guidance on how we can do that. He calls us to control our hearts & tongues. Our thoughts are just our internal reflection of those things & what we believe. If we don’t control them then they’ll control us. All of this is WAAYY easier said than done. I remember I used to get SOO frustrated when anyone would quote Philippians 4:6, “…be anxious about nothing…”. Like…come on, I get it. I don’t enjoy being anxious or being held back by my thoughts. I don’t do this for fun, I just don’t know HOW to not worry, I don’t understand the HOW for controlling my thoughts. Mid-pandemic, though, God pointed me to the “how.” His Word gives us SO many weapons we can use to fight this war against the thoughts that aren’t of Him:
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer & petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers & sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable- if there is any moral excellence & if there is anything praiseworthy- dwell on these things.”Philippians 4:6-8, CSB
“Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, & your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation & the sword of the Spirit- which is the Word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer & request, & stay alert with all perseverance & intercession for all the saints.”Ephesians 6:14-18, CSB
Therefore, confess your sins to one another & pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”James 5:16
So what are the weapons He gives us, you ask?
– Gratitude & giving thanks for the smallest of things (my go-to is as simple as access to a warm shower…to start)
– Remembering that God is near (even when it is hard)
– Holding our thoughts up to the characteristics of God & getting rid of the ones that don’t match (true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of moral excellence, praiseworthy).
– The armor of God
– Knowing His Word- spend time in it & memorize it
– Living rightly
– Being assured of our salvation
– Confession, accountability, community, & seeking outside help when needed
– Oh, & did I mention prayer?
Much (*not all*) of what influences our thoughts can be traced back to our own lifestyles, what we fill our time & mind with. None of the above are easy (hence perseverance being listed in Ephesians). These are all WAAYY easier said & written than done, I definitely understand because I have & continue to fight anxiety, it just takes practice, & with anything the more you practice the easier it is & the better you get at it. It takes identifying what is true- that God is good & loves me, & He is all that matters- & 110% clinging to that truth despite what thoughts Satan throws my way. It takes being willing to be open & honest with yourself & others, & being willing to confront & deal with the hard stuff in order to get to the other side.
When the negative thoughts I described above, the dreaded “thought spies,” show up I now challenge them. I use the weapons God has guided me to in His Word to fight them off & continue clinging to Him. I keep showing up. I keep reminding myself that even if what I’m doing isn’t perfect or I’m overly self-critical, that someone else might find delight & encouragement in my art or my words. I remind myself God doesn’t expect perfection but obedience. I remind myself every little bit of what I do counts, even the imperfect, when it comes to growing, every little bit is another step closer to reaching my goals, dreams, & what God has called me to. I compare my thoughts to that checklist above & if they don’t line up then my thoughts need to change. If my thoughts change then my behavior will likely soon follow.
And again, there are some forms of thought rooted in medical issues. God has also given us the weapon of therapists, doctors, & medicine & it’s absolutely okay to seek that out, too. If you’re a Christian, I also encourage you to seek a Christian counselor alongside these other resources to help guide you with a Biblical perspective.
Ultimately our thoughts, whatever they’re rooted in- medical or lifestyle struggles, are influenced by the spiritual world around us according to God’s Word…
“For our struggle is not against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.”Ephesians 6:12, CSB
The above is why vs 13 (referenced earlier) reminds us that it is SO important to take our thoughts to the Lord, to seek His guidance, check them against the standards He set out in His Word, to seek community & accountability, & to do something about it if they don’t line up! He didn’t put his guidance there to be a kill-joy but to GIVE joy which ultimately brings glory to Him. Don’t let Satan or any thought keep you from glorifying the Lord or doing what He called you to do & be.
So, join me in this war on thoughts…& be blessed, friends.