To the dear saints who find themselves overwhelmed by a flood of unwanted thoughts, there is great hope for you. Here are phrases I often hear in counseling:
- My mind has a mind of its own. I can’t seem to get it under control.
- I fear the next time I’ll have a panic attack. I hate going through those episodes.
- My past seems to keep sneaking up on me and I can’t shake these intrusive thoughts. The memories are more than I can bear.
- I’m so filled with anxiety, I’m struggling to get through my day. I’m falling behind in every area of my life.
Can you relate to any of these?
If you are in Christ, you have been given His Spirit to set your mind on things above and to wage war against that which seeks to entangle you (Colossians 3:1-2; Hebrews 12:1-2). I pray you will see that you can be set free from these patterns of thinking. I would like to do so by refuting a couple of ways renewing your mind can easily be misunderstood. God has given you everything you need in order to fight and I want to point you to the resources he has given you in his word (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Renewing Your Mind is Not Merely Thinking Positively
When instructing others towards taking thoughts captive and renewing their mind, I have found that there is a common tendency to mistake thought renewal for trying to think of a positive thought in any given situation. For example, you may find yourself out of work due to an injury and falling behind in keeping up with your bills. Mere positive thinking could look like telling yourself, “I just have to keep my head up and everything will fall into place. I am not going to worry.” While this may grant initial feelings of relief, the Lord intends more for us. If all you do is try to think of something positive, in order to avoid negative feelings, you will find that the difficulties of your life will not be adequately addressed. As a result, facing the realities of suffering will likely be left unattended and catch up to you later in debilitating feelings of anxiety and despair.
Renewing Your Mind is Thinking Rightly and Truthfully
The biblical alternative to mere positive thinking is renewing your mind that will lead you to take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This will lead you to face hard realities and know how to respond according to Scripture. In turn you will be able to hope in the Lord through difficulty, to praise and thank the Lord when he gives and when he takes away (Job 1:21). When you are in a fearful situation, rather than a platitude of thinking everything will be okay, you will be able to meditate on the power and presence of God to help bring you comfort and reassurance of His care for you whether there is circumstantial relief or an opportunity to walk through difficulty by faith in the Lord. When experiencing distressing trials, you will not need to minimize or ignore what is happening and find refuge and escape apart from the Lord. Instead, you will be able to grieve sin and suffering as you lament before the Lord knowing that He opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; Psalm 18:6).
Renewing Your Mind is Not a Quick, Passive Act
Another misconception I find in regards to thought renewal is believing that if you just say a quick prayer or make an acknowledgement of God then you are supposed to feel better all of a sudden. I can understand a longing to find relief in the midst of pain and yet too often, I see people give up when they do not see results in the timing and way they hope for. I hear the weariness in struggling when counselees share that they have tried to renew their mind, but it just doesn’t seem to work. For example, you may be working through abuse that you suffered in the past. Your ability to process, grieve, and move forward with hope will not happen overnight and you can trust in the Lord’s patience and kindness toward you as you bring every sorrow to him. I pray you will not lose heart and that you will be reminded that training and discipline towards godliness requires grace driven effort and endurance.
Renewing Your Mind is an Ongoing Daily Pursuit
God is truly sympathetic towards you and He promises to give you help in your time of need as you draw near to Him (Hebrews 4:14-16). As you do this day by day, God’s word will prove true and help to restore your soul (Psalm 19:7-8). You will be like a tree planted by streams of water that continues to bear fruit (Psalm 1). God is faithful and He will provide you the peace that surpasses understanding as you fix your mind on Him (Isaiah 26:3-4; Philippians 4:6-8).
Put These Into Practice Today
May you hope in the Lord this very moment and believe He can and will give you victory to overcome the strongholds you are facing. Commit today to begin the following:
- Write down the specific thoughts that are burdening your soul.
- Identify in Scripture how God desires for you to think and respond to your burdens.
- Invite a trusted brother or sister or biblical counselor to help hold you accountable, to sharpen your thinking, and to encourage you in the fight.
Many times in the midst of fighting sin or enduring through suffering, we can find ourselves longing for a lifeline. God has provided specific help and rescue for you to renew your mind through the promises and truths of Scripture. God’s Word is a treasure trove of hope for you as you dig in behold Him.