I am fiercely introverted. I often find myself drifting to the corners of my mind – pondering ideas, meditating on scripture, revisiting conversations, and making observations. I also delight in creating engaging lesson plans, dreaming up dinner menus, and planning weekends with loved ones. These are good things.
“You are too much.”
“You aren’t worthy of love.”
“You are fat.”
“You are ___________.”
There is much to say about how destructive and powerful these statements are. If we don’t take these thoughts captive, we risk the possibility of fueling them for a lifetime, perhaps without our awareness. Jesus calls us to a radical, bold, and courageous life with him, which includes a new way of thinking. I don’t want to settle for a lesser existence.
For years, I fueled my anxiety about my body through excessive exercise and dieting. I believed that the way to stop thinking I was unattractive was to do everything in my power to make myself fit a cultural standard of beauty. I was miserable, prioritizing fitness and giving Jesus my leftovers. I identified myself with my inadequacies. And so I allowed negative thoughts to define me. I no longer felt ugly. I was ugly. I embedded the construct of ugly into my belief system. What was originally a thought and lie, became a part of me.
I allowed negative thoughts to define me. I no longer felt ugly. I was ugly. I embedded the construct of ugly into my belief system.
Now, I am equipped to capture these lies. I still struggle with my body image, but I struggle better.
We must realize that our thought lives are closely connected to our identity. Chew on that for a moment. The way we think actually informs our identity – our beliefs, theology, and community. If we are image bearers of God, this is a big deal. (WE ARE!)
We must replace negativity with Truth. God is the Truth, which everything hinges on.
We receive this exhortation through Paul’s letter to the Philippians “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)
I want to make a clear distinction here. I am not suggesting that we should conjure up happy, cheerful thoughts and dismiss any hard-pressed, negative thoughts that come our way. Quite contrary. We must take captive harmful thoughts about our identity and do the difficult work of reconciling truth to ourselves and to each other. We must examine the roots of our thought life and test them according to Truth. This should often lead us to confession and repentance.
I want to offer three helpful ways to combat lies with Truth:
1. Meditate on the Word, particularly the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, in his full and complete humanity, often referenced scriptures to rightly and courageously identify himself as the Son of Man. I think of his temptations in the wilderness of Matthew 4: turning stones into bread, jumping from the temple and calling for salvation, and dominion over the earth. Jesus responded by wielding Truth over the enemy, proclaiming scripture from Deuteronomy 6 and 8. Jesus was firmly rooted in the Word. When we follow his example, we can strengthen our thought lives.
Start in the gospels. Watch Jesus proclaim Truth over his accusers and learn from him.
We must realize that our thought lives are closely connected to our identity.
2. Be filled with the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit empowers and equips believers for all kingdom work. Brothers and sisters, we are called to the ministry of reconciliation and restoration. We cannot do this effectively, without the great helper. We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, who will always lead us to the heart of God.
Pray for discernment. Pray that you would know the person of the Holy Spirit and listen to his voice.
3. Be vulnerable with your community.
It’s difficult to talk about the thought life, exposing ugliness and sin. But I have found vulnerability to be healing to the bones and soul. There’s something powerful about putting a voice to your struggle, realizing that you are not alone. I encourage you to be bold.
Meet with a trusted friend this week, share your struggle, and walk into the light together.
Taking thoughts captive is arduous work, yes. But through searching our hearts and minds, we will experience more freedom to live in our full identities.
Author’s note: I intentionally omitted the discussion of mental illness in relation to thought life. I understand mental illness to be serious- encompassing biology, emotional connectivity, and spirituality. My blog post does not dismiss the complexity of these disorders in any way. If you are a beloved reader who struggles with mental illness, I pray for hope, reconciliation, and peace.
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Photo Credit: charamelody, Creative Commons