I grab my purse and head out the door. I have been looking forward to meeting up with my friends all week. I pick up Sherry, and as we pull out of her driveway, she tells me, “Sarah, just so you know, Caroline is going to be there.” My heart sinks, and I immediately wonder, Is it too late to back out now? As Sherry smiles and chats away, my mind is racing about what I will do around Caroline. How should I handle her being there? And then I think back to each encounter we have had where she hurt my feelings. I don’t like her. No matter what I do, I always feel like an outsider when she’s around. I try to forgive her, but things keep coming up. For example, when one of my friends complimented my homemade chicken soup, Caroline leaned over and said, “Wait until you taste mine. It’s so much better.” By the time we arrived at the restaurant, my mind was full of negative thoughts about Caroline, and I did NOT want to go in.
Have you ever had an experience like this? I’m not talking about the chicken soup, but an experience where your mind runs loose and free and doesn’t allow you to forget anything. And the negative experiences are all you can think about.
Our minds are a battlefield. When we begin this all-consuming downward spiral, the adversary wins the battle, and we lose. In this scenario, Sarah lost the battle in more than one way. She lost out on the joy she could have had spending time with her friends. She lost out on the freedom that comes when we forgive someone, and she lost out on the hours and hours of peace she could have had if only she had known how to take her thoughts captive.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we see that our goal is to destroy arguments and opinions that are against the knowledge of God. Instead, Sarah allowed those arguments and opinions not only to enter her mind but to multiply, grow, and eventually squeeze out the truth.
I got out of the car and looked at my husband. “I sure hope your mom doesn’t say anything about my parenting style again. I’m so tired of her passive-aggressively telling me that she disapproves of my parenting. Remember when she brought over those parenting books? Nothing like someone shoving parenting books at you as if to say, “You are not a good mom, and here, I bought all of these for you so that you can do better.” My husband looked at me lovingly and said, “Lacy, my mom means well. Maybe you can change your perspective and see that she is just trying to help.” I smiled and nodded, but in my mind, there was no way that was true. My mind began to bring up all of the things she had said that made me feel like a failure, not just as a mother but also as a wife to her son. My heart clenched, and I just couldn’t see how she could have my best interest at heart. It felt like she stabbed me every single time I saw her. I really just wanted to go home and let my husband see his family on his own from now on.
My mind marinated in these thoughts for the following days, weeks, and possibly months. It was all I could think about. As I stood washing dishes, I looked out the window and saw nothing because my mind was too busy going over and over everything my MIL had “done” to me and what I would say to her the next time.
In this scenario, Lacy’s mind is steeped in these thoughts as she turns them over and over in her mind. They are so real and prevalent that she cannot see anything else. These thoughts are poison, slowly seeping into her veins and moving straight into her heart.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:22)
What kind of life do you suppose would flow out of Lacy’s heart? Would it be pleasing to the Father or the adversary?
Think about the battlefield, packed with arguments, opinions, and lies. Picture the truth popping out of the frame, replaced with lies. There is little truth left in the mind now, and who is dancing on the battlefield? Each time we lose ourselves to these thoughts, we lose the battle for our minds.
Each time we lose the battle for our minds, we lose another piece of truth.
I wake up exhausted again. I look in the mirror and whisper, “Come on, Jane, get your act together.” I simply can’t sleep because my mind is so active. I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve been able to shut it down and have a night of peaceful sleep. I have even started taking Benadryl to try to knock myself out, but it rarely helps for very long. My mind is so occupied with these “what if” scenarios and how I would handle them that I have no peace anymore. I can barely get through a day because I am so exhausted, both physically and mentally. I close my eyes and pray,” Please, Father, please help me get through the day. Please give me a night of rest.” It’s all I can do to even pray anymore because my brain moves on to these other thoughts so quickly. What is wrong with me that I can’t focus on anything else? Before I can consider this thought or pray about it, my thoughts have moved on. It will be hours before my brain allows me to wonder about this question again.
Sound familiar? Lack of sleep, exhaustion, lack of focus, and yet your mind is busy—working, working, working.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
While all of these scenarios are fiction, they are similar to the ones that used to play in my mind. I used to be “Sarah,” “Lacy,” and “Jane.” I allowed my thoughts to consume my mind and poison my heart. I allowed the adversary to steal my peace. I lost the battle for my mind without ever realizing that I was in a war. I never put on a helmet or picked up a shield or sword; I simply stood there as if I had been blindfolded and allowed it all to be taken.
I felt defeated. I had lost so much and had no way to regain it. How do you suddenly walk onto a battlefield where the enemy has prevailed and take it all back?
Most people who fight a battle will tell you to take it one day at a time, one step at a time, or one bite at a time, but in this case, I had to take it one thought at a time.
So what are some practical ways of taking our thoughts captive?
I like to use the acronym S.T.O.P. to remind me:
Focus on Scripture – Memorize some scripture to quote when your mind wants to focus on things it shouldn’t. This verse is one I use a lot:
“I can do all things through him that strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
Focus on Truth – We know the enemy lies to us, and we must focus on what the Father says is true. Sit down and list the truths that discredit every lie you tell yourself. This list will give you tangible paper to look at and see the truth.
Focus on Others – Actively looking for ways to love your neighbor can help you focus on others instead of yourself.
Focus on Prayer – I have a constant conversation with the Father all day long. It keeps my mind from running away.
Rather than allowing your mind to run free while you’re washing dishes, try instead to focus on one of these things.
It is so important that we start recognizing the lies we are telling ourselves. For example, when I met Jarred 18 years ago, I weighed 208 lbs. Over the years, I have lost a lot of weight, but I still think of myself as a fat girl. This thought is a lie, and the truth is that I am perfectly made. He gave me my hair color and my eye color, my petite frame, and my tiny hands and feet. And this is what I turn my thoughts to when the enemy tells me I am still the fat girl.
It is so easy to believe the lies of the adversary and nearly impossible for us to believe the Father’s truth, but know that this is the truth.
You are loved.
You are beautiful.
You are made in His image.
On those days that are hard and the enemy tells you that you are a failure, you must remember that you are created by the Most High! He chose you, and He has already equipped you with everything you need.
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