Sometimes the most brutal battles that we face in life are the ones that never leave our minds. The thoughts we think about ourselves haunt us when we are most vulnerable, even if we know they aren’t right. Soon, those nagging thoughts appear to be the truth, even if they couldn’t be further from it.
“Amber, you’re a failure.”
“Amber, you’re a horrible teacher.”
“Amber, you’re too organized, strict on yourself, rigid, and OCD.”
“Amber, all you’ll ever be are your diagnoses.”
“Amber, why can’t you just be happy?”
“Amber, everyone sees you’re drowning; get with the program.”
“Amber, everything is your fault,” my sympathetic counselor calmly replied to me during one evening counseling session in demonstration of his point.
“Why would I ever let someone talk to me that way?” I thought to myself, shaking off the thoughts as my counselor finished his example.
“Those are some pretty accusatory and over-generalized statements to make about yourself,” my counselor’s voice gently pushed.
If I’d never let someone else talk to me that way, why would I talk to myself that way?
“That’s the power of challenging thoughts. Think about what you’re thinking about, Amber,” my counselor said.
“Half the stuff you feed yourself isn’t feeding you; it’s starving your soul,” the Holy Spirit within me said.
The Battle of Self-Image
Since conception, it has seemed that I struggle with a negative self-image.
It’s not necessarily that I think that I am horribly vain or grave, but when countless diagnoses cloud me, a ferocious mind of anxiety engulfs me, and the wolves of my past come howling my last name, it’s easy to believe anything Satan plants in my mind. It’s effortless to wish for the days of old when the ages of new would be a nightmare.
I once read a devotional that said that the only thing Satan has control over is your mind. If you have already given him the keys and swung the door wide-open, what good is it to fight from the inside? If we want to capture our thoughts, especially those ordering unwarranted arrests and havoc on our lives, we have to start with what we believe.
Like a nightguard watching post at his base, we must understand that we catch a feeling before we catch a thought, but what we do with that feeling is everything. So, how do we fight this battle? Well, we begin by not taking it lightly and arming up with the proper armor. Ephesians 6:10-18 lists an expansive list of qualities needed to fight against the rulers and principalities of the evil one. Of that inventory, perhaps the most important for our thinking is the gift of the Spirit’s sword, which is the Word of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18
Life in and of itself is war. It’s a daily battle between flesh and honor, humanity and sinfulness, lust and love, pleasure and goodness, anxiety and joy, fear and freedom, truth and lies, temptation and restraint.
In the TPT version of Luke 12:22-34, we see that worry and fear add nothing but subtract everything from our daily life. No matter what we do, I can say with confidence that none of us can extend our days here on this Earth beyond what the Lord has already willed for each of us.
Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? – Luke 12:25
The KJV depicts the word “worry” as “taking thought.”
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? – Luke 12:25, KJV
Similarly, in the ESV:
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? – Luke 12:25, ESV
The Greek word for worrying, taking thought, or being anxious is merimnaō, a noun meaning concern. Merimnaō, when translated literally means “care, anxiety, or worry,” “to divide/separate.” It also represents a mental state or condition where someone is occupied with or dwelling upon something. The verb translation even takes this further to implicate “anxious, troubled, or careful thought,” that we see today in present versions.
When we face anxiety, depression, or fear from a thought in our mind, it typically derives from a single idea that crossed our consciousness. I want you to know that through Jesus Christ, you do have the ability to persevere when lies attempt to fog your vision. It begins by taking back the mind God gave you.
Changing our Mindset
Proverbs 4:23-27 tells us to be careful what we allow in our minds, for it will quickly be reflected in the heart.
So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:23
Let’s fight by challenging the thoughts and battling for the mind God has uniquely given each of us. With anywhere between 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, take the time to contemplate what is right. Think about what is true, lovely, pure, and admirable. Dwell on it but expel anything else through His perfect love that casts out all fear.
Finally, brothers, 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 4:9
These thoughts, fears, and anxious ways of living can physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally debilitate our quality of life and well-being, but they don’t have to if we stop them in their tracks and cut them off at their life source.
The next time you have a thought, challenge it. Curiously ask, “Is this right, authentic, lovely, and pure?” Have the confidence to acknowledge that what you are going through is not just “all in your head,” but a real war that many of us wage daily.
Accept that factors like genetics, environment, relationships, and factors outside of your control can impact how you act, feel, or think about life, and that’s okay! Live with the transparency that if you’re saved and have an intimate relationship with Jesus, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever struggle but, it may often lead to even more suffering and hardship. Struggling doesn’t make you unspiritual or immature but shows your perseverance and refines you in Christ.
Let go of the unfulfilled expectations that sicken our souls and re-fill our lives with what the Lord says is true and our identity and purpose that He grants us.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12
Giving God the glory from within our struggles, we can accurately recollect our present, past, and future and march forward for whatever He may have in store. In the devotional plan, “Jesus Loves The Broken,” the author notes:
Someone noted that “the good old days” are just a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination. If we remember past days in the wrong light, making them better than they were, an emotional and spiritual crash is imminent.
Even in your most broken states, remember the truth from where you have come and the journey you have taken to get where you are now.
Pressing forward, know that things will get better even though it doesn’t seem or feel like it right now. Instead of preoccupying your mind with negative thoughts about yourself, think about what you can do to help and serve other people. Think about the Lord’s truth. Satan hates nothing more than losing a battle with your mind because that is the only power he can ever have over you anyway.
By replacing your thoughts with God’s truth, replacing yourself with God, and replacing your past with your future, the fight for your mind will become much more manageable.
Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
This battle isn’t easy, dear friend, but you never walk alone.