My hands trembled as I typed the words. “I’ve just locked her out of the house.” I set my phone down, and as the tears threatened to fall, I tried to calm my spiraling emotions. How did we get to this place? Where did I go wrong?
It had been a difficult morning. My daughter was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and her behavior that morning was proof of that. Her sharp tongue and disobedience had tried my patience thus far, but her refusal to put on a seatbelt in the car? That one threatened to push me over the edge. Physically shaking with anger, I pulled the car into the garage, walked into the house and locked the door behind me. I then proceeded to walk through the house, closing and locking each outside door we have, effectively locking my raging preteen outside. Now, before you ask, yes, she was safe, and I only left them locked for about five minutes. But, I needed those five minutes. I needed those five minutes to try and calm my emotions that were spiraling out of control.
I’ve found that this happens more often than it used to, my emotions spiraling out of control. Perhaps it is the season our family is currently in, the challenges that come with raising preteens/teens, or the negativity that has consumed our world right now? Perhaps it’s a combination of all those things and the fact that life just feels really hard right now? As I walk through my days, I find that even the smallest thing can quickly send me into a spiral. A spiral of emotions, a feeling of complete overwhelm, a desire to lock all of the outside doors and shut the world out for just a few moments. Can you relate to this at all?
In her book, “Get Out of Your Head”, Jennie Allen says that our emotions are actually a by-product of the way we think. We average about thirty-thousand thoughts in one day, and according to researchers, 70% of those thoughts are negative. If 70% of the thoughts we have in a day are negative, what impact does that have on us? In the book of Proverbs, it says,
“Guard your heart (mind) above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
Our thoughts affect the decisions we make each day. Those decisions we make determine how we behave. How we behave affects our relationships with others, and the way in which we view ourselves. Negative thoughts can lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions can lead to poor behavior. Poor behavior can lead to struggles within our relationships. Poor behavior can also lead to struggles in how we view ourselves. When we struggle in our relationships or struggle with our own self-worth, our mind becomes a breeding ground for more negative thoughts. These negative thoughts surface, the cycle begins once again, and we continue to spiral downward.
Is this the way that we want to live our lives day after day? Is it possible to interrupt the spiral of emotions we may find ourselves in and shift our thinking? Jennie Allen says it is. She says,
“We have bought the lie that we are victims of our thoughts rather than warriors equipped to fight on the front lines of the greatest battle of our generation: the battle for our minds.”
“The battle for our minds . . . “ In Corinthians 10, Paul writes,
“ For though we walk in the world, we do not fight according to this world’s rules of warfare. The weapons of the war we’re fighting are not of this world but are powered by God and effective at tearing down the strongholds erected against His truth. We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (VOICE)
As believers, we’ve been given the authority and power from God to take every thought that enters our mind captive and filter it through the truth we find in His Word. You and I have been equipped to destroy the lies that try to dominate our thought patterns. Yet, though we’ve been given the power and authority, we still have to make the choice to use it. We have to choose to shift our thinking.
So, how do we do this? How do we shift our thinking? First, we need to identify the thoughts that we have allowed to settle comfortably in our brains. What is an emotion that you have felt recently? For me, it’s “overwhelm”. Maybe you’ve have also been feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you’ve felt fearful, or angry. Maybe life is running very smoothly right now, and you can honestly say that you are feeling peaceful. What have you been feeling recently?
Now, think about what may be contributing to you feeling that emotion. What factors do you think are potentially causing that feeling or emotion? For me, there are several areas that are contributing to my feelings of overwhelm. Kids, work, my husband’s job, and COVID-19 are on my list. What about you? Maybe for you it’s the laundry that keeps growing by the day, some health issues you’re dealing with, or a work deadline that you’re facing. What factors are contributing to your feelings?
Lastly, think about why these factors are causing you to feel that particular emotion. For example, right now, my kids are causing me to feel overwhelmed. Why? I’ve never raised teenagers before. Many days, I feel ill-equipped to handle the challenges that come with this season. I want to parent wisely, but how do you handle mood swings, sibling fights, and struggles with peers? The desire to raise my kids well and the feeling that I’m messing it up so badly day after day leaves me feeling overwhelmed. What about you? Why are these particular factors causing you to feel a certain way?
Do you see any patterns and common themes in your thinking? What negative thoughts have you allowed to settle into your mind? Are you worrying about things or circumstances that you have no control over? Are you angry about something that has happened to you or someone you love? Do you find your thoughts fixated on things that you know aren’t healthy for you? Are you allowing shame of your past to continue to weigh heavily upon you? What thoughts have you allowed to settle into your mind?
Now that we’ve identified the thoughts that have settled in our minds, it’s time to take those thoughts captive and hold them up against the truth we find in God’s Word. Ask yourself if this thought you have is based on what God says is true or if it’s based on a lie that Satan would have you believe. For example, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the thought that I am not equipped to parent my kids well in this season. Some days, I feel weary. Some days, I spend way too much time worrying about things out of my control. Some days, I feel like I make so many mistakes, and I wonder if I have the wisdom to do this parenting thing well. Maybe I’m not equipped to do this? And that is exactly what Satan would have me believe. What does God’s Word tell me, however? .
“The Lord gives strength to those who are weary.”
Isaiah 40:29 (CEV)
“Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Matthew 6:33 (MSG)
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
“If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking.”
James 1:5 (VOICE)
Those thoughts that have settled in your mind . . . are they based on lies that Satan would have you believe or are they based on what God’s Word tells you is true? Side note here: You may not know what God has to say about the thoughts with which your struggling. Two great resources for you. #1 – Google. Go to the search bar and type in, “What does the Bible say about ______?” A list of verses that go along with the topic will pop up for you. #2 – www.gotquestions.org – I love this resource. It has well researched answers for many of the questions we have about faith.
“If we want to stop our patterns of toxic thinking, we must notice what’s happening and take action . . . Taking every thought captive is . . . choosing to believe that God is with us, is for us, and loves us even when all hell comes against us.”
Taking every thought captive is choosing to take those negative thought patterns within our minds and rewriting them. It’s taking our negative emotions and the reasons behind them and choosing to view them through God’s truth.
For example, instead of focusing on how overwhelmed I feel in the midst of this season with my kids, I can choose to rewrite my thought pattern. Instead of: I am overwhelmed and I don’t feel equipped to parent well in this season, I would rewrite it to say: I am overwhelmed, and I don’t feel equipped to parent well in this season, so I will choose to remember that God will give me wisdom and strength and He will walk with me through every battle I face. This promise is found in Isaiah. It says,
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
Do you see the difference there? I acknowledged the emotion and the reason behind it, but I also chose to filter it through something I know to be true. If you were to rewrite your thought pattern, what would it say?
Lastly, Jennie reminds us that,
“We need to walk by the Spirit, not be jerked around by our swirling chaotic thoughts.”
To walk by the Spirit is to spend time in His presence. Psalm 46:10 tells us to,
“Be still, and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
The NASB translation says to, “Cease striving . . .” The Street Bible says to, “Shut up . . . Shut off . . . Shut out . . . and in the silence . . . sense God: connect!” To spend time in His presence is to be still, turn our focus completely on Him, and listen. It is in His presence that we shift our thinking. It is in His presence that our minds turn towards those things described in Philippians as good and true.
“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”
Philippians 4:8 (AMP)
It is in His presence that our minds can be transformed. Romans tells us,
“Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to Him.”
Romans 12:2 (CEV)
It is also in His presence that we can experience the peace described in the book of Philippians.
“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].”
Philippians 4:6-7 (AMP)
“Shifting our minds from flesh to spirit is an ongoing work of the spiritual life . . . it’s not a one time decision, but a day by day moment by moment choice to move from chaos and confusion toward the peace of Christ in various areas of our thought lives.”
How would your life change, if you invited God to transform those negative thoughts you think 70% of the time into positive ones that are rooted in His truth? How would your life change if you made the choice to move from the chaos and confusion this world offers towards the peace Jesus promises? You have the choice. What will you choose today?
Allen, Jennie. Get Out of Your Head. Waterbrook. 2020.