Have you ever caught yourself imagining a hypothetical situation and wondering if it will ever happen to you? What if I get cancer? What if my parents break up? How about a socially-awkward exchange that leaves open loops in your mind? Does she like me? Did he mean what he said?
Suddenly, your thoughts are running amok. You’re second-guessing God, yourself and everyone around you. You’re replaying every conversation in your head. Your judgement feels clouded, and your anxiety levels rise.
Suddenly, your thoughts are running amok. You’re second-guessing God, yourself and everyone around you. You’re replaying every conversation in your head.
Brought to Light
Our thoughts are potent. They reveal a lot about the state of our faith. We might think that, since they are invisible to the human eye, they don’t produce real effects. After all, how often do we act on our ‘ugly’ thoughts—the ones that even we ourselves are surprised by? In many circumstances, we find some inner fortitude to behave appropriately. However, the Bible teaches us that God knows our thoughts even before we form them (Psalm 139:2). Our musings—both sinful and not—though hidden from our fellow finite beings, are in full view of our omniscient God. And, along with everything else, these thoughts will one day be brought under the scrutiny of God’s holy judgement (Ecclesiastes 12:14). As believers of Jesus Christ, how ought we guard our thoughts to reflect the restful hope we have in our Lord and Saviour?
Here are three things we can do which will help:
1. We can saturate ourselves in the Word of God.
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (Psalm 119:160)
Knowing God’s promises can help us to deal with situations that might leave our faith weak or shattered. A heated conversation at work. A disagreement at church. In these times, will we choose to pick apart every word that was exchanged, or will we train ourselves to remember that God works everything out for the good of those who love Him? Will we fret over the ‘he said, she said’ or will we cast our anxieties to the Lord in prayer and petition? What we allow ourselves to dwell on will continue to grip our hearts and mind. Let it be the word of God and not our own self-pity or righteousness.
2. We can keep ourselves accountable.
‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
The hidden nature of our thought lives makes it difficult to face up to our own sinfulness and immaturity. However, the Lord in His grace never intended for us to undergo this process alone. We need fellow Christians to correct us courageously and lovingly. In my own journey, spiritual brethren have been my dearest allies. Quick check-in conversations, a thoughtful ‘is that resentment I hear, Renee?’ have nipped many unhealthy and untrue thoughts as they were budding. There’s no need to seek counsel from every pew at church, just several trustworthy and consistent companions will do. May we be willing to lean into spiritual support and let godly friends sharpen us.
3. We can be thinking!
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
As we begin to realise that our thinking patterns might not in fact be godly, it is tempting to run in the opposite direction and stop thinking altogether. But God’s solution is not for His people to stop reflecting, but to meditate on the right things: things that are true, honourable and just; things that exalt him and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. In my experience, the most encouraging examples are all found in Jesus. As the perfect example of godly living, there is so much in his life that we can (and should) tease-apart and learn from. Ponder the might displayed in his miracles. Think about how much grace is involved when He prays for his enemies whilst hanging on the cross. Reflect on how his resurrection impacts us today.
There is so much in Jesus’ life that we can (and should) tease-apart and learn from. Ponder the might displayed in his miracles. Think about how much grace is involved when He prays for his enemies whilst hanging on the cross. Reflect on how his resurrection impacts us today.
Whilst it is generally good to live a reflective life, we need to soberly assess the products of our mental faculties: do they point towards love for God or love for self? Do they point towards faithfulness or a failure to trust? May we use the good gift of our minds to draw truth from Scripture; to grow in godliness and to serve his people. Let’s think hard, but on the right things.