Lately, I have been trying to be more intentional about my thoughts. My thought life is very jumpy and inconsistent. I tend to have full-faith about things one moment, then be crippled with anxiety and worry the next. I turn to the Lord during these times, but it is very difficult to keep my eyes and mind fixed on God when there are constant distractions and problems coming my way. Anyone else? I feel like life is always going to throw us waves, and I would love to just swim in the storms that come at me knowing the Lord is with me even in the turmoil. I think having this type of peace starts with have captive thoughts. I use this phrase a lot and it is often a staple in my prayers during times of worry, anxiety, or feelings of defeat. This concept of "captive thoughts" was first brought to my attention while reading 2 Corinthians 10. Verses 3-5 jumped out at me:
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
I've memorized this verse because it has become a constant companion for me in times of distress. I love the promise that God equips us with weapons to demolish our strongholds. Strongholds are anything that take us "captive" and consume us whether it is work, school, family, striving for good health, worry, anxiety, etc. Many of these things aren't bad by themselves (for example, being healthy is great! Having a good job to support your family is wonderful!) But, anything, even good things, can become a stronghold if they take the place of God is our lives. Psalm 18:2 states, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (emphasis mine). God is the only one that can secure us as our fortress, deliverer, rock, shield, and stronghold. But isn't it so like us humans to get swept up in our thoughts, problems, and lives that we turn these into our focus, our motivations for security, and essentially our strongholds? These thoughts, as 2 Corinthians states, can set themselves up against the knowledge of God. Thoughts like "if I have that job, car, dress, significant other, etc, my life will be so much better and complete" can often turn our motivations upside-down and cause us to focus on "worldly-things" instead of "God-things."
But! Thank the Lord He has equipped us with weapons to demolish these strongholds! We can tear down these "arguments" and "pretensions" in our heads that place worldly things before our relationship with God. When worries and anxieties come, which, let's face it, they inevitably will, we can turn to the Lord and ask Him to equip us with weapons that demolish these thoughts. We can put on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:13-18 states,
"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."
These verses seem pretty dense, but they are basically telling us to take up the armor that God freely gives us through His promises, forgiveness, grace, and WORD. The more we know about God, the more we can use these weapons against our destructive thoughts. And how do we know more about God? By taking the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" and becoming so familiar with who God is, what He promises, and what He has done for us, which is all recorded in His word!
Knowing more truths about God will help us focus on who HE is in times of anxiety and worry. When these times come, we can ask him to take all of our thoughts captive and make them obedient to HIM! God has equipped us with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and we can use this power. We can ask God for wisdom and believe that He will give it to us (James 1:5). Galatians 5:1 states, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." God set us free to be and live like we are a FREE people, not to still be captive to destructive and anxiety-driven thoughts.
However, we cannot have captive thoughts that are obedient to Christ without the help and power of the Holy Spirit. We must ASK God to help us in our thought-lives. We must acknowledge that the Lord's thoughts and ways are greater than any of our worries, problems, or even aspirations and dreams. Isaiah 55: 8-9 state: "“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." We have to trust that God has a better plan for us because His ways are higher than we can ever imagine! Trust me, this is SO hard for me. It is difficult to focus on what God is doing at times when things just seem so overwhelming you can't fathom how it will all work out for your good. But the Bible even has something to say about that :) Romans 8:28 states: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
I am trying so hard to be more intentional about what I think about. We simply have to believe what the Lord says. Believe that we can demolish strongholds by asking for the weapons that God has promised to us. Believe that we can ask God to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. And lastly, believe that God will work all things together for our good! :)