Changing the Way You Think

thinkingContinued from here.

Years ago, God powerfully transformed my life through sharing one simple truth: what I am feeling right now is a byproduct of what I have been thinking. Change what I am thinking, and it will change what I am feeling. This is why the Bible tells us…

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” ~ Phil. 4:8

When you think about lovely things, you have lovely feelings. When you think about things that are praiseworthy, you experience feelings of joy. This is also why the Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. It’s not that we are thankful FOR all circumstances, but we can give thanks IN all circumstances because we have much to be grateful for, even in the midst of suffering.

Whenever I’m tempted to have a pity party, I always start with thanking God for what’s in my bathroom because no matter how self-focused and miserable I am, I am ALWAYS grateful not to have to walk out into the cold to relieve myself in the woods without toilet paper or running water. I thank God for toilets, indoor plumbing, running water, hot showers, toilet paper, etc. As silly as it sounds, as I give thanks for the items in my bathroom, my feelings start to shift because I am replacing my “woe is me” thoughts with thoughts of gratitude, which plant the seeds of joy.

I will sometimes realize that I am feeling anxious, irritable, etc. and not understand why. However, if I backtrack to what I have been thinking about, I will find the root cause. I will realize that I have become lazy about holding every thought captive to Christ and have allowed the enemy to plant seeds of self-centeredness and discontent. Thankfully, I know the antidote – praying God’s words back to Him in gratitude for all He has done. As I change the way I think, I change the way I feel. It’s not easy, but it really is that simple.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking about a thinking emoticon. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Arming Yourself with Applicable Scripture

Continued from here.

Note that the method I just walked you through for holding every thought captive to Christ is the same one that Jesus himself used when he was tempted. He did not base his responses on how he felt. After all, he was very hungry when he was tempted to turn stones into bread. Instead, he examined the temptation as it measured up to Scripture and found it lacking. Each time, He chose to believe what God had to say on the subject over what he felt. That’s how he managed to live a sinless life, and the Bible recorded how he did it so we would have a model to follow.

Now that you know how to fight back, you need to actually do it, and that starts by arming yourself with Scripture that is applicable to your situation. What types of temptations do you deal with? If it’s feeling unloved or worthless, you can start with the three passages I shared in my last blog entry. You can use a concordance or Biblegateway.com to help you find scripture that is applicable to your situation.

I strongly recommend Beth Moore’s book,Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, because Moore has already done this work for you. Do you struggle with feeling rejected? Moore has a chapter filled with Bible verses that tell you that God accepts you. Are you grieving loss? She includes a chapter on God’s comfort as you mourn. There’s a chapter for eating disorders, sexual struggles, guilt, and many other topics that people struggle with. I pray scriptures out of this book every morning and strongly recommend you do the same, particularly if you find yourself repeatedly being derailed by painful feelings and emotions.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Holding Every Thought Captive to Christ

thoughtsContinued from here.

All of us have vulnerabilities that affect our thinking and cloud our judgment. The more trauma you have endured in your life, the more areas of sensitivity you are likely to have. If we simply react to whatever we feel, the enemy is going to have a field day with us. He will find it easy to distract us from whatever God has tasked us to do because he can easily redirect us simply by pushing our emotional buttons. I finally got fed up with living this way and started doing what God said to do to fight back. God’s antidote is this:

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.” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5

I’ll use the example I shared in my last blog entry about the “trigger” of a particular Christmas song. My natural tendency is this: (1) Hear the song. (2) Experience a flood of shame and degradation. (3) React to the feelings as if they are facts. (4) Behave as someone who is unloved, unsafe, and worthless.

I’m done with that pattern of living. I have lost too many years of my life giving in to my feelings and refuse to do so any longer. What does my reaction look like now? (1) Hear the song. (2) Experience a flood of shame and degradation. (3) Take my thoughts (reaction) captive to make them obedient to Christ. (4) Behave as someone who is loved, safe, and precious to God.

The difference is in #3 – my reaction to the feelings. I no longer assume that anything I feel is factual. Instead, I press the pause button and ask what God has to say on the subject. Here’s what God says about me:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~ 1 John 3:1

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.” ~ Is. 49:16

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!” ~ Is. 49:15

The Bible says that God lavishes me with love, that He has engraved me on the palm of His hand, and that a nursing mother is more likely to forget her baby than He is to forget me. When I feel shame and degradation, I have a choice: I can believe my feelings, or I can believe God. I choose to believe God by reminding myself that I am who He says I am, which does not change based upon how I feel. My choice to align my thoughts with God’s thoughts changes the outcome from my behaving as if I am unloved to behaving as if I am lavishly loved.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace surrounded by question marks and the word, “Thoughts?” Courtesy Bitmoji. ]

 

Feelings are not Facts

hate_myselfContinued from here.

A friend once told me that “feelings are not facts.” She goes to Al-Anon, so that might be where she heard this. Regardless, there’s much truth in that saying. When I hear a particular Christmas song that was playing as I was abuse under the Christmas tree as a child, the feelings from that trauma flood me, and I feel the weight of that trauma – the shame and degradation. (The term for this dynamic in the trauma world is “being triggered.”) I used to receive those feelings of shame and degradation as fact and react to them as such. For decades, hearing that Christmas song triggered painful feelings, and I reacted to those feelings as if they were truth.

The Bible provides us with the antidote to being driven by our feelings:

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.” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5

What does this mean? When I experience a flood of feelings or emotions, I have two choices. One choice is my default: I can assume those feelings are facts and react accordingly, which is how I lived most of my life. I can assume that feelings of worthlessness are true, resulting in my reacting as if they are true, and what I believe as fact becomes my reality. So, if the enemy wants to distract or derail me from following God, he simply needs to make sure I hear that song. I hear the song, which triggers feelings of shame and degradation, which I assume is truth, and then I behave as someone who has no worth. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

However, the Bible provides an alternative way to deal with the onslaught of painful feelings and emotions, which is by taking my thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ. Instead of simply assuming that whatever I am feeling is factual, I choose to believe what God has to say on the subject above what I feel, which changes my reaction. More on how to do this in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a mug that says, “I hate myself. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Holding onto God during Difficult Seasons

cover_faceIt might surprise you to hear that the Christmas season is my least favorite time of year. Yes, I do love God with my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, but I don’t like spending a month feeling pressured to overindulge by overspending, overeating, and overfilling my tight schedule simply because it’s December. And then I don’t like moving from that season into January, the season of deprivation when everyone is broke, dieting, and too exhausted to interact. But I digress…

One of my greatest challenges at this time of year is the memories of childhood pain during the Christmas season. Christmas was when school closed for a couple of weeks, disrupting the safety and security I felt there and providing my childhood abusers with more frequent access to me. I have terrible memories of being harmed under the Christmas tree at their house, and I have memories of terror with Christmas songs playing in the background. So, if I could fast forward my life from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Since God has yet to give me the power of time travel, I’m having to learn how to live victoriously during my most vulnerable season of the year. You might find yourself in the same position – perhaps for a different reason but with the same result of having to hold onto God with both hands to survive this time of year in one piece. Perhaps you lost a loved one during the holidays … or your marriage is falling apart … or your loved one is in prison … or you miscarried during the holidays. Whatever the cause, the same Christmas music that seems to make everyone else feel so jolly is ripping your heart out, and you don’t know how you can stand it over the next few weeks. I’ve been there, and it’s tough.

Your God is bigger than your pain at this time of year. I am determined not to go down the emotional well this Christmas season. Let me show you how so you can avoid the emotional well, too!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace covering her face. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritual Attack when You are Being Obedient to God

i_dont_get_itI am navigating new territory in my walk with God, which has thrown me for a loop. I will share what I am learning as I navigate these unchartered waters so when you find yourself in a similar situation, you will be better prepared than I have been.

I am well-aware that spiritual attack exists. I have spent many hours in prayer over the years begging God to deliver me from it. I have also grown to recognize that the bigger picture in a situation is spiritual attack, such as when a series of annoyances take place that are distracting. However, up until this point in my Christian walk, the huge explosions in my life have generally happened, at least in part, because I have given the devil a foothold.

I have shared previously that I used to be a very emotionally damaged person. Because of this, I frequently gave the devil a foothold by refusing to forgive someone, being prideful, refusing to respect authority, etc. Satan took full advantage of these vulnerabilities and wreaked havoc in my life. I knew the answer was to go to God in repentance and prayer. I took responsibility for my role in giving the devil a foothold.

In my current situation, however, this is not the case. If you asked me to name the one area of my life in which I am most confident that I am walking in obedience to God, it would be this area. I am only invested in this one-year commitment out of love for and obedience to God. I have no other incentive to be investing the time, money, and energy that this commitment requires.

Despite being 100% certain that I am walking in obedience to God in this area of my life, something big blew up last week that sent me reeling. I mistakenly believed that when I am doing something solely out of obedience to God, with no other agenda whatsoever, He would protect that area of my life from spiritual attack, but that is not what happened. This blog series is about what I have learned through this dynamic.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting at a student’s desk, holding up her hand, and saying, “I don’t get it.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Experiencing God as More Than Enough

Continued from here.

If you will take that first step of faith – the first step onto the rickety bridge – then God will be faithful and show Himself to be more than enough in that area of your life. God’s ways really do work, but we must do things His way, not our own. While my own way might be to build another bridge, charter a boat, or find another way to cross the river, His way is to trust Him – to be completely dependent upon him to keep the rickety bridge secure while you cross over the raging river below you. It is when we step out in faith in our weakness that we learn the degree of God’s sufficiency for us.

I have learned this lesson in many ways in various areas of my life, but this doesn’t make the rickety bridges I encounter look any sturdier. No matter how much experience I have gained in crossing rickety bridges, the one I am currently facing always seems like the one that isn’t going to hold. This is why it’s so important to reflect upon all of the other rickety bridges that God has safely led you across. This is my favorite Bible verse for doing this:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 9:4

Every rickety bridge that held me was a demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Because God was faithful before, I can believe He will be faithful again. As I meditate on God’s prior faithfulness, I lift up my shield of faith to block the enemy’s taunts about how this bridge could not possibly hold.

In this season of crossing the rickety bridge of the Christmas season, to avoid holiday depression, I must take a step out on to the bridge and believe that the same God who has carried me through so many other life trials is more than enough to carry me through this one. I am using the plan I designed from Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions to help me keep focusing my thoughts back onto God. I am fully dependent upon Him to keep this rickety bridge secure. My job is to keep walking and trust that God truly is in control, no matter what I feel.

[Graphic: Cover of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Courtesy Amazon.com.]