I’ve hit a blogging milestone these past few weeks: My first extended bout of writer’s block. No matter what I’ve tried, when I sit down in front of my computer, I wind up just staring at the screen. No words have flown from the tips of my fingers as they usually do. There has been a deafening silence where there should be the clicking of keys. I’ve also been kinda down. Kinda really down, actually. I’m not sure which is the result of the other. Do I have writer’s block because I’m down, or am I down because I have writer’s block? Who knows. But alas, so goes the constant battle of recovery from intimate betrayal. It is a roller coaster, and even when everything seems to be going well, a deep sadness can hit, out of nowhere, like a ton of bricks. Life has become a battle with my mind.
You know what’s funny? As I’ve been talking with my love this week, we realized that it’s no different for him. All of this started because of a battle in his mind. A battle he refused to fight for too many years. A battle that was lost again, and again. But now… NOW he has taken up arms and is truly fighting for the first time ever. It would be a tragedy if, after all these years of fighting for him, I set down my weapons and refused to fight for me; for my mind. I absolutely refuse to give the enemy such an advantage! I will learn to fight this new battle, and together, with the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies on our side, my love and I will emerge victorious! After all, what weapon could possibly stand when God is on our side?
It may seem like Goliath stands before us with a spear whose shaft is as wide as my neck; while we hold only a sling and a handful of rocks. We may feel week, and exposed, and completely foolish for even being here in the first place. But this is where God has placed us, and He is a shield around us, so we will not be afraid! And do you know what else? One of those stones in our hand is the Rock of Ages! We’re going to load that sucker into our sling and fire at the enemy with everything we’ve got!
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But, how do we actually do that? You know, as my husband and I spent a lot of time talking about the mind this week, God spoke quietly to me. “This is it. Write about this.” He said. So, combined with much of what my love communicated to me about what God has taught him, I searched Scripture and wouldn’t you know, the words came back. Here I sit in front of my computer and once again, the beautiful click of the keyboard, as words pour out, rings in the air. Praise the Lord!
Take Every Thought Captive
First things first: Let’s talk about the difference between simple and easy. (At least according to me, for the purposes of this post.)
Simple – Not complex. Straight forward. Uncomplicated. Basic.
Easy – Effortless. Painless. Untroublesome. No problem.
See, it turns out that the things we need to do in order to gain victory over our thoughts are pretty simple. Scripture lays out some principles that, when followed, will lead to a mind controlled by the Holy Spirit. But don’t be deceived. While these things are simple, they are not easy. Let’s dig in.
2 Corinthians 10: 3-5 (NIV) – 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.
These are the first steps: We have to learn to take every thought captive, and then make it obedient to Christ. In other words, we have to learn to recognize dangerous thoughts, before they take hold, and stop them. Then, we have to think, instead, about something that is “obedient to Christ.” Simple, right? Sure, but not easy. Capturing our thoughts requires the self-awareness to know, right away, when we’re heading down a dangerous path. It requires vigilance. But if we can learn to do it, then we have picked up our first powerful weapon in our battle for the mind, and according to Scripture this weapon has divine power to demolish strongholds!
My love has told me that, in his battle, it’s not enough to just wait until there’s an inappropriate thought. By then, it’s going to be really difficult to stop and go a different way. (As I’ve thought about that, I’ve realized the same is true for me.) He’s had to learn to recognize when he’s vulnerable to dangerous thoughts and, in those moments, preemptively fixate on God instead.We have to learn to recognize when we're vulnerable and preemptively fixate on God instead. Click To Tweet
In the past his focus was always on his behaviors. He wanted to stop acting out sexually, but felt powerless to do it because he wasn’t giving appropriate weight to the warnings of Scripture. He believed he could handle it his own way. Each time he’d act out, he would promise himself and God that it had been the last; he would never do that again. Yet, he made no attempt to control his thoughts. He would think freely about any fantasy his mind came up with. As you can imagine, it never took long for those fantasies to spill over into his actions. This time is different. This time, he’s taking verses like this one, that he just shared with me the other day, seriously.
Romans 13:11-14 – This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. INSTEAD, clothe yourselves with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourselves think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Renew Your Mind
Once we’ve learned to successfully navigate step one and recognize our vulnerabilities and spot treacherous thoughts right away, what do we do next? Once we’ve captured our thoughts, how exactly do we then make those thoughts obedient to Christ?
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
According to Romans 12, we will be transformed when, as an act of worship to God, we sacrificially offer our bodies to Christ through the renewing of our minds. But what does it even mean to renew our minds? How do we do it?We'll be transformed when, as an act of worship, we offer ourselves to God by renewing our minds. Click To Tweet
Colossians 3:1-4 – Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.
Once again, simple, but not easy! When the temptations arise to think about things that are not appropriate for a child of God, we must learn to recognize those thoughts, stop them, and set our sights on the realities of heaven. For example, when I’m tempted by thoughts of self-pity; enticed to head down the rabbit hole of “why me”s , I have to recognize that these thoughts are not pleasing to God and instead choose to count my blessings. I must think instead about an entirely different set of “why me”s.
Instead of, “Why won’t I ever be able to know what it’s like to be a person’s one and only?”
I must think, “Why, of all the people in the world, did God choose me to be His dearly loved daughter?”
Instead of, “Why can’t I have the security of a relationship where I know that I can trust the person I love most in the world?”
I must think, “What is so special about me that I get to be the one who knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my eternity is secure with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?”
It’s a simple (not easy) choice, and we each get to make it for ourselves. I can’t force my love to choose the right thoughts and he can’t force me to either. The truth is, no one but God ever really knows what choice we’re each making. It can be tempting to claim victory when we’re still in the thick of battle, because who will ever know? Don’t be deceived, though, those thoughts are a vicious trap, and simply not the truth. God knows our hearts, and He’s the most faithful accountability partner we could ever have! We will reap what we sow.
Romans 8:5-6 – Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
As we’ve talked about this journey over the past 8 months, I’ve gained a lot of insight into the mind of an addict. The thing is, my love is fighting more than just sexual addiction. It’s not just the lustful thoughts that he has to watch out for. There’s a host of other notions that may seem innocent at first, but are just as dangerous. They stem from the root of his sin; the result of insecurity, and selfishness, and pride. These thoughts are not in line with the Holy Spirit, but rather, are a result of the flesh. My love has drawn a hard line, asking God to point out any thought that isn’t in line with His Spirit, and to help him surrender these thoughts and renew his mind. He’s been quick to let me into his head too. (More and more as time goes on… it was a struggle at first, and still takes a lot of work on his part!) He does this for a few reasons.
1. He wants to establish total transparency with me in order to build trust.
2. He knows that many of the things his brain comes up with on its own are still tainted by narcissism and he wants to run his thoughts by me to make sure they’re not out of sync with reality.
3. Even for healthy people, it’s just helpful to talk about our thoughts with someone else in order to help us process them. It builds intimacy and friendship to do this. Plus, he knows that I am, by nature, an encourager and I will remind him of this truth:
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Philippians 4:6-8 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for what He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Together, we are learning to listen to each other. We’re learning to know where the other is likely to go off course, and link arms in our vigilance against the schemes of the enemy. We’re finding ways to practice self-discipline together in areas we know have the potential to trip us up. We’re fighting anxiety and depression together by being intentional about verbally counting our blessings to one another. We’re learning to ask each other questions like, “Is that true?” or, “Is that right, and pure?” We’re learning to allow our motives to be questioned, because we may be the tool God is using to show the other something that needs to be dealt with.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to mourn, and it is absolutely appropriate to do that. Precious things have been lost and I’m going to be sad. We’re both going to have to deal with appropriate emotions as a result of our situation. I’m going to cry. It’s not a problem to do that. What is a problem, is for me to dwell on details that aren’t right and pure, or for me to imagine things that are not true or believe things that aren’t honorable or lovely. There’s no need for that and nothing good comes from it. Thoughts like that only serve to rob me of my joy and my peace and cause me to question my identity in Christ. They defeat me. What I have to do is refocus my thoughts on God and the Truth of His Word. When I do, He will keep the promise He has made to me:
This is our prayer, and we’d love it if you’d join with us in praying it over our marriage. “Dear Heavenly Father, our desire is for the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart to be pleasing to You. Search us, oh God, and know our hearts. Test us, and know our anxious thoughts. Point out anything in us that offends You, and lead us along the path to everlasting life. Create in us a pure heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast Spirit within us. Help us, Lord. In Jesus’s Name, amen.”