It is true, what they say, that the most important thing about you is what you believe about God, because that will determine what you believe about yourself, and will thus determine your choices, your life journey, your pursuits — the path you take.
The first chapter of the book of Romans records that God gave people over to a reprobate mind when they chose not to ‘retain the knowledge of God’. Thus, it seems awfully important to be more than casually engaged in this process of keeping a firm grasp on our knowledge of God – His character, His works, His ways, His will.
I awakened this morning carrying out an exercise which has become increasingly important to that end, (as I accumulate years and experience their deleterious effects), that is, harnessing and wrestling with thoughts to bring them in line with the truth of Scripture and God’s self-revelation there contained.
I know it is a common enough human experience to come awake, even on Christmas morning, pursued by fearsome thoughts and dreadful worry, as the day and its responsibilities loom on the horizon even as the rising sun.
The venerable C.S.Lewis himself is oft quoted on this point;
“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
In more recent times, the Christian community has been blest with the work of Dr. Caroline Leaf who, in almost simplistic manner, has done much to usher ‘average Joe Christians’ into an understanding of the inner workings of the physical human brain. Her work has helped to bridge the divide in our understanding between the world of Neuroscience and Christian faith and practice. The result has been an equipping of the saint to do battle with the knotty issues of besetting sins and their nascent location — our stubborn thought patterns. These simple practices have helped many in their journey towards healthy belief, giving them a practical tool to move beyond mere mental assent, or spoken faith, to real progress in sanctification.
I was reminded recently of the truth of this practice, (which Scripture calls ‘taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’, 2 Cor. 10:5), as I read a testimony of breakthrough from the blog of a writer friend. She described how she gained victory, over the course of a year, from a major tendency to worry and fret. In this she was aided by turning her thoughts towards a countering truth of Scripture and then physically cupping her hands, as if holding the offending negative thought, and casting it upward, away from herself and towards God as it were. I had been introduced to similar exercises by Dr. Leaf but was strengthened in my resolve to return to the exercise by my friend’s testimony.
This, no doubt, is a walking out of the teaching of the Scriptures that our warfare is not a physical one, against flesh and blood. The principalities and powers we wrestle against do battle in and for dominion of the human mind. Hence our waking moments become our most crucial, and seizing our thoughts early, our most important strategic maneuver if we would win the day.
If we would have, transformed into experience, our spoken belief in a good God who “daily loads us with benefits”, who has “freely given us all things to enjoy”, but who also has wisely provided for our brokenness — which inclines us to squander His good gifts on the lusts of our flesh, our eyes and the willful pride of the human heart, — we would do well to receive this teaching and counsel.
While the science and daily experience make obvious that the longer we live the more unable we become to change old thought patterns and hence old unhealthy practices, let there be no doubt that it is already ‘well with our souls’. These forays and skirmishes are about walking about in the freedom for which Christ has made us free, walking out what He has worked in. Phil.2 :12. So given the fact of our earth-limited lifespan, time is of the essence, as even Scripture warns that most of us will face a day when our earthly faculties will diminish regardless of the security of the glories of our eternal bodies.
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;”
Ecclesiastes 12:1 KJV
As for me, as I came awake this morning wrestling with worrisome thoughts and fears, I turned my thoughts to Scripture’s truths and my heavenly Father’s promises, opening my palms and letting the fear fall out of them. A song of praise flooded in. Rising from the vulnerability of proneness on that battleground, I grabbed iPad and Bible app (hilt & blade?) and used these hands to re-route my thoughts and actions to ones of Hope, and Peace and Joy and Love, this Glorious Christmas morning, whose Worthy Subject has made this Wondrous victory possible. Happy Birthday Jesus! Welcome, today, to the throne room of my heart, my soul , my mind – Your home.