My mind wandered down paths I try to avoid, reaching into memories pushed aside. Assaulting me with reasons and questions and motives. I'm embarrassed to admit I spent more time on these paths than I normally do and the guilt and shame started creeping in.
I'm pretty good at shaking off the thoughts that try to hit me. I almost physically reach into my head and pull them out, throwing them to the ground and saying, "I will not think about that," deciding to think on other, better things.
But once in a while...
Perhaps it's the forced time alone with the 2020 Corona Quarantine.
Honesty had me admitting to friends this week that Corona has fear creeping at my doorstep. He's knocking and I'm trying to ignore him. Pretty sure he's circling my house, looking for a hole to slip into. He's a hard one to chase away. I turn off the news and avoid news websites. I focus on creating interesting meals and reading encouraging books. I pray. I find humorous memes. I read my Bible. I choose to think on other things. It's a constant training of the mind.
I've learned that if I don't take control of what I'm thinking about then the thoughts start to control me. If I allow myself to be reminded of every mistake from my past or every reason to fear I will start to believe the lies the enemy whispers.
Fear - are you caught in its grip? It's easy to give into, but it can quickly strangle us. I've learned that simply saying the name Jesus can chase fear away. Whisper it as a prayer, cry it as a defense, shout it if you need to. No other name has power.
Doubt - we are not immune to doubt as Christians. The problem is when we leave it to simmer. Doubt can cause confusion. Hebrews 11:1 teaches, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (KJV) We aren't supposed to have all the answers. We are supposed to believe and have faith. Some things aren't for us to figure out. God is God, we are not. We do what He instructs and leave the big stuff to Him. He's been dealing with people since the beginning of, well, people. He made us. Nothing we think or do is new to Him. He didn't create us with His understanding. Have questions? Seek the Bible for the answers.
Shame - who among us doesn't feel the sting of shame? Whether it's from something we've done or something someone has placed on us, we feel it. It causes us to shrink inside ourselves. Shame can silence our testimony. Yet shame is a trick of the enemy, one he uses without, well, shame. He knows that if he reminds us of things then he can shove us into a corner. Rise up, Christian! He has no power over you.
Guilt - similar to shame, guilt haunts us deeply. We can feel it on our chest, that ache of knowing we sinned. Forgiveness is the answer to this. Forgiveness from God, others, and from ourselves. Forgive myself for something? Yes. Forgiveness frees us.
Expectations - placed on us by others or by ourselves. As a pastor's wife, I have had piles of expectations on my shoulders. Shedding them has taken years. Knowing who I am in Christ, knowing my talents, gifts, limits, and abilities has been the key to ridding myself of them. Learning to say no without explanation helps.
The list continues. We can't leave these things unattended or they'll take over. We need to face it and deal with it. Instead of letting it grow in us we force it out and we grow in God. Negativity and confusion are not of God, they are from the enemy of our souls. An enemy who wants only to pull us away from God, capture us, and take us to eternal hell with him.
Listen, there are a lot of false teachers spouting that hell isn't a real place and God will accept you into His kingdom no matter what you do. This isn't truth. Whatever God's word declares is truth. Not whatever we think or feel or hear. Go to the Bible for answers. Come to Him as you are and then allow Him to change you and mold you into who He wants you to be, not who you want you to be. It's not about us.
Overcoming our own thoughts takes discipline. A life filled with discipline shouldn't be foreign to the believer. We are different. Even the Bible says that we are not of this world. We are the oddballs. We are the outcasts. But only while we are on this sin-filled planet.
And our time here is very short compared to eternity. It's shorter than this dot . on the size of the page you're reading. Let's focus more on what comes next instead of what we see in front of us.
"Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."
James 4:14 (NKJV)