My thoughts collide with each other, circle and do it again. They dance and they mourn. They celebrate and they scream in anger. They go to the top of the mountain and crash to the bottom of the sea all in the span of seconds.
This was what used to happen every day in my brain. There were only a few ways I found to turn off these annoying, unproductive melees in my brain. I could sleep. I could work. I could eat.
These were my three ways of self-medicating. Notice prayer, worship or any connection with God wasn’t in there.
The reason for this was somewhat skewed thinking. I knew these thoughts were not of God. They were from me predominantly. So it was up to me to squelch them or do something with them. But the more I tried the more bogged down I got.
Paul knew exactly what was going on in my puny brain. It’s like he was reading my mind, which was really scary considering all the junk that was in there.
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”1
The interesting thing about this scripture in Romans is that the war is in my mind. James alludes to this when he says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”2
Paul says the victory comes through Jesus. “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”3
This was somewhat disconcerting as well. I already had Jesus. I already had the victory. But I had no idea of how to overcome my sinful nature that was causing tons of conflict in my mind.
The key for me was realizing something about my thoughts. At any given time I have three voices speaking in my mind—God, Satan and me.
I figured I really had no way of defeating the voice of Satan. I just had to ignore him. However, it is really, really hard to ignore the devil. He’s a master at deception and enticement.
The temptations he would throw at me worked directly with my own brain to convince me of what I already wanted deep down inside.
Such as the time I walked into my local grocery store right after I had made the commitment to eat sugar-free, gluten-free. The first thing you walk by in this particular store is the donut case.
“In my head I heard, “You are tired. You are hungry. You can start that healthy eating thing tomorrow. A couple of cinnamon rolls will give you the energy you need.”
My thoughts chimed in. “You really haven’t eaten much today. No one will know if you start today or tomorrow. You need to eat to keep up your energy.”
I had two cinnamon rolls in the plastic bag before I heard the still, small voice say to me quietly, oh so softly, “What are you doing?”
I said to myself, “I’m putting these back.” And I put the bag in the pastry bin and went about shopping for the healthy food I went there for in the first place.
I realized at least three major things from that situation.
First, if I listen, God will prompt me to get my brain thinking in the right direction
Second, if given a chance, my thoughts will commensurate with what my emotions want over what I had decided is best for me.
Third, unless I take control of my thoughts, they will lead me astray.
Understanding these three things really helped define how I approach temptation.
First, I have to listen to God and then obey Him. I have to know His voice. He says, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them and they follow Me.”4
It’s very disconcerting if I hear His voice and then don’t follow. Right there it says He knows me so He knows when He’s talking to me and He knows when I hear but don’t obey. What does that say about how I really feel about God?
Second, thoughts govern emotions, which govern behaviors. So, if my emotions are speaking louder than my thoughts, that means my thoughts are not firm and decisive.
I am still allowing my old way of thinking to lead. Usually that is emotional thinking, what I want in the moment, what I crave, what the natural man wants.
My human nature will always choose cinnamon rolls, always. I can rationalize myself into eating those any time, any place.
Doing that means I am conformed to the world, to my lower nature. My mind has not been renewed.5 I am not doing what is perfect in God’s sight for me.
Third, my thoughts are like 20 two-year olds at a birthday party where the adults let them do whatever they want. On the flip side, it really doesn’t work to command two-year olds to sit still for an hour or two. Neither scenario works.
Setting boundaries, having goals and plans does work.
Again Paul says we don’t wage war as the world does but we have different weapons that demolish our strongholds, arguments, and pretensions set up against the knowledge of God. “We take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”6
To take our thoughts captive we first must decide what God wants for our life. In the area of weight loss, we get His firm plan for us. We make decisions and set firm boundaries about what we will and won’t eat. We set goals and make good plans so we have the right foods on hand.
Then when a stray thought comes into our mind we take it captive by telling ourselves, “that thought is against what God wants for my life. I will not allow it in my mind because I am a child of obedience.”
There is no other way to take our thoughts captive than to know what God wants for us. When we have clear direction, it will calm the melee in our mind and allow us to think more clearly about what God really wants for our lives. And our emotions and behavior will fall in line.
How do you control your thoughts?
1 Romans 7:21-25 NLT
2 James 4:1 NKJV
3 Romans 7:25 NLT
4 John 10:27 NKJV
5 Romans 12:2 AMP
6 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
Teresa Shields Parker is a wife, mother, business owner, speaker and author of Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God’s Favor and Sweet Grace Study Guide: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Overcome Sugar Addiction. Get a free chapter of her memoir on her blog at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.