Becoming a mother has added more spice of unpredictability than I often think should go with the job description.
Desitin on the carpet.
200 wipes blanketed across his bedroom.
A box of elbow macaroni dumped on the kitchen floor.
Tears of defiance.
Acts of disobedience even during moments of discipline.
No matter what stage of life we are in, our circumstances can make us feel out of control, stupid and helpless.
For many years, I didn’t give much thought to what was going on inside my brain. I figured that if I acted in the right way, I should be fine.
After all, no one could read my mind, so how could I be hurting anyone if I kept my frustrations hidden?
But certain thoughts have a way of taking over, until there is no more room for optimism, hope, and especially not a life of joy.
Like an unsuccessful attempt to hold back a wave of nausea, our discouragement can spew from our lips in harsh tones, ungratefulness, and self-pity.
We forget that every day there is a battle raging inside our mind and heart.
Thoughts warped by sin versus thoughts transformed by God’s truth.
I used to allow thoughts to flow through my mind like a television channel of Spanish soap operas, not even bothering to look for the remote.
I ignored the power the Spirit longed to offer.
In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul says,
“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.”
We have access to power the world could only dream of.
When we let our thoughts enslave us, we are choosing not to acknowledge the freedom and righteousness offered because of the gospel.
We lose ground when we try to imitate the world’s answers—either gritting our teeth as we will ourselves to think positively or giving up and living for fleeting bursts of pleasure that we try to coax from our circumstances.
But Jesus invites us to let His Spirit do the sometimes painful work of grabbing onto His truth and fighting through the thoughts that want to pull us down.
Because as my mentor once asked me, “What would you lose by giving up on the battle?”
Here are a few thought patterns I’ve needed the Spirit’s help to capture and destroy with the sword of His truth.
- Concerns about the future
My mind seems to hop so quickly from planning ahead to worrying about what it will look like. One moment I might be enjoying the cute baby girl clothes I’ve been given, and then next, I find myself fearing what life will be like when there’s a person to wear them and a toddler to continue needing me.
It’s been helpful to picture Jesus’s presence with me, caring for me in my future imaginings, instead of trying to figure out how I’ll have the strength to do it on my own.
Sometimes speaking the concerns out loud or imagining myself putting them in a basket to offer to God has given a sense of release. (1 Peter 5:7)
- Feelings of inadequacy and unproductiveness
In the days when I know I was busy all day but can’t quite put my finger on what I actually accomplished, I need to invite Christ’s sufficiency to fill my mind.
Because of Jesus, the Father is completely satisfied with me. I am significant because I am His, not because I was able to cross off every item (or even one) from my to-do list.
- Evaluating the past/decisions
It’s the conversation that plays over and over in my head as I’m trying to fall asleep. Did I say the wrong thing? Why did I feel so stupid around that person?
Did I spend my time on the right tasks today?
I need to remind myself that Jesus has paid for all my past mistakes, including the ones from that day. And sometimes, I need to just thank Him for loving me in my accident-prone humanness.
- Responding in frustration to events happening in the present
It can be discouraging to clean up other people’s “messes,” in addition to dealing with all the unexpected sicknesses, difficult conversations, and car repairs. I often want to stew over my situation and vent to whoever is closest to me.
The world might try to fix it by telling us to “put on a happy face.” But feelings can bubble over quickly when only a forced smile is trying to hold it back.
It’s been helpful for me to practice saying little phrases as soon as something happens, ranging from “Uh-oh” to “I trust you, Jesus.”
He also invites us to pour out our struggles to Him in humility, as so many of the psalmists did.
Because we are still on the journey to sanctification, it’s not possible to cross out our unhealthy thoughts and let our minds simply be blissfully blank.
Paul encourages the Philippians by saying,
“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.” (4:8)
Here are a few ways I’ve found to invite the “excellent” thoughts in.
- Find someone to speak truth into your life and give perspective.
Maybe I need to consider the person I typically vent to. Does this person point me to my need for Jesus and remembering the gospel? Can this person help me to step back from my situation and consider the other factors involved?
- Give praise and thanks—all the time.
Author and mother Rachel Jankovic writes, “When you are thankful for the things that are right in front of you, getting in your way and messing up your hair, you are at peace with God’s will for your life. And of course when you are at peace with God and with His will for your life, you are equipped to do great things.” (Fit to Burst, p. 119)
If the Saturday of fix-it tasks ends worse than when we started, we can still give thanks and cry at the same time.
It’s a lot easier for me to give thanks when I do it out loud, so if I think of something while I’m cooking or driving, I just say it. (And an added bonus is that if my son is within earshot, he has the chance to join in my thanks.)
- Put on each piece of the armor of God.
There have been times that praying through each piece of the armor of God (found in Ephesians 6:10-17) has given a structure to my “battle prayers,” inviting truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God to cover each part of me. (Click here for a more detailed post on this.)
- Cultivate an attitude of surrender.
God knows that our troubles don’t feel “light and momentary,” even if we feel ashamed for getting so bent out of shape over them. We have a high priest who sympathizes with us and is using our difficulties to prepare a future weight of glory (Click here for an incredible John Piper sermon on this topic).
When I open myself up to how God wants to use my circumstances, He can transform them in His infinite power and wisdom or bring us the peace to walk through them.
Will you fight today?
Jesus, we need Your Spirit’s power to live in Your freedom. Would You shape our minds to look more like Yours? Thank you for the life of joy you offer now and the sure hope of eternal enjoyment on your New Earth.