This is the question I shared with the body of Christ during the Prayer Revival at Cudd Memorial, September 6-10.
In August’s InYou Window I wrote: “Every day we take one step in the troubles of this life and the next step in heavenly places in Christ. One step in what is TRUE (we’re not living in denial of the stark realities of this life) and the next step in the TRUTH (we’re not blind to the ultimate Reality in Christ)! True, Truth, true, Truth…this is how we walk, putting one foot in front of the other, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). Jesus in the NOW is enough. In this we have growing confidence. The contrast is God’s greatest teacher.”
The purpose for the contrast in this life is so that we might see well enough to make a choice. The contrast between the earthly and heavenly realities actually helps us. God said to Moses: “ I call heaven and earth to witness against you today [This means everything is working for God, testifying to this truth. Both the heavenly and earthly realities are “pushing” us into God’s will.], that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deut. 30:19). Through Paul, God said: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:17).
We often stress out because we do not know the outcome of our choices. The choice is pretty clear—life or death, blessing or curse, obedience to the Spirit or gratifying the flesh—but an internal civil war breaks out because we want to control the outcome of our choices, force our will on the future, “create our own reality,” know the unknown, yet we’re incapable of such things. This conflict within can paralyze us. We are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the consequences, so we stress out!
Stress is resistance. We resist what we cannot control, yet God allows the circumstances that would press us into His will. Stress can be measured by the distance between our expectation and reality. When our expectation is high and life brings us low, we stress out. Things don’t turn out as we planned. Our imagined outcome does not materialize. Our choice to sin doesn’t satisfy. (What we believe will gratify the flesh never satisfies the flesh.) So we must ask ourselves:
Who made these plans?
Where did we get our expectations?
Who made the promises upon which we’ve based our life’s choices?
Who set the course of our pursuits…and consequently set us up for the disappointments?
(NOTE for stress reduction: If we cannot change reality, we must change our expectations.)
The deep ruts of the mind are phenomenal. Old habits are hard to break. Our thoughts run grooves in our brains—neurological pathways. I believe we have emotional ruts too. They are so deeply etched into the hypothalamus of the brain that we believe they are just a part of who we are. We let them live there “rent-free” (although they often cost us in the end). Perhaps we feel unable to shut off the thoughts and feelings, but remember: our thoughts and feelings don’t choose; we do. This has been key for me:
1. Awareness. What am I feeling? Thinking about right now? (Write it down in a journal.) 2. Question the thought/feeling. Where is this thought taking me? Have I been there before? What’s the benefit/consequence? 3. Discern the source. Where did this thought come from? When did it start? When did I first feel this way? (Earliest memory. You may discover that the present problem is only revealing a previous unresolved feeling, thought or belief—an “emotional lie.”) 4. Take thought/feeling captive (2 Cor. 10:5). Did this thought/feeling come from the mouth of Jesus? Would Jesus say this to me? (The Bible can help here. How does Jesus respond to people who have done what I’ve done or had done to them what has happened to me?) 5. Repent: “a change of mind after being with someone.” We often judge people until we meet them. Then after a conversation we think differently about them than we did before. We all do this. This is the real meaning of repentance. 6. Repent and believe continuously. Acknowledge what is true—the present thought and/or feeling—but obsess only on the Truth. (The Truth is a Person: Jesus. The Truth is not only written in the text of Scripture, but also the texture of your being. The Truth will make you free.)
We may not be able to stop obsessing; the brain just does that. But the mind is NOT the brain. The brain is the seen (physical), but the mind is the unseen (spiritual). The mind is the imagination that runs off with the thought (or feeling) and completes a story that has not yet been written. Only the Father truly knows how our story will end, so we really are wasting mental energy as we obsess on earthly concerns…”casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
We actually don’t have to stay in the rut we’ve whittled into our own brain. A rut is a pre-determined direction we have imagined for ourselves—a grave with the ends chopped off! We could “live by faith, not by sight,” which is simply “NOT finishing our own story’s end.” God is BIGGER and WISER and ALL-KNOWING, so He can finish the story in a way we have never imagined before. (Read Romans 8:28-39.) Remember: We have the mind of Christ to appraise all things (2 Cor. 2:15-16), so don’t let your imagination run wild!
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).