Your brain is fantastic at running on autopilot. This is a good thing. You are breathing, and I bet that you aren’t consciously thinking and reminding yourself to breathe. Your brain is really good at keeping you alive.
Your brain is also really good at keeping you safe. It reminds you to look both ways when crossing the street, to keep your hands away from a hot stove, and to stop when the light is red. In a million different ways, all throughout your day, your brain uses the information it has previously stored to guide you into living in safety.
The brain is also really good at being efficient. As you learn and experience things in life, your brain develops neural pathways and connections. This is how the things we learn become easy and unconscious actions. You don’t have to think about breathing or walking or even brushing your teeth anymore. The neural pathways in your brain have all the programming they need to keep you walking and talking and breathing with clean teeth, all day long.
Our Brains Can Often Get Things Wrong
This is how the brain is supposed to work and it serves us really well in our lives. However, because our brains are always aiming for safety and efficiency based on previous experiences, it can sometimes get things wrong. If someone told you (directly or indirectly) that you were not good enough, your brain will develop a neural pathway for that thought. If you think or hear that thought enough times, that neural pathway becomes the default for your brain. “I am not good enough” plays on repeat until it becomes as unconscious as breathing. You aren’t even aware that you are thinking it, but the results of that thought are still evident all over your life.
Your thinking creates your reality. Your thoughts drive your feelings and your feelings drive your actions. The actions you take in life bring you results. If your brain default says, “I’m not good enough.” You will feel defeated, hopeless, weak, sad, and powerless. What kind of action are you likely to take if you feel hopeless, powerless, and defeated?
If your brain is constantly thinking about all the problems in the world and in your life you will feel emotions like fear, worry, anger, and distrust. Have these emotions ever led you to do something productive and good in your life? Usually not. Usually, when we are acting out of fear or worry or anger, we just make things worse. Right?
You Hold the Power to Direct Your Thoughts
So, are we powerless and hopeless in the face of our preprogrammed brains gone amuck? Not at all. You have the power to change and direct your thoughts. You can reprogram your brain to think thoughts that serve you instead of harm you.
And not only do you have the power, but the Bible directs us to do exactly that. “…and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB). The Bible also says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT).
You see, we can live our lives thinking about all of the bad things that happen in the world. We can read all of the latest news stories and current events and tell ourselves that we’re just trying to stay informed. We can discuss and debate all of the latest hot button items with our friends, getting more and more upset, and claim that we are staying alert and on guard. But are these things excellent and worthy of praise?
Do Not Let Your Mind Become a Toxic Waste Dump of Negativity
I’m not saying we stick our heads in the sand and ignore the world around us. But I also think that many people live in such a way that their mind becomes a toxic waste dump of negativity. All they read and hear and discuss is all of the bad. If you never notice the good, you will not realize that even in the midst of the bad, there is tremendous good around you. But if you’re always focusing on the bad, you can’t work to help the good grow because you don’t even know it exists.
We Don’t Point to Darkness, We Spread Light
The truth is that there is good in this world. Great amounts of good. The truth is that we are called to be Ambassadors of Good. We aren’t called to point out the darkness of the world, but to bring light to the world. If you are filled with darkness and negativity, you cannot spread light and life. We flood our thoughts with good and true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable things because then those things will flow out from us into the hurting world.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)
Direct Your Thoughts to Serve You
One of the best things you can do as a daily practice is to notice your thoughts, the conscious and the unconscious ones. Listen to the noise in your own head and consider it. If you constantly hear the same negative thought patterns, it is time to take those thoughts captive. Don’t beat yourself up or shame yourself for thinking negative thoughts, that just continues the cycle. Your negative thoughts are not some terrible sin you need to feel bad about, it is your brain’s way of protecting you. But you are smarter and bigger and better than your brain and you realize that if thought’s aren’t serving you, they have no use in your life.
How do we know if a thought is serving us? Consider how the thought makes you feel. If the thought you are thinking makes you feel things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control then keep on thinking it. It is serving you well.
However, if your thoughts lead you to feelings of anger, worry, jealousy, disputes, envying, impurity, immorality, depression, anxiety, strife, or the like, then they are not serving you.
Transform Your Life by Changing the Way You Think
You are not at the mercy of your life circumstances and you are not at the mercy of your thought patterns. You are in full control. We have been given the power, through the Holy Spirit, to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Do not live in a place of defeat, allowing your negative thoughts to rule over your life.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT, emphasis mine).
The first step is simply to notice your current thought patterns and consider how those thoughts are affecting your emotions and your actions in life. Once you’ve noticed thoughts that are not serving you, then you can begin to change the way you think, replacing bad thoughts with good ones. If you believe you are not good enough, you need to start to tell yourself that you are good enough. You are more than enough. And you begin to look for evidence to prove this truth to your brain. This begins to build new neural pathways and reprogram your brain to replace the truth for all the lies you have been believing.
Replace the Lies in Your Mind with the Truth
This is why it is so important to constantly be studying the Word. Because the truths of the Good News of who God says you are and how God loves you need to flood your mind more than the lies that the enemy tries to sneak into your brain.
When your brain thinks “I am not good enough”, you can replace that thought with the truth from Ephesians 2:10 that says, “I am God’s masterpiece.”
When your brain is flooded with worry and anxiety over the safety of your family because of the latest act of violence or terror, you can replace that worry with the truth that, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalms 23:4 (NLT).
Do Not Depend on Your Own Understanding
So often I hear people try to defend their negative thoughts and opinions by stating, “well, it’s true” or “I just want to be prepared” or “I’m just trying to be realistic and honest”. But “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT). Again I will remind you that we are not called to focus on and point out the darkness, for our God can do all things. Our God is ruler over all things. Our God has a power that can blow our minds.
You see, we are told to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 (NLT). Because our own understanding can point out all the flaws and the problems and the “reality”, but our God is not confined by reality. Our God says, ““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8 (NLT).
Let Us Walk in the Freedom of Light
So let us stop imagining all of the negative in our lives and the world around us and let us instead “…strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
My friend, you have the power to control the results in your life by changing the way you think. Allow God to renew and transform your mind, teaching you to see the world as He does. To see the world as filled with hope and beauty and glory, a world that is desperate for His kingdom come. A world where despite the evil and the darkness, our God still reigns and rules, and love and hope conquers all.
Today’s Action Step
Set aside 5-15 minutes sometime today to find a quiet place and a journal. Sit and allow your mind to wander. Jot down as many thoughts as you can. Patiently and kindly consider those thoughts. Are they true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable? Are they excellent or praiseworthy? When you think and even say the thought out loud does it make you feel love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, or self-control?
If not, take some time to write out a new thought. Find a verse in the Bible to support your new thought. Write that verse down, along with your new thought, and carry it with you in the coming days. Anytime your mind begins to wander to your old thought patterns, pull out your card and repeat your new thought and verse over and over until it becomes so deeply ingrained in your brain that you know it as well as your own name. Repeat this activity regularly with a variety of toxic thoughts for best results.
This Podcast episode on Thought Creation can help you understand how to make new thoughts.
This Podcast episode on Beliefs can help if you struggle with thinking your negative thoughts are true and necessary.
I’m working on creating a “challenge” opportunity in the next couple months that will dive further into how our mindset (thoughts) affect our results in life. If you would like to make sure you don’t miss out on this when it is available, be sure you are signed up for the Working Mom’s Balance Email Club. I will be announcing the details there first. Click here to sign up.
Scripture quotations from the translations noted. Holy Bible, New Living Translation copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 60188. NIV® Copyright 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®. NASB 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.