Even if you haven’t followed along lately, I hope you’ll take the time to read this post. Our thinking is so important and learning to think biblically makes all the difference in our emotional condition.
Joshua 17 & 18
How Does Our Thinking Affect Our Emotions?
How Our Thinking Controls Our Emotions
Verses 22-31 repeat much of what we read a couple of months ago in Matthew 6 about worry and trust in God, but we can never hear these things often enough. Verses 29-31:
29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
I especially like verse 29, “And do not … have an anxious mind.” Why are we so often anxious? What, generally, controls our emotions?
Philippians 4 says:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Have you ever prayed and given some situation to God, only to find yourself worried about it a hour later? Why do we find it so hard to leave our troubles with God?
I believe the answer is in verse 8.
When it comes to worry and anxiety, it’s not enough to pray and then go back to thinking about it, trying to figure out how God’s going to solve the issue, or as we often do, fretting about what we should do to fix the problem. We need to change our thinking.
It’s no accident that verse 8 follows 6 and 7. “Finally …” after you’ve prayed about it, “meditate on these things”! Think about them deeply.
What is it we’re to think about deeply?
We’re to focus on what’s true, not the what if’s and maybe’s. We’re to think about the greater truths. It may be true that your husband has lost his job, but the greater truth is that God is your Provider (2 Cor. 9.8; Phil. 4.19).
We’re to think about what’s noble and lovely. Believe the best of others. Don’t see them in the worst possible light. See them as God sees them. And remember no one is too hard for God (Prov. 21.1).
Think of the good, those things for which you can be thankful. Think about how God has taken care of you in the past and how You have seen Him work in the Bible and in the lives of people you know.
2 Corinthians 10.4-5 says:
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Notice the words “arguments”, “knowledge” and “thoughts.” These strongholds have to do with our thinking and patterns of thinking. We take our thoughts captive by replacing them with God-honoring, God-filtered ones.
When we’re tempted to worry and be anxious, we must remind ourselves that if the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. We won’t lack anything we need. But, as I heard someone say, Psalm 23.1 may be the best known and least believed verse in the Bible.
When we start to wonder if our spouse will ever change, we must remind ourselves that our job is to first take the logs out of our own eyes (Matt. 7.5), that we overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.21) and that doing good to the other person will be the most likely way to bring conviction (Rom. 12.20).
When we start fretting about our children, we must remember that God only asks us to be faithful (1 Cor. 4.2) to teach and train them using godly principles (Eph. 6.4), not to unnecessarily frustrate them (Col. 3.21) or provoke them to anger (Eph. 6.4), and to leave the results in His hands (Prov. 22.6).
But in order to take our thoughts captive to these truths and others, we must first put God’s word in our hearts and minds. Romans 12.2 tells us:
“… be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And Psalm 119.9-11 (NASB) says:
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
So when we’re feeling anxious or worried or a host of other negative emotions, let’s stop and take an inventory of our thoughts.
The Sovereign God who watches over all the details of life is watching over us. He knows what we need. Our focus is to be on doing the things that advance His kingdom. But if we’re not purposefully thinking and meditating on those things, our default modes of worry, anxiety, anger, other sinful thought patterns will take over.
How Journaling Can Help
When I’m counseling people struggling with emotional issues, I often ask them to keep a journal. It’s often very revealing for them to slow down and ask themselves a series of questions.
- What was I thinking?
Just write it out.
Example: “I think my husband and I are never going to get out of this financial mess. What if he can’t find a job? I might have to stop homeschooling. We could lose the house. We’re getting deeper in debt.”
- What verses of Scripture address the things I’m worried about?
About our finances: Luke 12.29-31; Philippians 4.6-7
About our children/homeschooling: Ephesians 6.4; 1 Corinthians 4.2
Others: Hebrews 13.5-6, 7.25; John 16.33; 1 John 4.18; 1 Corinthians 10.13; Philippians 4.6-7
- What do these verses say about my fear?
Example: God will never leave us or forsake us. In fact, Jesus is making intercession for us. God knows what we need and has promised to provide for us. Instead, I need to pray and trust Him. When I do, God will not give us more than we can handle but will show us the way through this trial. Our responsibility is to train our children using God’s principles. God will help us overcome any problems we face.
- What should I be thinking?
Example: God knows what we need and just like He takes care of the birds, He will take care of us. It may be true that my husband is not working, but God will not leave us or forsake us. He will see us through this. If I had to quit homeschooling, God is still in control. He won’t allow more than we can handle and will give me and the children the grace we need.
- Confess the sin of fear and worry to God (Phil. 4.6). Pray and ask Him to help you replace your anxious thoughts with thoughts that are true according to God’s Word (Phil. 4.8).
Do this at least once a day as long as you are struggling with the temptation to worry. You may even need to do it multiple times in the beginning. Carry one or two of the most meaningful verses with you on a 3 x 5 card. Read them over whenever you have a few minutes throughout the day. As you take those thoughts captive and replace them with the truth, you are tearing down strongholds (2 Cor. 10.3-5) and renewing your mind (Rom. 12.2) to God’s truth.
TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:
Joshua 17 & 18:
When Worry Leads to Complaining
As Joshua continued to divide up the territories throughout the promised land, the tribe of Joseph started complaining about their allotment. They were worried that the Canaanites, who lived there, were too strong for them to conquer. Instead of obeying God and trusting His promise to defeat their enemies, they wanted Joshua to just give them more land.
Joshua reminded them of God’s promises and told them to clear the wooded land they had been given and drive out the inhabitants.
We, too, need to fully use the resources God has given us instead of complaining that He doesn’t give us more. And as we saw in our New Testament reading, we need to change our thinking about God and our circumstances.
What God Values & What the World Values
Verses 10-11, “Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him.”
This passage is specifically directed toward us, ladies. A double emphasis (“listen” and “incline”) is put on giving attention to the phrase, “forget your own people.”
When we marry we are to leave our family of origin, and make the marriage relationship our primary human one.
And when we enter into a relationship with our King, we are to “leave” our allegiance to natural things (the family of man) and fully commit to pleasing Him. We please Him as we cultivate the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3.1-6) and as we become more like Him (Matt. 3.17).
Why Do You Come to God?
“A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands.”
Even in Jesus’ time there were those who questioned Him without the right heart attitude. The rich young ruler asked, “What must I do to be saved?,” but walked away because he wasn’t willing to truly follow Christ. The Pharisees asked for a sign, but were only trying to entrap Him. And Herod asked Him to perform a miracle as if He was there to entertain him.
In the same way, some come to Him today so they can prove Him wrong, not with an open heart to receive the truth. Others come expecting Him to act like a genie in a bottle, as if He was there to fulfill their wishes. Still others merely want their ticket to heaven.
But, Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4.24).
We must worship God from a pure heart and for who He is, rather than some god of our own making.
What about you?
What’s going on in your heart and mind? Is it peace and trust? Or is it worry and anxiety? Is it forgiveness and grace? Or is anger and bitterness? How do you need to change your thinking? What verses do you need to memorize and meditate on?
Elyse Fitzpatrick, coauthor of Women Helping Women (a Gold Medallion Finalist), offers practical advice for conquering the paralyzing emotions many women encounter as they battle difficult, often overwhelming concerns about rebellious children, problems in the workplace or home, health issues, financial difficulties, and more.
In the Bible, God gives guidance and offers the true solution to our anxieties and fears. Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety accesses this information to help women—
- Identify the source of fear, worry, and anxiety
- Transform fearful thoughts into peaceful confidence
- Discover specific strategies for overcoming anxiety
Women will find comfort and encouragement through real–life examples of how others, including Elyse, cast their cares upon God and experience His strength and love.
The battle always starts in the mind. In the Arena of the Mind can help you filter your thinking through the truthfulness of Scripture.
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