How to have a strong, healthy mind

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We’ve probably all seen the TV show Fixer-upper, where Chip and Joanna Gaines find a house that needs renovating. If the bones are good, they turn a rundown house in a good neighborhood into a thing of beauty.

Our minds can be like that rundown house. Being part of the body of Christ, we definitely live in a good neighborhood. However, our minds can sometimes be very much in need of change. God is inviting us into the renovation process. Empowered by His Holy Spirit, we become a part of completing the process that He has begun. With His word as our plum-line, we are invited to become co-laborers with God. As we cooperate with Him in the process, our lives become transfigured; the reality of who we’ve become in the spiritual realm becomes evident in the physical. So how does that happen?

Let’s begin by stating something so obvious that it seems like it should go without saying, but it is a truth that has been denied in our culture:

What we think matters

The thoughts we choose to entertain greatly impact:

  • Our mental health
  • Our behavior
  • Our physical health
  • Our moods and our emotions

Dr. Carolyn Leaf is a communication pathologist who has worked in the area of cognitive neuroscience. In her book entitled, “Switch on your Brain,” she states,

“Research show that 75-98% of mental, physical and behavioral illness comes from one’s thought life. This staggering and eye-opening statistic means only 2-25% of mental and physical illnesses come from the environment and genes.”

The concept that what we choose to think matters is also found in the Bible. Romans 12:2 says,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The word transform means to change form in keeping with inner reality. The Greek word for transformed is “metamorphóō.” It’s where we get the word “metamorphosis” (medəˈmôrfəsəs).

The process of metamorphosis involves a change in character and going from an immature to an adult stage.

The message in this passage is that we, as believers, play an active part in causing the nature, or form of our minds to change from one thing to something completely different, much like the butterfly.

We get to decide if our minds will go from an immature to a mature state.

We, as believers, get to decide if our inner reality will ever be visible on the outside.

How do we accomplish this? By the renewing of our minds. Renewing our minds means that we have been given the opportunity by God to complete the process that He began in us at salvation. Our sprits were saved at salvation. Our souls are being saved. (Eph. 4:22-24)  As we wean our minds from being controlled by our flesh, we grow up in Christ. We become transformed. As this happens, our minds take on qualities of a strong, healthy mind. Qualities like stability, single-mindedness and agreeing with what is true. Even in the face of opposition.

Practical things we can do to take our thoughts captive, making them obedient to Christ:

The first step in developing a strong, healthy mind is to take up the challenge.  We do this when we resolve to improve our mental health and fitness. We do this by setting the focus of our minds where they need to be. Romans 8:5 says,

“Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

Setting our minds on the things of God means that we play an active role in the governing of our own minds. It means we exercise our minds, directing our thoughts where we want them to go.

The Bible sometimes uses the symbolism of a house to represent our life. If the house is our life, think of the front door as our mind; we decide what gets to come in and what doesn’t. We have been given stewardship of our lives that is accomplished by the exercising our minds.

In the past our thoughts followed well-worn, familiar paths that weren’t always healthy. We now have the opportunity to forge new lines of thinking that agree with the mind of Christ. Old, unhealthy strongholds in our minds can be replaced with new, healthy ways of thinking; now God’s thoughts and ways can have a strong hold on our minds.

Becoming mentally strong and healthy starts with the resolve to think a new thought that is true and healthy. Then we think it again. And again. Now we’re renewing our minds as we exercise our thought lives…one rep at a time, until one day we’ve created deep, well-traveled “ruts” in our minds that are based on truth. Over time, thinking true, healthy thoughts becomes as natural as water running down a deep rut on a hill. While change can be difficult at first, requiring intentional focus, it does get easier. In time it becomes as natural as breathing.

There will also be times when we recognize that a thought doesn’t line up with the truth in God’s word. The first step in getting rid of the weeds in our mind is to recognize that it is our responsibility to do so.

A few years ago my husband hired a lawn care service. Weeds had begun to multiply, and we figured this was one job we could check off our list. Done. No longer our problem. The lawn care service would take care of it. The only problem was this one weed…

What we didn’t realize was that unless we wanted the lawn service to kill everything, (including the grass) our only option was to pull the quackgrass out by hand. If we had realized this, we could have tackled the problem when it was small. Only affecting the outer edges of our yard. But we strolled along in blissful ignorance while the weeds began to infest our yard.

Our thought life can be this way. Common lines of thinking in our day tell us, “It’s a chemical imbalance.” “Take a pill.” See a counselor.” “It’s not your problem.” “Let your mind wander.” While I’m not making blanket statements about these other suggestions, the only way they have ANY hope of helping us achieve mental health is if we mind our mind. No amount of counseling or medication will give us strong, healthy minds if we do not “pull the weeds” of our minds. If we blissfully stroll along thinking “it’s not my problem”…I’ve hired someone to take care of that,” those thought weeds will spread.

Let’s not let anyone tell us that we can’t do this. The Bible tells us to take our thoughts captive. This means God will help us. He wouldn’t tell us to do something that we aren’t capable of doing. It sometimes takes patience and persistence, but if we do not give up, we will succeed.

The second step in developing strong, healthy minds is to discern the source of our thoughts.

It’s easy to assume that we ourselves are the source of every thought that we think. This simply isn’t true. Our thoughts have a number of sources, and if we are to have healthy minds, we will need to determine if the source of a thought is trustworthy.

So, what are the sources of our thoughts?

God puts thoughts into our minds. This shouldn’t be too shocking to believers. God’s spirit comes to dwell in our hearts when we are born again. He not only can read our thoughts, (Ps 139:2) but He also chooses to communicate to us in our thoughts. Nehemiah 2:12 says, “I {Nehemiah} arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem.” 

Another source of our thoughts can, at times, be evil spirits. (John 13:2) Only God can read our minds, (1 Ki:8:39, Acts 5:3, 1 Chr. 21:1) but evil spirits are capable of planting thoughts in our minds. They often plant those thoughts in our minds in the first person, leading us to wrongly assume that they are our own thoughts. For example, “God could never love me. I’ve been too bad. Why even try.” Anytime a thought seems to come out of nowhere and it doesn’t agree with the truth in God’s word, consider the possibility that the enemy has planted that thought. Since Satan is the father of lies, all thoughts planted by him need to be discarded as false. An example of an evil spirit planting a thought in the heart/mind of an individual is found in John 13:2, where we’re told that Satan put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus.

We ourselves also play a huge role in our own thought lives in two ways. First of all, through the thoughts we choose to think and then possibly entertain.

The second way that we impact what thoughts come into our minds is through the input we allow into our minds. There’s an old saying that says, “Garbage in, garbage out. We can’t expect to fill our minds with garbage from screens without having these things impact our thought lives.

The third step in developing strong, healthy minds is to learn to discern truth from lies by spending time in the word daily. Healthy minds are rooted in truth, and God’s word is the foundation of truth.  It’s especially helpful to seek out Bible verses that deal with the specific issues you are facing in life.

Another way that we can develop strong, healthy minds is to resist destructive thoughts that come against our minds by speaking (yes, out loud) Bible verses that address the issue. For example, if fearful thoughts about how someone is going to respond to you are the problem, speaking Psalm 56:3-4 would be a powerful tool: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” The spoken word is a powerful weapon that causes the enemy to flee; that’s why Jesus used the word, not human reasoning, when tempted by Satan in the desert.

Another way we can play a role in the renewing of our minds is to ask God to help us. While this may sound obvious, it is all too easy to overlook. Psalm 46:1 reassures us that, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Instead of ignoring or submerging thoughts that need to be overcome, bring them to God; simply telling Him what we’re going through and asking for help is sometimes half the battle.

Another way that we can develop strong, healthy minds is to always look for an exchange. When you’ve recognized a thought pattern that needs to go, ask yourself, “What truth can I exchange for the lie I’m getting rid of?” Displace an unwanted thought with a desirable one. With intentionality, choose to think about the right things, ie., that which is true, noble, excellent, etc.

Turning on worship music is also another helpful way to bring our thoughts back onto a good course. Worship music has the ability to change the atmosphere dramatically. It sets a new tone that helps us walk in victory.

Another way that we can develop healthy minds is to check our focus. Choosing to take our eyes off of the problem and onto God reminds us that we serve a powerful God who is strong enough to give us the victory.  A Pastor once told me that “we empower that which we focus on.” Like Peter stepping out onto the water, if our eyes are on the storm, we can easily be intimidated by it. When we focus on the Mighty God that we serve, our confidence is strengthened.

Hoping this has been helpful. May the Lord bless you and strengthen you today,

Arlene

 

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