I’d like to say this went on for days. Even weeks. Yet, I have to be honest. For months on end, I would wake up in the morning, grab my coffee, my Bible, and my journal and head to the dog and kid-stained stuffed chair for some study time. I would pray, read, and record the things I was learning in my trusty red journal. So, what’s the problem, you ask? The problem was what I did next. I would head into the bathroom to begin getting myself ready for the day. Invariably, within a couple minutes of being in the quietness of that room, alone with my thoughts, I would begin to spiral.
It would often start as I would recall an unpleasant memory, and I would rehearse it. Sometimes the memory was something stupid I did in my past. Or some days, my thoughts got stuck on a hurtful experience I had allowed to grow to form a root of bitterness in my heart. Or maybe as I looked in the mirror, I would begin to have insecure thoughts about the image that I saw staring back at me. Another one of my go-to mind traps was to imagine all the bad things that could happen to my young child. I knew all of it was wrong and that I was seriously hurting myself, but I felt powerless to stop it. Peace started to become a painful illusion.
I would tell myself, “Quit thinking about this! Quit thinking about this!” But the more I told myself not to think about it, the challenge only seemed to become that much more insurmountable.
It’s like this: DO NOT think about a pink elephant!
What are you thinking about right now?
Yeah, a pink elephant.
So, I lived in a daily pattern of defeat. It got to the point where as I walked through the threshold of my bathroom door, I was consciously aware that for the next hour I was going to lose control of the mind God had given me. And these negative thoughts would sometimes set my thought patterns into a sloppy rut for the rest of the day. Never mind all the wonderful Bible-thoughts I had just recorded in my journal just minutes before going into the bathroom. Ugh.
My helplessness degenerated to where I could almost imagine a personification of Satan sitting on the edge of the bathroom sink each morning tapping his fingers together in succession with a sick little grin on his face. He knew I was coming, and he was ready for me. Every morning, I performed like clockwork for him. I’d walk through the door and let him have his way with me because I didn’t know how to stop him.
One day, I remember thinking, “I am so tired of feeling defeated every morning in the bathroom!” Then it hit me. “Did you hear yourself? Defeated? Defeated?”
Defeated is a term that can only be used when there is a fight or a competition taking place. That’s when I realized that there was a war going on for my mind, and it occurred in the quiet battlefield of my bathroom. So, I asked myself, “Who would go into a war without a strategy?”
Call me slow. Very slow. But it was at that point that I realized I did not have to define myself as a victim of my own thoughts, and the solution wasn’t as enigmatic as I had assumed it was. I found some timeless Scriptural battle plans, and began to study them. Now, at face value, the passage below is encouraging enough. But after doing a word study of this passage, there is an underlying concept that became more real and more useful to me than ever before. You’ll have to bear with me on some “academics” before we can get to the honey pot, but I truly believe you won’t be disappointed. So, let’s break 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 down verse by verse:
Verse 3: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
This verse tells us that even though our behaviors are what’s seen on the outside, the battle that’s going on is not really an external or physical battle — it’s spiritual. The words “according to” can also be translated “against” using the original Greek word, so we learn that the battle is not as simple as forcing our thoughts and actions to stop “misbehaving.” It’s more than that.
Verse 4: for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
This verse tells us that since our battle isn’t a physical battle, we can’t be soldiers who fight with physical weapons — we need spiritual weapons. Then, only with the power of spiritual weapons will we be able to successfully experience the “destruction of fortresses.” Huh? What does destroying fortresses have anything to do with Satan messing with my mind in my bathroom each morning?
In ancient days, if your nation was in a battle with another people group, to be victorious, your army would have to tear down the walls that created a protective barrier around the enemy’s territory. Without destroying the walls created by the enemy, you essentially could not claim victory.
Interestingly, the Greek word used in this verse for “destruction” can also mean “to dethrone.” This was just the first whiff of the honey pot for me. I had to admit that I had not been able to tear down the walls of these destructive thoughts in my mind because my thought patterns were actually holding them up. In fact, I had effectually enthroned these thoughts as the false ruler of my mind. And because they were ruling, the walls got taller and stronger and harder to tear down with each day that I stepped foot into my bathroom. So, now I had a better understanding of my problem, but I still wasn’t sure how to solve it. Until . . .
Verse 5: We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
This verse could be summarized as God’s instruction to dethrone any thought or any reasoning that I exalt in my mind that goes against the truth of God’s Word. The Greek language uses more than one word for our English word for “knowledge.” One kind of knowledge in the Greek is more objective and factual, and the other word for knowledge refers to an experiential or “heart” knowledge. Both uses of the same word show up in the Bible, and there is great value in possessing both kinds of knowledge. However, in this case, verse five says we have to compare our thoughts to the objective and factual things we know to be true from the Word of God.
So, here’s what I began to do. As I identified the problem I was struggling with, I would print off or write out related Scripture passages and hang them on my bathroom mirror. All over my bathroom mirror. I would read them over and over again. Some passages I would memorize, but mostly I would just read them as I applied make-up and blew my hair dry. I also started listening to Christian music in the bathroom to reinforce my new thoughts.
After some time, I started to develop new thought patterns. Things were different. Why? Because when I recognized a destructive thought in my mind, I didn’t just tell myself to stop thinking about it. Hello, pink elephant? No, I did what verse five says, and I took the thought captive to the obedience of Christ. “Taking captive” is the idea of making the thought your prisoner. I like to think of it as lassoing the thought and ripping it off of it’s throne. Yet, the work could not stop there. I had to replace the thought by enthroning a new thought that agreed with Scripture.
So, for instance, when I would look in the mirror and start thinking thoughts like, “Your big-o stomach will never be the same since you’ve had kids,” or, “You don’t measure up to how the other pre-school moms look in their workout clothes,” I’d get the Sharpie marker out and write this on a note card:
“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” — Psalm 139:14
Then, I’d remind myself that there is more to me than loose skin on my abdomen, and that to deny that God made me in a way He describes as both “fearfully and wonderfully made” was to deny what I knew to be factually true about God. Then, I was able to replace the thoughts that were creating walls with thoughts of praise and thankfulness for how God created me. And this is precisely why we need the objective knowledge God has provided us. It’s the factual knowledge we find in the Bible that sets the standard for how we know God, how we understand ourselves, and how we can dethrone Satan’s lies and replace them with God’s truth. It creates a framework for the experiential knowledge God intends for all of His children to have.
You see, the throne in our minds will never be unoccupied. Our enemy will sit on it and mess with us mercilessly unless we wrap a lasso around his neck, drag him off, and replace him with thoughts characterized by obedience to Christ. And what is the result when Christ rules in our hearts and minds? This is the honey pot — it’s peace!
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:7