While on my journey out of the pain, rejection, and loss of my younger years (see my previous blog posts for some history), I began to realize quickly that very little was going to change unless I changed how I thought.
This really hit home when I researched the actual Greek word for repentance in the New Testament and found that ‘metanoia’ means to change one’s mind. It wasn’t just about feeling bad about my mistakes and trying to differently. It actually involved changing HOW I thought & believed.
This scripture sums it up well:
During this time of losing my religion and renewing my faith about seven years ago, I read a powerful book by Mac Bledsoe called Parenting With Dignity. Admittedly, I only read it because I knew I needed parenting help, I liked the title, and the book was not particularly spiritual. I was looking for practical help! It was practical wisdom on raising children and being great parents. I loved it! Honestly, this book helped me as an individual just as much as it changed, encouraged, and strengthened my parenting.
The primary premise of Mr. Bledsoe’s book is: “the ideas in my head will rule my world … the ideas in my kids’ heads will rule their world.” (p. 11) (I highly encourage any and everyone to read it, especially teachers, parents, counselors, law enforcement, customer service. Seriously, I can’t think of anyone who won’t benefit from it!)
At the same time that I was reading this book, my life was going through an upheaval. I was ready to make changes, but unsure how to do so after so long. I was ready to live free from depression, anger, anxiety, worry, hurt, despair, and every other negative feeling that had yanked me around like a puppet for so many years.
As I read the New Testament and then other amazing books on making changes, the words my husband quoted often rolled around in my head, “If you can change the way you think, you can change the way you feel.”
It all went back to my mind. Metanoia. Repentance. Change your mindset. Renew your thoughts. This led me to “think about what I was thinking about” like Joyce Meyers always says. Identifying the toxic thoughts and feelings is one thing. Having a plan to exchange those thoughts for new thoughts was quite another!
Well, God is good and He showed me that the best way to change a thought or fight a negative emotion was to keep His word near me. Better yet, by putting His promises in my mouth and in my heart I could access them quickly when there became a battle for my emotions.
Here is what I did – I encourage you to do the same! I grabbed a notecard and wrote a scripture on it. I kept it with me and every time fear, anxiety, loneliness, or any other negative emotion or thought would come, I would grab my card and read it. I would read it out loud or quietly to myself. Then I would take a moment to think about what each word meant and remind myself that God sent His word to heal me (Psalm 107:20). God sent His word forth and it would not return void but accomplish what it was sent to do! (Isaiah 55:11)
As I gathered more cards together, I realized I needed a way to keep them together. I remembered that some of my children’s school curriculum came with notecards held together by a binder ring. I bought some binder rings like this:
Slowly, my collection of cards filled with scripture & encouraging quotes grew.
Behold, my new brain!
As I began to fill my mind with scripture, it became easier for me to identify a thought that was bringing me down, sabotaging my relationships, or altering my behavior. Sometimes it was hard, but I would ‘call those thoughts to the carpet’ and take the time to address them by comparing my negative thought to the truth of God’s word.
It wasn’t always easy, but as I began to be filled with hope, patience, peace, and joy. I knew the hard choices were worth it – and it became easier!
In my old life, if I awoke in the morning and felt like I was ‘in a funk’. I would just sigh and think, “I guess it’s gonna be one of those days.” I would announce to the world, “Stay outta my way. I’m in a funk today.”
Don’t look at me so funny. Ladies, we do this all the time.
“It’s that time of month. Nobody better mess with me or they’ll be sorry.”
“I’m in a funk today. I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. Everybody just needs to deal with it.”
Ladies, we are the worst at letting our feelings dictate our behavior…and worse yet, we expect other people to alter their behavior & mood according to ours!
Well, as I began to spend time in the Bible, God spoke to me very clearly about how utterly selfish – and how completely UN-Christlike – that was. It was a hard pill to swallow. I mean, wasn’t I entitled to my moments? I had been through a lot in life, shouldn’t other people have to tip-toe around me when my memories or hormones were raging?
No and No. Those were the answers over and over again. The Lord began to show me that I could be the master of my emotions rather than being a slave to my feelings. One day early on in this transition, I woke up feeling depressed. For almost twenty years, the months of April and May sent me into a deep funk and eventually depression. My mother passed away in May when I was nine years old. Then when I was 28 my younger brother took his life in May. What once was a really bad month became nearly unbearable.
This particular morning was in early May. I could feel the darkness starting to bring me down. My mind swirled and I just felt very alone and utterly hopeless. I wanted to cry. I wanted to just lay in bed and not face the world.
But I had been spending a lot of time reading God’s promises and keeping scripture at hand.
This particular morning as I thought, “Well, I guess it’s that time of year” another thought hit me almost as quickly, “You don’t have to be this way. Are you going to just lay down and accept this?”
I could feel the struggle within. Would I fight this? Or would I go into the almost comfortable depression that I had lived with for so many years? Could I control my emotions? Or was everything that God had been speaking to my heart a lie? I FELT so alone. I FELT so unloved! But, God said otherwise and I had to choose what I believed.
As I stood in my kitchen with the morning sunlight coming in through the single window, I made a choice. I said to myself, “I am NOT alone. God is with me. I have NOTHING to be depressed about, God has given me His only Son that I might have life & life more abundantly (John 10:10). I refuse to feel this way any longer. God is not a liar. He said He would never leave me nor forsake me so I don’t care how I feel anymore. I choose to believe God’s word. I choose to believe what He has said about me.” The struggle internally was real. When your emotions & feelings have been running your life, your mood, your thoughts, and your reactions for your entire life and you finally stand up to them and decide they do NOT get to be in charge anymore. When you explain to your mind that it will believe God’s word even when circumstances and feelings say something different – you create a power struggle.
But if you will hold on to God’s word and choose to believe it above your circumstances, above what other people have told you, above your own experiences, feelings, and thoughts then you will start to truly turn your life over to God.
When the Word of God has the final say in the disputes between what the world says and what the Bible says, then you have truly made Jesus the Lord of your life.
This is what Romans 12:2 is talking about when it says (my comments added in parenthesis):
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world (how it thinks, reacts, behaves), 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.” Metanoia. True repentance will lead me to understand God’s will.
God’s will was not for me to keep having up & down days. His perfect will for humanity is not for His people to be dragged around by their emotions like a bull with a ring through its nose!
He doesn’t desire us to feel alone, confused, unloved, and hopeless when His word assures us repeatedly that He is with us, He is for us, and He has good plans for our lives! Believe His word and you will see it become reality in your life.
Make His promises your constant meditation rather than your worries, fears, regrets, guilt, and painful experiences. As I began to exchange my brain and renew my mind (as other versions of Romans 12:2 read), then I began to see myself become the person I had always hoped to become.
I’m becoming more patient, kind, quicker to forgive, easier to get along with, and joyful!
No, I’m not perfect. Yes, this is a journey. But it’s an amazing journey!
Allow God’s word to become the final authority in your life. Choose to believe it over your own feelings, emotions, and past experiences. Allow His promises to bring you peace, joy, and comfort.
As you do, you will find what I did. As I began to hide God’s word in my heart and honored His word above how I felt, then as promised in John 14:21, Jesus was able to manifest His love to me in very real ways and make Himself real to me.
As you choose God’s word above all else, God will make Himself real to you.
That is not my promise but Jesus’ promise to you.
I haven’t been a slave to depression in many years now. My feelings do not rule my days like they used to and He has comforted my pain in ways that only a real & loving God could do.
Exchange your brain today! Get some notecards and a binder ring then keep it with you for quick reference! Or come up with whatever works for you! But keep God’s word near you and allow His promises to encourage you throughout your day.
There is no greater investment you can make than putting God’s word in your mouth & in your heart.