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Posts tagged ‘overcoming lie-based thinking’

Two Traps to Avoid: “If Only” and “What If?”

SOURCE:  Susan Yates

When these issues dominate my thoughts, I succumb to selfishness and fear.

In each season of my life, I’ve found myself falling into two mental traps which are not helpful. One is the “If only” syndrome, and the other is the “What if?” syndrome.

Here’s how “If only” might express itself:

  • “If only I had a husband.”
  • “If only I had more money.”
  • “If only my husband would act like…”
  • “If only my husband (or I) had a good job.”
  • “If only we had a different house.”
  • “If only my parents (or his) understood.”
  • “If only my child would sleep through the night.”
  • “If only I had a really close friend.”
  • “If only I didn’t come from such a wounded past.”
  • “If only I wasn’t stuck in this place.”
  • “If only I was free of this disease.”
  • “If only I knew how to handle my teen.”
  • “If only I didn’t have to do this.”
  • “If only I didn’t struggle with this.”

Can you identify? You can probably add to this list yourself. Over the years I’ve realized that these thoughts merely lead me into a real case of self-pity. At the core of what I’m expressing is: “Life is about me and my happiness.” I have a bucket that needs to be filled.

But the reality is that even if the desire for one “If only” is met, I’ll just have another one to add to the list. Too often I get myself into this mindset without even realizing it. And it sinks me into a bad mood or a feeling of being depressed. The focus is on me, and I need to confess this selfishness and ask God to forgive me and to enable me to focus on Him and on others. And I need to ask Him to give me a grateful heart.

The other trap is “What if?”:

  • “What if I can’t get pregnant?”
  • “What if my husband leaves me?”
  • “What if I don’t get this raise?”
  • “What if I can’t complete this project?”
  • “What if we lose the election?”
  • “What if the medical tests bring bad news?”
  • “What if my child doesn’t make the team?”
  • “What if I fail?”

This mindset leads to fear. I am afraid of what will happen if the “What if” comes true. And this can be a paralyzing fear.

The “What if” syndrome is especially hard for those of us with an overactive imagination—we are often visionaries; we are creative. We tend to have this weakness, however: We can create the worst-case scenario in our imagination in three seconds flat! It can be terrifying.

What’s at the core of this attitude? I fail to believe that God is in control. My “What if” has become bigger than my God. I have temporarily forgotten that He is loving, He is kind, He is present, He is good, and He will never, ever forsake me.

I can give Him my “What if”—He can handle it. He will sustain me.

Underlying the “If only” and “What if” syndromes is an expectation that our lives should be completely satisfying. We may recognize that’s not realistic, but too often we live with that expectation in our thought life without even realizing it.

We need to remember that, in this life, our bucket will always have holes. Life will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Eternal life in heaven will be a perfect bucket with no holes completely filled with the love of Christ and satisfaction—no wants or fears, just sweet fellowship with Jesus and those who have gone before us.

Today, what is your “If only…”? What is your “What if”?

Recognize the subtle danger of these thoughts, which produce self-pity and fear. Make a conscious decision to dump them someplace (down the garbage disposal, in the trash, or fireplace).

Begin to say His traits out loud: “You are my Father, You go before me. You prepare a way for me. You protect me. You bless me. You understand me. You forgive me. You know me better than I know myself and you love me totally, completely, perfectly. No matter what happens You are still in charge. You will never forsake me.”

This puts your focus on God, where it belongs.

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Think About What You Think About

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Faithgateway

In her short thirteen years Rebecca Taylor has endured more than fifty-five surgeries and medical procedures and approximately one thousand days in the hospital.

Christyn, Rebecca’s mom, talks about her daughter’s health complications with the ease of a surgeon. The vocabulary of most moms includes phrases such as “cafeteria food,” “slumber party,” and “too much time on the phone.” Christyn knows this language, but she’s equally fluent in the vernacular of blood cells, stents, and, most recently, a hemorrhagic stroke.

In her blog she wrote:

This past week’s new land mine was the phrase “possible hemorrhagic stroke,” a phrase I heard dozens of times used by numerous physicians. Over and over and over that phrase filled my mind and consumed my thoughts. It was emotionally crippling.

This past Sunday our preacher, Max Lucado, started a very fitting series on anxiety. We reviewed the familiar Philippians 4:6 verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I presented my requests to the Lord as I had so many times before, but this time, THIS time, I needed more. And so, using Philippians 4:8-9 as a guide, I found my answer:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true…” What was true in my life at this particular moment? The blessing of all family members eating dinner together.

“Whatever is noble.” The blessing of enjoying each other’s presence outside of a hospital room.

“Whatever is right.” The blessing of experiencing my two sons’ daily lives.

“Whatever is pure.” The blessing of all three children laughing and playing with each other.

“Whatever is lovely.” The blessing of watching Rebecca sleep peacefully in her bed at night.

“Whatever is admirable.” The blessing of an honorable team working tirelessly on Rebecca’s care.

“If anything is excellent.” The blessing of watching a miracle unfold.

“Or praiseworthy.” The blessing of worshiping a Lord who is worthy to be praised.

“Think about such things.”

I did. As I meditated on these things, I stopped the dreaded phrase “hemorrhagic stroke” from sucking any joy out of my life. Its power to produce anxiety was now rendered impotent. And when I dwelt on the bountiful blessings in my life happening AT THAT VERY MOMENT, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” DID guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. A true, unexpected miracle. Thank You, Lord.1

Did you note what Christyn did? The words hemorrhagic stroke hovered over her life like a thundercloud. Yet she stopped the dreaded phrase from sucking joy out of her life.

She did so by practicing thought management. You probably know this, but in case you don’t, I am so thrilled to give you the good news: you can pick what you ponder.

You didn’t select your birthplace or birth date. You didn’t choose your parents or siblings. You don’t determine the weather or the amount of salt in the ocean. There are many things in life over which you have no choice. But the greatest activity of life is well within your dominion.

You can choose what you think about.

For that reason the wise man urges,

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. — Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.

Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.

Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.

He comes as a thief

with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying. — John10:10 Phillips

He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.

He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.

No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.

Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.

So, 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

The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, islogizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.

Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says…

“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”

“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”

If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.

Anxiety weighs down the human heart. — Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

But there is a better way.

Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite Him to speak to the problem.

Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV

Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?

Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.

Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist. — Ephesians 6:14 NRSV

Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more. The fact is, the doctor has called. The fact is, his news will be good or bad. For all you know, he may want you to be a poster child of good health. All you can do is pray and trust.

So you do. You enter the doctor’s office, not heavied by worry, but buoyed by faith.

Which do you prefer?

Christyn Taylor discovered calmness. Recently she and her family went back to Rebecca’s doctors in Minnesota. Seven months earlier Rebecca was barely surviving. Now, one day before her thirteenth birthday, Rebecca was vibrant and full of life. She had gained a remarkable thirty pounds. Her health was improving. She was named the hospital’s “walking miracle.”

Christyn wrote: “I watched these interactions with a silent sense of awe. It is easy to praise God during seasons of wellness. But it was during my greatest distress when I felt the Lord’s presence poured upon me. And it was in those heartbreaking moments I learned to trust this God who provided unimaginable strength during unimaginable pain.”2

He will help you as well, my friend. Guard your thoughts and trust your Father.
——————————————————————————
1. Used with permission.
2. Used with permission.

Excerpted from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

Anxious for Nothing

Change Your Thoughts & Reshape Your Life

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Proverbs 4:23 TEV).

God is far more interested in changing your mind than changing your circumstances.

We want God to take away all of the problems, pain, sorrow, suffering, sickness, and sadness. But God wants to work on you first, because transformation won’t happen in your life until you renew your mind, until your thoughts begin to change.

Why is it so important that you learn how to manage your mind?

Let me give you three reasons.

Manage your mind, because your thoughts control your life.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (TEV). The power of your thoughts has tremendous ability to shape your life for good or for bad. For example, maybe you accept the thought someone told you when you were growing up, “You’re worthless. You don’t matter.” If you accepted that thought, even though it was wrong, it shaped your life.

Manage your mind, because the mind is the battleground for sin.
All temptation happens in the mind. Paul says in Romans 7:22-23, “I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin” (TLB).

One of the reasons why you get mentally fatigued is because there’s a battle in your brain 24 hours a day. It’s debilitating because it’s intense, and it’s intense because your mind is your greatest asset. Satan wants your greatest asset!

Manage your mind, because it’s the key to peace and happiness.
An unmanaged mind leads to tension. A managed mind leads to tranquility. An unmanaged mind leads to conflict. A managed mind leads to confidence. An unmanaged mind leads to stress. When you don’t try to control your mind and the way you direct your thoughts, you will have an enormous amount of stress in your life. But a managed mind leads to strength and security and serenity.

“Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:6 NLT, second edition).

Three lies we might believe

SOURCE:  Ray Ortlund

It is very much in the devil’s interests that we despair.

If he can get us to believe these three demoralizing lies that he loves to whisper into our thoughts, our powers for Jesus are greatly diminished.

Lie #1: “You’re a hypocrite.  Sure, you’re serving Jesus.  But you don’t really mean it, you phoney.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).  “I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Lie #2: “You’re a loser.  You’ve ruined your life.  You’ll never amount to anything for the Lord.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “. . . the poor, . . . the brokenhearted, . . . the captives, . . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations” (Isaiah 61:1-4).

Lie #3: “You’re small.  You’re so buried under the debris of our complex and crowded culture, you’ll never make an impact.  You might as well give up.”

Answer: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).

Fighting Our Besetting Sins

Praying the Truth

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article at Discipleship Journal/Sandra Higley

Declaring the truth of what is ours in Christ is a powerful aid in our battle against temptation, sin, and the enemy. [Make use of] these prayer starters as you [ fight your] besetting sin.

— Lord, I take You at Your promise that You have provided everything I need to live a godly and holy life. Through Your strength, I can do anything. (2 Pet. 1:3, Phil. 4:13)

— I praise Your name, El Roi (the God who sees me). You see every struggle, every fall—and You understand because You experienced every temptation I feel. I cling to Your love; nothing can separate me from it. (Gen. 16:13, Heb. 4:15, Ro. 8:39)

— I take every thought captive in Jesus’ name. I know I’m fighting the kingdom of darkness, not flesh and blood. (2 Cor. 10:5, Eph. 6:12)

— I recognize that Satan, the accuser of the brethren, is trying to shame me into keeping my struggle a secret—hidden in darkness. I willingly bring every deed and every thought into Your glorious light. The truth will set me free. (Rev. 12:10; Jn. 3:19, 8:32)

— I confess my sin of __________ and receive Your forgiveness. I refuse to give Satan a foothold of any kind by harboring sin. (1 Jn. 1:9, Eph. 4:27)

— I receive the victory Jesus won for me over sin and death and hell. Thank You, God! (1 Cor. 15:57)

— Lord, I believe and accept that You are able to keep me from falling today and will present me without fault before Your throne. (Jude 24)

— Father, give me a passion for Your Son. As I love Him more and more, I will keep His commandments out of sheer desire to please Him. (Jn. 14:15)

— I choose to submit to You, Lord. I resist this onslaught of the evil one, knowing he has to run. (Jas. 4:7)

— Lord, teach me to stand firm when I’ve stood every way I know how—and then help me to keep on standing. (Eph. 6:13)

— I put on my helmet of deliverance, my helmet of salvation. I have the mind of Christ. (Eph. 6:17, 1 Cor. 2:16)

— I make a covenant with my eyes to look away the minute something tempting comes into view. (Job 31:1)

— Father, I’ve been battling this head-on for so long that I’m afraid the enemy may sneak up from behind; thank You for being my rear guard. My healing will come quickly. (Is. 58:8)

— Thank You, Jesus, that You did not come to condemn me but to set me free. I know my freedom is even more important to You than it is to me. (Jn. 3:17, Gal. 5:1)

— Send Your angels to minister to me right now, Father. I need help. (Heb. 1:14)

— Abba, You say the enemy is a liar and will do everything he can to move me into a place of distrusting Your promises. But Your Word Word is truth, and I renew my mind with it today. I am transformed. I am conformed to the image of Your Son. (2 Cor. 11:3; Jn. 17:17; Ro. 12:2, 8:29)

— Father, I unleash the power alive within me against the enemy who is prowling around looking for a way to eat me alive. That power is the same power that raised dead, decaying flesh and transformed it into a glorious resurrected body. (Eph. 1:19-20)

— I’m feeling weak, Lord. I praise You that You show Yourself strong in the middle of our weakness. (Dt. 3:24, 2 Cor. 12:9)

— I use every spiritual weapon You’ve given me in my arsenal to tear down this stronghold of thoughts. (2 Cor. 10:3-4)

— I renounce the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (1 Jn. 2:16)

— I take up my shield of faith, Lord. You made it specifically to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Eph. 6:16)

— You promised that there is a way of escape in every temptation. Help me to see it now. Open my spiritual eyes so I don’t miss it. ( 1 Cor. 10:13, Eph. 1:18)

— I know this is a battle of the mind. I refuse every impure thought as if I were in a mental tennis match. I refuse to be outwitted by a fallen, created being. (2 Cor. 2:11, Ezk. 28:12-17)

— Hallelujah, I’ve been set free from sin! I am a slave to righteousness. (Ro. 6:18)

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