2 Corinthians 10:5
New International Version (NIV)
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to this passage until recently. Of course, I had read it countless times, but I had an underlying belief that I really had no control over my thoughts, a mindset that set me up for feeling guilty alot and powerless to change. Come on, you know the thoughts I’m talking about….those horrendous beasts that show up out of nowhere and make you feel like an awful person, the thoughts you would be mortified to have anyone know about! OK, if you don’t have them, then either you’re lying or Satan doesn’t mess with you.
I’ve come to realize that all of my thoughts don’t necessarily originate with me. Of course, exposing myself to junk will provide prime fodder for the Enemy to work with, but lots of times he slips thoughts into my mind that I did not choose to think.
However, what I choose to do with those thoughts or any other thoughts that I did choose to think makes all the difference, and Paul recognized this. What Paul didn’t know, scientifically speaking, is how we can influence the neural pathways that are formed in our minds. For example, remember this passage? (yes, I realize that we don’t know for certain who the author of Hebrews was, but work with me here!:
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Hebrews 12:15
Have you ever met anyone who just grew really bitter over time? Maybe when you first met them they seemed happy enough, but something happened that they got stuck on, and it seemed to eat and eat away at them until they became uncomfortable to be around? This happens when we aren’t diligent in rooting out thoughts that don’t belong in our minds and hand them to Jesus, when we choose to act on those thoughts instead of forgive. Gradually, our brain chemistry changes to reflect what we are thinking, and those chemistry changes then affect us negatively, creating a vicious cycle.
Dr. Daniel Amen describes these kinds of degenerative thought processes in Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. While he doesn’t attribute any of these intruding thoughts to Satan, he does state how damaging they can be to relationships and our minds when we don’t deal with them properly. For example, when our mind is overwhelmed with negative thoughts, our limbic system (the part of the brain controlling mood) can be affected, creating depression, anxiety, and irritability. However, if you are constantly letting happy, positive thoughts invade your mind, the limbic system is cooled off, resulting in a better mood. Which leads to another connection from Paul to neuroscience:
New International Version (©1984)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Obviously God hardwired our bodies to respond positively to truth and goodness. Besides just monitoring our thoughts as a means of righteous living, it’s just good self care. Every part of our bodies are affected by what we think, which is why Amen and others suggest that we often have physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches when we get upset.
Paul was really on to something here….taking our thoughts to Jesus really is important, and it’s not just so we can avoid feeling guilty. While we can try to deal with negative thoughts on our own, only Jesus can replace the lies we believe with real truth. When we try to fix ourselves by ourselves,we are subject to our neuroses and sin that we get entangled in; Jesus alone is the ultimate restorer and protector of our minds.
Maybe people who lived before the Renaissance and Industrial Age really weren’t as ignorant as we often think.
Seeking to fully live,