Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, 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. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Some time ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was struggling in many areas of her life. Her finances were in ruins. She was struggling with health issues. Her health issues caused her to be unable to work a normal job. Her kids were struggling with issues, and she didn’t have the strength or energy to deal with them. And she found herself in a state of deep depression, unable to see a way out of the pit.
She was angry with God, and she was beating herself up. She felt as if she was failing God, that somehow if she could just do more, His favor would fall on her. As we talked, I shared with her the many scriptures that focus on training our minds to think biblically. She looked at me and said, “But what does it look like to be transformed by the renewing of our minds?”
Let me clarify here: I did not in any way tell my friend that by simply changing the way she thinks she could somehow change her circumstances, fully overcome the deep depression which had settled over her, heal herself of the daily pain. If you are in the type of depression in which she found herself, it may be absolutely necessary to get medical help. But, changing the way we think can give us confidence in God, enough hope to get through some of the darkest days we face. It will put a spring in our step that gives us strength and courage in the face of the Goliaths in our lives. It will give us faith to believe that our God is bigger than any “impossible” situation. It will transform us into the beautiful, encouraging souls that God created us to be. It will give us God’s all-surpassing, matchless peace to get us through the tough times.
So, what does it look like to be transformed by the renewing of our minds? Let me give you just a few thoughts on training our minds.
Flood your mind. I am a firm believer that our minds absorb a lot more than we consciously realize. I heard a study recently that everything we have ever seen, heard, or experienced is stored in our brains—like the hard drive of a computer. We may not be able to recall it, but it is stored there. What do you recall easily? Most likely, it’s the things you are exposed to frequently, the things that make an impact on you. I could probably describe in detail my home to you because I am exposed to it daily. I can tell you details about my kids that no one else knows because I know them intimately. I can quote lyrics to songs that have impacted me (just don’t ask me the name of the artist who sings it…) So, it stands to reason that the more we flood our minds with biblical messages, the more of those biblical messages we will recall.
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-8
Focus your mind. As a college student, I conducted an experiment. I decided that every time I had an idle thought, I would replace it with a verse that I was trying to memorize. I remember driving down the road, and as my mind wandered I would take that thought captive and begin quoting scripture. Any time I had an ugly or negative thought, as soon as I recognized it I began quoting scripture (usually in my mind). I think that’s what God would have us do: focus our thoughts on Him, change our ugly or hopeless thinking to reflect the promises He has given us. It takes work, but the results—having the God of peace with you—are well worth it.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 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. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
Protect your mind. While we flood our minds with the right things, a very strong argument can be made for protecting our mind from things contrary to God and His word. For example, I am very cautious about what movies I see. Is it a sin to see a rated R movie? No…that’s legalism. However, the closer I grow to God, the more entertaining myself with images of sexual promiscuity and listening to a barrage of foul language simply make my stomach churn. Honestly, any movie that has a theme of adultery is completely unappealing to me; there is nothing entertaining about that story line when you have lived it. I feel the same way about music. (I am not a musician, though. Those of you blessed with musical ability may argue this point—and you would win.) I don’t have a problem with “secular” music, but today’s music can be filled with explicit themes and language. Those songs do not glorify God in any way, and they certainly don’t help us draw closer to Him.
Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Psalm 119:37.
Let me give you a brief run-down of my day. Here’s a caveat: what works for me may not necessarily work for you. God created us all as individuals with unique abilities. You simply have to find what works for you.
Before my feet ever hit the ground, I dedicate my day to God asking Him to live through me (I pray Galatians 2:20 daily). Then, I grab my phone and open a Bible app (try the Bible Gateway app). I read from the reading plan that I have selected. Personally, I like to read large sections of scripture. I think I’ve read through the entire Bible four times in the last 1 ½ years—but that’s what works for me. Some people prefer devotionals or just a very small section of scripture. Others love cross-referencing. Find what works for you.
Then, it’s time for my morning work-out. I usually run or walk, weather permitting. I subscribe to a number of church podcasts, and I listen to sermons while I run. I also have a nice selection of Christian music on my phone. Sometimes I find it easier to run to music during races. Either way, I am flooding my mind with biblical messages while I am working out.
After my run, I am home to get ready for work. I have my radio tuned permanently to KLOVE radio, and it plays in my home 24/7. I find that it just gives our home a soothing, encouraging atmosphere. I often find myself listening to stories of God’s promises, singing songs that praise Him. I can’t even start to tell you how many times I’ve been stopped in my tracks because of lyrics that God used to speak directly to my heart.
Then, it’s off to work. My job requires me to spend large amounts of time in my car. While I am driving from hospital to hospital, I listen either to my KLOVE radio, sermon podcasts, or even books on CD. Sometimes, I turn it all off and simply enjoy the silence and solitude of communing with God. I also keep prayer books in my car. At every stop, I grab my book(s) and use them to pray for my children, my future husband, or someone else that God lays on my heart.
It seems that wherever I am, I find the presence of God. As I flood my mind, fix my mind on Him, and protect my mind, I am able to distinguish God all around me. Whether it’s the whispers to my heart or His creation calling me to worship, I experience Him day and night.
Scripture encourages us repeatedly to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4:8), to seek Him with all our whole heart because when we do we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). Sometimes it seems so daunting to change so much. I encourage you to take one small step toward God today. If you take a step toward Him, He will take a step toward you. He longs to fellowship with you, to have you right by His side. He longs to whisper to your heart about how much He loves you. He longs to wrap you in His arms and promise that He is in control even when it seems life is spiraling out of control. He longs to remind you that you can face those giants in your life because He is with you. He longs to give you His perfect peace to guide you each and every day.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3