Last year I nervously hit the publish button on what became my most-read blog: The Power of Words. I simply showed you a daily habit that I started with our son as I saw him at such an early age believe the lies of the Enemy, and knew I needed to teach him now to fight back with truth, to fight back with the power of words. If you haven’t read that blog, please start there as I lay the foundation of the why and how we renew our minds.
Here’s the thing, though, friends: in true Mom and Enneagram Type 2-fashion, I am so good at coming up with affirmations for my son and my husband. I make sure that those affirmations are said morning and night by my son. When my husband struggles, I affirm him and I send him back to those affirmations. But I was terrible about doing them myself.
The last four months of 2018, I struggled more emotionally and spiritually than I have in a very long time. To the point that, after feeding my son breakfast one morning, a wave of leftover anxiety from the night before hit me and I wound up crying on my bathroom floor. Part of the reason I was struggling, if you read my last blog about my word of the year, is because I have five years worth of unprocessed emotion stored up that needs to be dealt with and released. The other part of the problem, though, is because I was believing lies, believing unhealthy thoughts, and instead of capturing them and renewing my mind, I kept chugging right along until it got the best of me.
This is a time of year where we are talking all about goals and resolutions. And if you read this blog, you’ll see what a nerd I am about them. But have you ever wondered why so many people do not meet them? Why, by the first week of February they’ve already been broken and discarded? I believe it’s all because of one thing: the internal dialogue, also known as the thoughts in your mind. Before you think, “Great, this is just another one of those mindset, think-it-believe-it posts,” let me back up this theory with the greatest Truth one can find.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8
“When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.” -Psalm 119:52
“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies.” -Psalm 119:59
“But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” -Matthew 9:4
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” -1 Corinthians 14:20
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20
The more that I study about the brain, the more amazed I am at how God created us. And the more I read Scripture in tandem with this, the more I realize that the answers are right there. Somewhere along the way, we compartmentalized everything. The body and the spirit, science and Scripture, even down to the way we view health, all of our body parts working separately instead of everything being connected and working together as a whole.
Did you know that our thoughts are actual, physical things in our brains? They are growing right now as you read this; little tree-like structures called neurons and dendrites. Like we say in our house, there are two choices with your words: they can either help or hurt. There are also two choices with your thoughts: they are either healthy or unhealthy. You are either actively growing healthy, full trees in your brain, or they are unhealthy, shriveling up and dying. Yes, your brain can actually shrink if it is not properly used.
Some of my favorite stories in Scripture are those of great faith, ones who it just seemed like God said something and they believed instantaneously, it was as good as done. Many of the New Testament miracles always leave me dumbfounded, not even just the miracle itself, because I do believe God did and can do those things, but the faith of those who asked and sought out the miracle. Like the woman with the twelve-year-long bleeding issue.
“When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately, her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body she was freed from suffering.” -Mark 5:28-29
She simply thought, she didn’t even say it out loud! When I read things like that, I often wonder, how do I get to that point? How do I grow in my faith to the point where I simply think something and believe it so?
But here’s the thing: thoughts aren’t magical. If we simply think something one time, it doesn’t just automatically come true, right? If that were the case, most of us would have significantly more money than we do right now, am I right? Thoughts have to develop into belief. In other words, they have to be entertained. They have to come across the mind over and over again, consistently, and that is what breeds belief, which in turn breeds action, driven by that thought and belief.
This is my personal opinion, but maybe their belief was automatic in those moments because it was developed over time. People like Abraham and Noah were chosen because of their faith, because they consistently walked with God amidst a culture and people who did not. Thoughts breed belief, belief breeds action. Positive or negative. This struck me in a new way as I listened to Dr. Caroline Leaf break this down scientifically and through Scripture. Scientifically, in the physical brain, it takes a minimum of 63 days to make a habit (seriously watch the video so you can see how this actually plays out in the physical brain). I believe this is why God gave us Scriptures like:
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” -Psalm 19:14
“My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.” -Psalm 49:3
“I will consider your mighty works and mediate on your mighty deeds.” -Psalm 77:12
“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” -Psalm 119:148
I could give many other Scriptures with the word “meditate” alone. I’m not a Bible scholar so I can’t tell you what the Hebrew word is or its meaning, but just the plain old English dictionary will tell you this: “a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on the subject.” A synonym of meditation is thinking. Thought breeds belief, belief breeds action. Positive or negative.
When I found myself on the bathroom floor just a few short weeks ago, it’s because I had entertained unhealthy thoughts (aka lies) in my head. I didn’t just think one thought and lose it, I thought these things over the course of four months. They had been developed. When they came up, I listened to them. And because they had been developed, I believed them.
Friends, in order to renew our minds, we have to change our words, and that includes the internal dialogue, our thoughts. And it’s not going to happen in one day. It has to be developed. It has to be implanted with the truth, we have to daily read it, listen to it, speak it over ourselves. This is why I do daily affirmations with Kai, why we practice and are commanded to both memorize Scripture ourselves and teach it to our children, and why I will be practicing what I preach in 2019 and doing the same thing myself, because he deserves a healthy mommy and one who models good practice. And if you are like me and set any kind of goal or resolution, this is the foundation of actually making those happen. Thought breeds belief, belief breeds action. Your body and actions are directed by your mind. In Philipians 4:9, the verse right after Paul tells us to think about whatever is true, pure, etc. it says:
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the peace of God will be with you.”
It’s why James tells us to be doers of the Word not just hearers of the Word.
“But the one who who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” -James 1:25
And that faith without works is useless (James 2:14-20). The woman with the twelve year bleeding issue didn’t just think it and believe it, she followed through and acted on it. Her thoughts led to her to believe, and that belief led her body to move, to push through the crowd and just touch his clothes.
I don’t know what your goals are for 2019. What I can tell you though, is that lies will come. That may be through your own internal dialogue, an implanted thought from the Enemy. That may be through someone using hurtful words, questioning your work, your worth, or whatever else they don’t understand. It may be through something you read or watch. It may be from a past experience or memory. It will likely be all of these things. Lies breed doubt, and doubt also breeds action, either not doing something that you should be doing, or doing something you should not be doing. And the trickiest thing about that internal dialogue is that it is hidden. This is the Enemy’s favorite thing.
So I want to leave you with some practical tools. If you really want to achieve those goals and keep those resolutions, the best thing you can do is practice renewing your mind.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes and do a “brain dump” before you go to bed each night. Literally just write down every thought that crosses your mind. At the end of 5 minutes, go back through them, and if there are any lies, write out a truthful statement for it. For instance, if I wrote down something like, “I failed as a mom today,” I would instead cross that out and write down, “His mercies are new each morning. Tomorrow is a new day.” As you do this for about a week, you’ll likely start to see some unhealthy thought patterns you have, and the first step is seeing them for what they are, the next is the action of replacing that lie with the truth.
- 40 days of affirmations. This is what the whole Power of Words blog was about, so you can look there for more specifics. As I mentioned before, this is really hard for me, but it is so necessary and I see the changes when I stick to it. Obviously the hope is this goes well past 40 days (remember it’s actually 63 days to form a habit), but speaking life over yourself, out loud, is a very powerful thing. Satan loves that internal dialogue because it’s hidden. There’s just something powerful about speaking the truth out loud, that even if you’re the only one in the room, you’re telling the Enemy, “It’s light in here. There’s nowhere for lies to hide.”
- Practice gratitude. Bullet journaling has become really popular, especially for those who aren’t passionate about writing, but simply writing three things down you are grateful for turns your brain from lack to abundance. I have been loving this resource written by a friend of mine.
I’m cheering you on in 2019, and when you meet a roadblock or feel like giving up on those resolutions, now you know it’s time to check in with those thoughts you’ve been entertaining and replace them with the truth.