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. — The Apostle Paul2 Corinthians 10:5
(July 31: Added tips on how to ‘take every thought captive’ and a few other tweaks)
Please read 2 Corinthians 10:1-5
Our thoughts play a critical role at the very core of every human being. How we live from day to day is largely governed by the way in which our thoughts flow in and out of our minds along with emotions, beliefs, attitudes and images. How we manage the mind determines our overall mental, physical, and spiritual health. For example, someone who suffers from severe anxiety while lacking any kind of coping skills might feel a reduced sense of self-control, a pounding heart (one of many physical effects), and may ultimately struggle to maintain a growing faith.
When the anxiety comes the battle begins in the mental, physical, and spiritual realms. How do we fight it? Paul says is verse 3 that as Christians
“we don’t wage war as the world does”
We don’t approach such conflict with weapons prized by this fallen world and fashioned by human pride and arrogance. No. The weapons we fight with have . . .
. . . to demolish strongholds (metaphorically speaking). The strongholds Paul speaks of here are through “arguments” and “pretensions” raised defiantly “against the knowledge of God” (verse 5) (see Romans 1:18-23). Among which are the faulty reasonings by which the false apostles have been trying to shake the faith of the Christians in Corinth (see 1 Corinthians 2:13-14).
But there are other kinds of strongholds like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, addictions and other mental conditions that can also have a similar effect on our faith. All of these things can be addressed with the same weapons listed above.
To know God is to know his character and to know his character is to know what he has said (John 1:1).
So what did God say? When Jesus was tested in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) his weapon was the word. My favourite response to Satan being verse 4…
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Matthew 4:4 (See Deuteronomy 8:3)
So using the word in our fight against mental illness is absolutely critical. But it’s not the only factor that needs to be taken into account. “These struggles are complex and, like an onion, there are many layers involved: hormonal, emotional, spiritual, relational, physiological, and more. Each layer needs to be tended to, nourished, and addressed.” — Allie Marie Smith
Going back to 2 Corinthians 10:5 . . .
What exactly does it mean to “take every thought captive”?
Here’s six ways to approach the issue: (adapted from crosswalk.com)
1. Accept responsibility for your thoughts. You have the ability to exercise control over your thoughts. God warned Cain to focus his mind on the right things, but Cain chose to think about the wrong things – anger and jealousy – which led to his murderous actions. Are you willing to admit that you can, with God’s help, regain control of your thoughts – and think enabling thoughts instead of disabling ones?
2. Your mind – not just your behavior – must change. God calls us to change sinful behavior that does not honor Him. Instead of focusing on your outward behavior, work on disciplining your mind – from which the behaviors stem. Allow God to transform you by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
3. Think through your problems rather than just react to them. When you experience difficult challenges, you can react to them and think yourself into despair every time. Or you can look forward to the next opportunity and ask yourself what you learned from this failure. Is your first thought “I’ll never do anything right”? You don’t have to get trapped by disabling thoughts. You are capable of getting out of your shame, despair, hopelessness, and anger – by taking control of your thoughts with God’s help.
4. Take your disabling thoughts captive through confession and repentance. Confront your disabling thoughts. Turn them over to God and become who He sees you can be. It will take work to take your thoughts captive each time they pop into your mind. But it is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. Remember, repentance is a gift from God.
5. Choose to focus your thoughts on the right things. We are to think about those things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8). When we think about those things, God promises to give us His peace. What a contrast that is to the thoughts of millions of people today. Don’t look to a movie, TV show, or how-to formula to accomplish this for you. It takes personal and sometimes even God’s discipline and spiritual commitment to overcome these things (Romans 12:21).
6. It is possible. It is not easy to retrain your thoughts or to respond in new Christ-like ways. Take heart: as God empowers you to focus your mind on the right things, it will become easier. You can develop a new frame of reference, based on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Again, it is possible to live a life aware of our thoughts and taking them captive! God gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us. Start following these steps today to gain power over your mind and thoughts.
Now lets look back on the case of severe anxiety and see what the Bible has to say about it. In fact it has much to say. Some of these verses may not bring you comfort. But it’s a starting point. Memorize the verses that help. Write them on your heart and pray that God would forgive you of past worries and fears then ask him to equip you for future battles (Ephesians 6:10-20). Put your trust in him. God will finish what he started (Philippians 1:6).
More strategies to help support the mind, body, and soul:
- Find a loving Church Family
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Creative arts therapies (art, music, dance, or Therapeutic Clowning. See The Holy Fool: Clowning in Christian Ministry ‘pdf’)
- Tai chi
- Guided imagery — (Philippians 4:8)
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise
“Recovery is a choice and freedom is a battle, but it’s worth it.” — Allie Marie Smith
If you still can’t find relief then medication might be something to consider. Just be aware of the risks. There’s still much that we don’t know about the brain and I would only take a pill as a last resort while also taking part in other supports listed above. I’ve also been made aware of something called Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). It’s another option when you want to stay away from medication or the medications you are already taking aren’t helping.
One last thing. When reading the Bible it is very important to keep things in context.
“Like a puzzle, the pieces of the Bible—the various books, letters, characters, and stories—do fit together. The Bible contains mysteries, but its meaning is not intended to be mysterious or hidden from us, especially in its central teaching. God does not try to hide truth from us; he reveals it. The Bible reveals more than a picture for us to enjoy. It reveals a person for us to know.”Jeremy Bouma
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I hope this blog entry has been some help to you. Please leave a comment if the holy spirit leads you to do so or use my contact form to get in touch with me directly. I’ve struggled with mental illness for over 8 years and I think I can offer some good suggestions with whatever you are going through (not a Christian? No worries. I offer my advice to you as well). Also, I am open to criticism and would encourage even the non-believer or those of other faiths to offer his/her opinion. Thanks for taking the time to read this article.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).