Dear Dr. B,
During the last six months, I’ve been in a period of intense trials. While in my heart, I trust the Lord is good and is caring for us, there are moments (especially before I go to bed, or when I wake in the middle of the night) that my mind runs amuck with stressful thoughts and scenarios that come into my mind to fear.
What I really need is a strategy for turning my thoughts to the Lord. What I hear all the time is that we NEED to do that, but not as much about strategies for doing that. Sometimes, in my desperation, I take a simple verse and just repeat it over and over so I can stop the rat wheel of fearful thoughts.
What have you found that works for you? I’d love to have more tools in my toolbox to combat the enemy’s attempts to control my thoughts.
Ready to Combat
Dear Ready to Combat,
You already are combating, because you have made the determination to do so, you just may be in the early stages. So I applaud your decision to find the tools and implement them. The Lord is pleased with your determination and He will reward those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
First, you must recognize where this fear and torment is coming from. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-13). Scripture tells us that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). So we must put on the armor of God, the tools in your tool belt if you will, to fight against the real enemy.
Next, we are told to be alert. (“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8) Our enemy attacks us in our thought life, so that’s why we are told to take our thoughts captive. “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.” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
So, to your question, how do you do that? When Jesus died, He left with us the Holy Spirit whose job is to guide us in all truth. But, the Holy Spirit can only remind us of truth we know. If we do not know God’s word, He cannot remind us of that truth in times of intense trials. So, our first responsibility is to regularly be in the Word, learning what His word says, and meditating upon it.
When I have gone through particularly difficult trials, I stood on key scripture and the promises in His word that refuted the lies the enemy taunted me with. You might find this a bit odd, but I wrote the Scripture on post it notes and put those post-it notes around the house and office where I would see them: the bathroom mirror, the light switches, the dashboard of my car, etc. so that every time I was in one of those places, I would read the Scripture and my mind would be washed in the water of the word. “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26).
I started off having one Scripture and over time my post-it notes grew to ten, to eventually over one hundred! As my needs changed, so did the focus of the Scriptures. At times, I needed to focus on Scriptures about fear or anxiety, while at other times I needed verses that emphasized peace or joy or faith. As I memorized the verses and no longer needed the daily visual reminder, I took down the post-it notes and taped them on a poster board for less frequent reference, and then eventually took them from the poster board and affixed them in a spiral index card binder for later reference that I could carry with me in my purse or tote bag and share with others.
If the enemy is taunting you with fear, I’d encourage you to start with:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7KJV)
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT)
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3 NIV)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
Another thing I encourage you to add to your tool belt is praying Scripture back to God. He promises in His word that His word will NOT return to Him void but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). So one of the most beneficial prayers you can pray is one that incorporates His word. You might pray something along the lines of:
Dear Heavenly Father,
You know my situation, and you know that my natural inclination is to worry and feel anxious and afraid. But you have not given me a spirit of fear, but instead you have given me power, love and a sound mind. You have told me not to be afraid, so that must mean it is possible for me to endure these circumstances without fear. You are my God, and have promised to be with me, to strengthen me, and to help me, upholding me with your victorious right hand. Instead of being afraid, I will put my trust in you. For you will not fail me. Because of you, I can be strong and courageous. Thank you that I can trust that you will be with me wherever I go. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Lastly, when you are attacked by fearful thoughts, recognized that those thoughts are not your thoughts but come to you from the enemy. Then refute them and speak back to them. Our emotions are the outward manifestations of the thoughts we believe. So when we feel anxious, it’s because we’ve been believing thoughts that make us feel anxious. So instead of acting on our feelings, speak out against the thoughts that agree with those feelings.
For example, if you start feeling anxious and thinking anxious thoughts, say something out loud like, “No! I will not be afraid! I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. God says to cast all my cares on Him because HE cares for me. Instead of being afraid, I will put my trust in God.” If you do this enough, your feelings will begin to line up with what you are speaking.
Scripture says we are to resist the devil and he will flee. Is it hard sometimes? Yes, but worth it. And in reality, isn’t it hard to live under the burden of fear and anxiety?
Try this instead and let me know how much better you feel, because I guarantee you will!
Because of Him, Hope Prevails!
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