Choosing What We Think About

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

When I was asked to write a blog post for the September theme of “My Mind is My Responsibility,” I laughed out loud at the email. I hardly felt qualified to write a post like this because my mind and I have been at war for months. 

Only a couple weeks before that email arrived in my inbox, I had my first full-blown panic attack. I didn’t even know what was happening until I woke my husband up from his dead-to-the-world sleep and tried to get out the words that I couldn’t breathe. Howell jumped out of bed, turned on all the lights, and started to pray over me. As he helped me take deep breaths, he told me, “I think you’re having a panic attack.” 

For real? 

Even as my breathing slowed and the pain in my chest eased and the feeling like my throat was closing went away, it still took hours for my heart to slow down so I could fall back asleep. 

How did I get to this place? 

That particular night, I had a bad dream, and when I woke up, I began to dwell on it even more. Fear overcame me like I’d never experienced, and then, before I knew it, I was struggling to breathe. 

But while dreams (and maybe even our physiological responses) may be out of our initial control, I believe I had entertained quite a bit of fear and anxiety in my thoughts in the weeks and months leading up to that point. 

Since then, I’ve asked God to help me learn how to be free from these feelings of anxiety. And in full disclosure, I’m still learning these truths as I share them. 

I choose what to think about. I really, really, really wanted to blame that event on my pregnancy hormones, which I swear are double the amount with twins. And on some level, yes, my hormones are a real thing right now. But just as I’m not victim to my emotions, I’m not victim to my hormones either. So with reluctance, I had to face my role in all of this.  

I have probably long been a what-if, worst-case-scenario thinker. It’s part of my “planner” personality—and God’s okay with my personality. What’s not okay? Fixating on the future more than the present. Becoming fearful of the unknown. Or assuming control of my life rather than surrendering to our sovereign and perfect Lord. 

Bill Johnson once said, “I can’t afford to have a thought in my head that isn’t from God.” Neither can I! So when I’m dwelling on something (almost always at its root, anxiety or fear), I have to ask myself, “Would God want me to think about this?” And if the answer is no, I simply say, “Jesus, help me to take that thought captive.” 

I choose to ask for help. When we’re talking about our minds being our responsibility, let’s not forget that God gave us community and never once expected us to do life alone. When I couldn’t breathe, I automatically asked for help. That feels natural, right? 

Howell already knew the struggle I had all summer with anxiety because I’d asked for help long before that night. I’d been more hesitant to share with friends, family, and my doctor, because frankly, I was embarrassed and felt like I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I would tell myself I know better. I should be standing on God’s truth. And I wasn’t usually this anxious or this overwhelmed with my thoughts, but I’d get it under control. 

After that night, I realized I needed to reach out for help. I needed prayer and support—and you know what? That’s what I got. No one judged me or laughed at me or told me I was crazy (which is honestly how I felt). 

To end, I want to share two verses that I meditate on regularly right now, especially when I’m redirecting my mind to change whatever it is I’m dwelling on. These are my paraphrases for myself, but if you’re struggling with anxiety or stress or fear or worry—whatever label you want to give it—I hope these words will encourage you, and I would challenge you to say them out loud when you feel anxious:

Isaiah 26:3: “God, you keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed on you because I trust in you.” 

1 Corinthians 10:4-5: “Laura, you have the authority and the divine power to dismantle and demolish any thought that opposes God and his way of thinking. And you can insist that those thoughts bow in obedience to Christ.” 

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this blog post.

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