The minute I saw Patrick’s face, I knew something was wrong.
“Mom, can I talk with you for a minute?” he said.
“Sure. How was your day?” I said.
“Terrible,” he said. “I blew the interview. I am never going to get the virtual hire!”
Patrick has been attending an 18-week computer programming immersion program. He meets with a group of students to learn and practice computer programming from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Every Monday, each student participates in an individual “interview”, so everyone can practice their interviewing skills. Either that day or the next, the instructors announce who was awarded the “virtual hire’, the person whom they would have hired if it were a true job interview. Patrick had been interviewing for 10 weeks, and he still had not been awarded the coveted designation.
“I’m never going to get it!” he repeated. “This is just like swimming in college. I’m never going to do well at anything. I’m never going to be good enough to get a job!”
Stunned, I started offering words of encouragement. They fell on deaf ears. Patrick continued to spiral down into the pit of despair, proclaiming all his perceived shortcomings.
“Lord, please help us here,” I prayed. “Help Patrick hear truth and be encouraged.”
At that moment, my husband David walked into the room. He listened to Patrick for a short time.
“Stop it!” David said.
Patrick interrupted his verbal deluge, shocked by his dad’s loud tone of voice.
“Patrick,” David said, “it’s okay to be disappointed, but you cannot allow yourself to go from disappointment to defeat. This is nothing more than stinkin’ thinkin’, and you have got to get control of it!”
“But it’s just like swimming in college,” Patrick said.
“What do you mean?” David said.
“When I got moved down from the gold (advanced) practice group to the white (intermediate) practice group,” Patrick said.
“That’s what you’re going to remember from your swimming experiences? How about winning the county and conference swim meets in two events? How about getting an athletic scholarship to swim in college? How about being chosen by all the student athletes to receive the Perseverance Award? How about your college swim coach saying you were one of the most inspirational swimmers he has ever coached? How about those things?” David said.
Patrick’s eyes cleared, and he looked at his dad.
“I have trouble controlling my thoughts sometimes,” Patrick said.
“Well, son, you have got to learn how to do it,” David said. “What you think is what you are. You have to take control of your thoughts, or they can ruin your life. I’m going to give you an assignment. Every morning when you wake up, I want you to think of 3 things you’re thankful for and 2 positive things you are going to do that day. Okay?”
“Okay,” Patrick said.
We practiced together right then.
As Patrick was struggling and David was teaching, I thought about what God has to say about these sorts of experiences: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB).
When we speculate about something, we imagine all sorts of things, and those things are usually bad or involve worst-case scenarios. Yet, we don’t even know if those things are true. True to the old saying, our imaginations can run away with us, and if we aren’t careful, they can quickly have us running down the road of despair.
The day after he stressed out, Patrick called me from his coding school and announced, “I won the virtual hire!” Every negative thought that had knocked him flat on his back was absolutely untrue. Those imaginary scenarios had robbed him of joy for almost an entire day.
“I’m never going to be down on myself again,” he said.
While I knew that probably wasn’t true (we all struggle in many ways), I was grateful he had learned not to just run with his thoughts all the time.
When we don’t know if something is true or not, we need to go to Jesus, the One who is truth (John 1:14; 14:6). We can ask Him to reveal truth to us so that we can be set free from fear and discouragement (John 8:32). We can choose to trust Him with all the unanswered questions in life—to bring light into our darkness, and to dispel the lies of the enemy (John 8:44), who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus wants us to have an abundant life (John 10:10), and He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us control our runaway imaginations (2 Timothy 1:7). We can choose every day to walk by the Spirit, and He can help us keep our imaginations under control.
Don’t make anything bigger than God
Whatever we face, God is so much greater. We are told He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).
“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19, NASB). In other words, there is nothing bigger, higher, or “loftier” than God.
When we give ourselves over to despair, we usually are making something bigger than God. And nothing is greater than Him.
“He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’’’ (Daniel 4:35, NASB).
He can handle everything we face. He is bigger than it. One of Patrick’s favorite Bible verses is, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB). Sometimes, we have to be reminded of that truth. We can choose to remember who God is in the midst of our struggles and His great faithfulness toward us (Lamentations 3:21-23).
Take every thought captive
Just because we think something doesn’t mean it’s true. We have to keep guard over the door to our minds and decide what thoughts we will allow to enter and dwell there.
Philippians 4:8, NASB, gives us God’s standards for our thought lives: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
That word dwell carries the idea of storing up as inventory. In other words, only allow thoughts that meet these standards to be stored in your mind. And those thoughts have to meet all of these qualifications. For example, something might be true, but it might not be lovely—out it goes! Don’t dwell on it.
Romans 12:2 says we are transformed (changed) by the renewing of our minds. The word renewing means renovating, like when you are updating your house—out with the old (stinkin’ thinkin’), and in with the new (God’s Word, His truth). God’s Word meets all the qualifications of Philippians 4:8, and every bit of it is truth (Psalm 119:160).
In fact, we are told His Word is a sword that will slice and dice the lies of the enemy and cause him to flee (Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4). The word for “word of God” in Ephesians 6:17 is rhema, and it means a specific word for a specific situation. God has a specific word (scripture) to address every situation of your life. That’s why we need to store it up in the storehouse of our minds so the Holy Spirit can bring it to our remembrance when we need it (John 14:26).
That way, we can do as it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5. We can destroy those imaginary and lofty things; we can forcefully take them down before they take us out. When we do so, according to the same verse, we are obeying Christ, who loves us and wants the very best for us. When we do so, we are allowing Him and His thinking to be seen in us (1 Corinthians 2:16). “For as he [any person] thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7, NASB).
Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a rhema word to combat the imaginary and lofty things in your life. He will be faithful to help you. When He does, store up that truth in your mind, and bar the door to the lies of your enemy.
Patrick graciously allowed me to blog about his experience.
“Maybe it will help somebody. Maybe it will help me,” he said.
I smiled as I thought of how God was going to bless Patrick because his heart is receptive to His truth. He can do the same for you, His beloved.
Question: What is the Lord teaching you about taking thoughts captive? Share at the link below.
2 Corinthians 10:5; John 1:14; 14:6; 8:32, 44; 10:10; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 3:20; Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:35; Philippians 4:13; Lamentations 3:21-23; Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; Psalm 119:160; Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4; John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Proverbs 23:7