It seems like everywhere you go these days you encounter unsmiling faces in droves. Person after person walks by with an almost oppressive cloud around them. Living in Texas, I have to say that I probably encounter more friendly people than others living elsewhere. Truth. But still, even in Texas, the ratio of friendly, smiling people to empty, gray, staring people is woefully unbalanced. There are so many who are just so unhappy. But, I mean, I get it. They need Jesus. We know that! He is the ONLY One who can really bring that deep, abiding inner joy; that sweet, restful peace. He really is the ONLY Way.
However, what about all of the Christians that I see who are walking around with a wispy,
gray cloud around their heads? What of the Apostolics who have that “river of living water,” or the “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” that haven’t really smiled in months? Though I’m being a little light, here, let me be clear from the get-go that I know life is hard as nails and it rains on the just and the unjust. I know everyday can’t be a sunshiny, happy day. What I’m talking about is a perpetual, day-in, day-out kind of dreary, unhappy existence.
I’m certainly not casting stones; I, myself, have faced an embarrassing amount of days that I’ve just described. But then I realized….there was a thief in my house; one whom I have entertained for years on end. There he was, so often, waiting for an opportune time…and then WHAM! He would make his move. The sad thing is, we actually became quite close friends. We were comfortable together. But I began to notice that after interacting, (and it was very subtle), that something would always go missing.
He was one smooth operator. It was hard to pin down exactly what he was stealing. Finally, with the help of the Lord, I started figuring it out. One day, the thief would take my peace of mind. The next day, it was contentment. Some days, he would steal my desire for deep relationships with people. Some days, it would be my sense of worth. All of these things were things of great value but I wouldn’t always notice their departure right away. But of all the valuables that the thief took, it was my joy that he stole most often. It would happen quietly, one minute I would have it but the next it would be gone.
“Okay, OKAY!” You say. “I get it…the thief is Satan. Now get on with your post.” False. I mean, yes, technically, that is true; Satan is most certainly the vilest thief of all time (see John 10:10). However, the one I’m talking about is probably one you’ve visited with recently…and he’s taking things from you, too. His name is Unfettered Thoughts.
unfettered (adj.): not controlled or restricted
How many, many days have you been going about your business when all of a sudden, something you see….something you hear…triggers a memory or a thought? And that thought….you just can’t get rid of it. You don’t even think to try. Nothing in your environment has changed, but you find yourself feeling different in your surroundings. The outfit you felt so fabulous in that morning now feels shabby and ill-fitting. Your child who was so cute and funny a moment ago is now whiny and needy. That co-worker who sits near you was so friendly at the staff meeting, but now she won’t stop talking and let you work. Doesn’t she know she’s wasting your time?
Sometimes we don’t even know the trigger, but suddenly our thoughts have run away with us. Maybe we are mentally rehashing a recent argument. Maybe a whelp of bitterness is festering as we rehearse all the ways we’ve been done wrong by a particular person. Perhaps we are thinking of all the harm that could possibly come to our children while they are at school. We might even be imagining what that one relative will say that will hurt our feelings (again) at the upcoming holiday gatherings. Ohhh…and one of the nastiest? Maybe we’re comparing our real lives to the way the lives of others appear, and our lives are found woefully wanting. No matter the trigger or direction, when we allow ourselves to have unfettered thoughts, we allow that subtle thief to steal from us once again.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ..” This is the ESV translation and it is pretty blunt. Take every thought captive to obey Christ! YOU take it captive and
MAKE it obey. It’s taken me soooo long to even begin to understand this, and I by no means am an expert at taking these errant thoughts captive. But I’m learning and practicing, and the Lord is helping me. I think the key is really just recognizing when they first make an appearance. That’s really tough, because most of us are in a habit where thieving thoughts are concerned. As a negative or downward-spiraling thought walks through the doorway of our minds, we should be ready in the entryway with a pair of handcuffs. We need to take the thought captive and make it obey Jesus Christ. What kind of thoughts are obedient to Christ? I think you know: “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.” (Phil 4:8)
It’s worth it. You’ll get your joy back, your peace of mind, contentment; you’ll be friendlier and more helpful. I’m even thinking the sun will shine a little brighter in your neck of the woods. So I’m issuing us all a challenge today to become the best patrolmen of our minds…and whatever you do, catch that thief!
[This post was originally published on September 30, 2015.]