It had been a long week. I was learning a new job at work, driving all over western Pennsylvania shopping for a car for my daughter—and suffering sticker shock in the process—hanging out laundry after dark, and trying to keep my cool.
The flat tire 50 miles from home didn’t help much, but I was proud of the way I handled myself after Mr. Road Rage tailgated me for several miles, then gave me a not-too-friendly wave as he roared past. Could it have been that I was just too tired to respond? Or was it that I was still thinking about the man who saw me and my daughter struggling with the jack and stopped on his way home from work and changed the tire for us?
Although this incident happened nearly 12 years ago, I never forgot it, nor the life lesson it hammered home: I really am what I think (Proverbs 23:7). My thoughts have a powerful effect on what I do and say, on my attitude about anything. Dwelling on the obstacles I face, the mistakes I make, and the unkind things people do only makes me frustrated, stressed, and angry. But thinking about the good things that happen, however small, helps me to get through the tough times and become a better person.
Sins of the mind are subtle and sneaky because of their very privacy. No one knows what I’m thinking unless I reveal it. So I can think all the thoughts I want, no matter how bad they are, right? Wrong!
Sins of the mind are like a slow-growing tumor that masks its presence behind easily explained symptoms—until it becomes so big and exerts such devastating effects that it can no longer be ignored. It must be dealt with, and swiftly. But by then, the damage is often irreversible.
What are the sins of the mind? Harboring unhealthy thoughts, whether they be about the ways people have hurt us and the revenge we could seek, fantasies that have no substance in real life but give us momentary pleasure, addictions, a “poor-me” mentality that dwells on how everything seems to go wrong for me and right for someone else, another person’s faults, the list goes on—you fill in the blanks.
There’s no such thing as the thought police who bang on the door of my mind and arrest my unhealthy thoughts. I am the only one who controls what I think. It is I who must capture every thought and rein it in (2 Corinthians 10:5). That’s why sins of the mind are so dangerous. It’s like the fox guarding the henhouse. I need help!
When I want to rinse out a glass of water into which one of those pesky ladybug-like insects falls, I often hold it under running water, letting the clean water displace the contaminated water. This principle of displacement works for cleaning out unhealthy thoughts from the mind, too. Replacing the bad thoughts, which contaminate my spirit, my behavior, my relationships, and my reputation, with good thoughts doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process.
Getting rid of the bad thoughts by filling my mind with the Word of God is like placing that dirty water glass under a wellspring of clean, fresh, renewing water (Hebrews 4:12). “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” Paul wrote. “And the peace of God will be with you (Philippians 4:8).”
I have a choice— “piece of mind” or “peace of mind.” “Piece of mind” leads to turmoil. “Peace of mind” leads to harmony and serenity. Funny how it all comes down to one letter—the letter “I.”
Examine me, God, and know my mind; test me, and discover my thoughts. Find out if there is any deceit in me, and guide me in the eternal way. Amen. (Psalm 139:23–24 TEV)
Special-Tea: Philippians 4:8