Our thoughts are powerful. They can quickly send us in a dozen different directions, all in a single moment. Across a given day, this can have us sprinting several marathons in our minds, trying to keep up with what-ifs, if-thens, and to-dos.
When surrendered to a Holy God, our thoughts can lead us into righteous action, sincere supplication, and empathetic service toward others. But when held tightly or left in the darkness of our own minds, our thoughts can lead us into stifling isolation, swirling anxiety, and dangerous doubt.
In His infinite wisdom, God knew this would be something we struggled with here on earth. As such, Scripture provides us with truths that can help us withstand the torrent of violent thoughts that can gather within our minds. One of the most notable verses on this topic comes from 2 Corinthians 10:5, which states “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” This verse indicates a level of strength and self-control that is afforded to us on behalf of our faith, but if you read the verse with full context, you’ll find that these words come from a vulnerable and relatable place.
Paul, likely the greatest missionary known to man, is the writer of this letter to the church in Corinth. Keep in mind that Paul’s missional movements were fraught with disappointment, life-threatening circumstances, and imprisonment – just to name a few. If anyone had a right to have anxious, swirling thoughts, Paul did. In 2 Corinthians 10:1-2, Paul recognizes his weak and wavering flesh:
“I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.”
But Paul doesn’t sit in his weakness; rather, he interrupts his anxious thought with a truth: that while our flesh may fail, we can remain confident in our ability to overcome the strongholds of our mind.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
2 Corinthians 10:4-6
Paul took ownership of his failures of the flesh, but not of his triumph over strongholds. This is a rightly-held perspective. Paul recognizes his place in the fight we face: Only in surrender can we be victorious. Paul accepts weapons of warfare, not of his own making, but divinely given. Paul sees power over lies, only when those lies are held subject to the will of Christ. Paul recognizes our inevitable disobedience, in light of the hope we have in full surrender.
This passage likens another part of Scripture contributed by Paul in Ephesians 6:12-13 when he reminds us:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
Paul makes a habit of reminding us that the wrestling of our minds may be a reality, but it does not have to be our existence.
It is no wonder that Jesus hung on a cross atop a hill called Golgotha, literally translated in Aramaic to mean “skull.” It seems that our Savior knew that one of our greatest battles would be within the confines of our own mind. We can look upon His sacrifice and resurrection on Golgotha not only for its conquering of death and darkness, but as a symbol of our Savior’s reign and victory over our minds. He gave us, once and for all, a freedom from the captivity that can exist when we do not surrender to Him what He intended to make good.
Our thoughts are powerful.
They are also a beautiful gift, intended for our good and His glory.
And the truth of God’s mercy is this: We have a choice of what those thoughts will become – or, more importantly, Who those thoughts will belong to.
We can choose to live captive to our thoughts, or take them captive to a God who can make them good.
Gracious Father, You are so kind to us. You are patient in our weaknesses, eagerly awaiting to supply us with every good thing we need to live a free and righteous life that is provided by the sacrifice of Jesus. We come to You humbled and needing. Our spirit is willing, Lord, but our flesh is weak. Forgive me for the moments where I allow my thoughts to capture me, instead of taking them captive to You. Have mercy on me when I succumb to the spiraling anxiety that locks me inside the darkness of my mind. Starting now, and every other time that I stumble, I choose to return to the feet of Jesus and surrender my thoughts – to take them captive and return them to the all-powerful hands of my Creator. I surrender, Lord. I surrender! I cannot do this without You. Please interrupt my thoughts and replace them with Your Truth. Nothing else will do, God. Every day, might I have more strength to punish the disobedience of my flesh, and instead, fix my eyes on You. Amen.