“I have a lot of fear due to bad thoughts. I was baptized, but they persist, despite my fasting, praying, and reading the Word.”
E-mail from a Christian woman
“A lot of FEAR”
in Faceoffs with “Bad Thoughts”
What to do?
The clouds skim toward the woman standing on the road, rapidly expanding. Very low. Menacing. Like an “Armada of Malevolent Forces from Dark Regions.” And behind the vanguard, even darker clouds, with torrential rain, and possibly hail or a tornado. She does not have any power over these phenomena of nature, but she can, certainly, seek refuge, not challenging them nor exposing herself deliberately to their fury. They will unleash their enormous energy, then disappear. And the sun will come out once again in all its splendor!
Thankfully, there are also ways to “seek refuge” from “Bad Thoughts.”
Dear sister in Christ, may a full measure God’s peace be with you, and may his peace in you fulfill its divine purpose.
“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
The divine purpose of “the peace of God” is to “KEEP,” that is, GUARD and PROTECT your heart and your mind, synonymous with emotions, or sentiments, and thoughts. However, it is to be deduced that you, in your present state, do not possess the fulness of “the peace of God,” for you are filled not with peace but with “a lot of fear.”
You will understand, of course, that there can be no “peace” where “fear” prevails. I empathize most sincerely with your pain of mind and spirit, for at one time or another in my life I have known real mental, spiritual fear in the face of thoughts incompatible with my desire to live, always, in harmony with God and his good and perfect will for me. Romans 12:2. And not only for me, but also for you and for every soul that loves him, his truth, and the awesome salvation he offers everyone who would like to have it.
However, not to despair! For there is HOPE for all of us: The hope, even the complete assuredness, of overcoming “Fear,” whatever its nature may be. Yes, for faith and hope overcome even the “fear of death.” Hebrews 2: 14-15. We are also instructed that “perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18. So then, “faith, hope and, love,” the perfect antidote for “Fear” in all its malevolent manifestations. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Let us reason together a little. One comes to know “…the peace of God,” and rejoice in it in his heart and mind, when…
…confidence in God,
…certainty with regard to his promises,
…and mental discipline…
Achieving this requires serious personal discipline.
Walking fearlessly across chasms on "Pages" of the Bible! That is, on its truths and promises which inspire faith and hope.
A discipline that makes, forces, constrains the mind to think positively, maturely, spiritually on a high, confident level, no matter the circumstances of the physical body. Thereby reducing the mental space "Bad Thoughts" might lay claim to.
As a Christian, you surely are acquainted with the apostle Paul. If not, it would be of great value for you to know him intimately through his writings. For example, he wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8. He sets down for them a long list of the dangers, sufferings, and persecutions he was submitted to so often. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Yet in mind and spirit, he never succumbed because he had a powerful thought and conviction that could keep fear, temptations, and trials at bay and wrote it down in Philippians 4:13 for all Christian in all places and times.
“I can do all things in him who strengthens me,”
The challenge for you and me is to make that thought and conviction our very own. We do it by repeating it over and over. Silently, okay. Audibly, even better. “I can do all things” includes overcoming the power of “Bad Thoughts.” Jesus Christ “strengthens me” to overcome them through all the truths, hopes, and assurances he lays before me in his message of good news.
Make that thought and conviction your very own every time “Bad Thoughts” shows up unexpectedly and, if you sincerely believe it, you will experience its calming, fortifying power before which “Fear” begins to tremble and fade, while “Bad Thoughts” becomes disjointed and weak. He will come back again, probably, but next time you will be better prepared to repel him.
A serious personal discipline that also obligates the mind to be continually occupied with positive things. A fine, practical, essential rule necessary to have “good days” (1 Peter 3:10) which I also learned from the apostle Paul. He stated it thus:
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS.” Philippians 4:8
Think about them! A command to the mind. YOU, think about them! Command your mind! COMMAND your MIND! "WILLPOWER," supported by "Sanctified Desire," do that! They can COMMAND!
In the face of “a lot of fear” of "Bad Thoughts" repeat those beautiful, powerful words over and over until “Fear” is diminished to a formless heap and disappears at their sound.
“…true… honorable… just… pure… lovely… gracious… excellence… worthy of praise.” Think on “whatever” they identify, define, and describe until your mind is saturated both with the words and all their many-faceted meanings and applications. The which could fill many books!
"...rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body,” such as much self-imposed fasting, “are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians 2:20-23. It could well be added: Nor in stopping the attacks of destructive forces to unhinge the mind and break the heart. Rather, what really is of value, in my humble judgment and according to my own experiences, studies, and meditations, is to feed the physical body well, yes, and even better the mind, soul, and spirit. These, with an abundance of good, beautiful, and positive thoughts. And fortify so much the will to do good that “Willpower” will not fall back before the onslaught of “Insecurity, Fear, Weakness, Confusion, Pessimism, Incredulity, and Defeat,” together with all the rest of their Bad, Evil Companions, responsible for mental-emotional-spiritual breakdowns.
Thoughts are just that: “Thoughts,” not becoming external deeds until they manifest themselves in actions. Every human being has good thoughts (with perhaps some absolutely, depraved exceptions) and bad thoughts. Being baptized does not change this condition.
If baptism meant the end of "Bad Thoughts," it would also mean the end of temptations. However, we know that temptations and trials continue after baptism, even unto the death of the physical body. Therefore, it is inevitable that the baptized person will have bad thoughts, at least some.
Nevertheless, it is not inevitable that such thoughts take over the mind and spirit, that they will embitter life twenty-four hours a day, day after day, year after year, that the mind in which they form will have no relief whatsoever, rest or hope of overcoming them. Because: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
The spectacular rainbow is witness to God´s promise that he would not again destroy the world by water as he did in the time of Noah and the Great Flood. He has also promised that he will not allow us to be tempted or tried beyond that which we are able to bear. Therefore, we should not become fainthearted or terrified no matter how frightening the clouds of any storm may be, whether literal, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Genesis 9:12-17
So then, there will surely be a “way of escape!” The key to finding it is to break out of the lethargy and inaction usually caused by "Fear." Obviously, the way of escape is not to be found in the “Closet of Fear.” On the contrary, outside it. Thus, channel your mental, emotional, and spiritual energies outside of yourself, your ego, your “I.”
“I am full of fear because of my thoughts. I am so confused. I must be doomed. I must be possessed. I am… I am… I am…”
Concentrate those energies outside yourself in actions (good works) that will benefit other Christians and the world in general. These are some of the ways of “escape.” To them we may add, of course: Fervent prayer and positive reflections on the most sublime and edifying subjects.
It is not a sin to have bad thoughts. Mark it down! Allowing them to take us over, to be greater than our faith and love, is what really does expose us to great dangers for our whole being, even to the point of becoming the cause of sin.
With regard to "Bad Thoughts" in particular, one of the ways of escape is to assure that “every thought” is brought “captive to obey Christ.” The bad ones must be destroyed or transformed into good ones. This teaching, key to our mental-emotional-spritual welfare, is found in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.
“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to 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 10:3-6
I sincerely and kindly urge you to read once and again this transcendent declaration on true spiritual warfare, meditating on it at length, internalizing it, making it a part of your psyche, your mechanisms for dealing with "THOUGHTS." A concept so profound, glorious, and powerful. These “weapons of our warfare,” spiritual weapons, and “not worldly,” are powerful, indeed, enough to take captive EVERY THOUGHT. Do we really get that? Think hard on it! We can isolate each “thought.” Identify its nature, and thus its source. Is
it from the regions “of the nether gloom,” or from those of divine light, purity, and holiness?
Reject, then, every bad thought. Vigorously repudiate it once and again, once and again, until it stops coming back to bother you, make you feel uneasy, unsure of yourself. To make you feel impure. By the way, a bad thought does not make the mind impure, nor the soul, nor the spirit. Happily receiving it, allowing it to nest in the mind and enjoying it: That is what causes impurity, even the corruption of the mind, conscience, and soul. Titus 1:15
I purposely chose the verb “make,” in the phrase above “making it a part of your psyche,” in the context of taking “every thought captive to obey Christ,” because I understand, and wish to emphasize anew, the vital roll “WILLPOWER” plays in our overcoming at all levels. If one does not have the necessary “WILLPOWER” to do something, whatever it may be, how will he ever do it? I must, then, do my part. Decisively decide that I will not hide in the dark corner of “Fear,” but rather put on all the armor of God, stand, and fight the good fight for my soul and eternal salvation. For the souls of others and their eternal salvation. Confident in victory. Ephesians 6:1-10. This is exercising the strong “WILLPOWER” so absolutely indispensable for overcoming…
…the fear of living, of life itself
…evil in all its manifestations
…loss of sanity, of saneness, of control
…failure and defeat.
Dear sister in Christ, may these Bible texts, plus my own humble observations and reflections, serve to strengthen your mind and spirit to such an extent that you overcome fear, stabilize yourself in your spiritual fight and come through victoriously. May you be able to enjoy your salvation, rejoicing in Christ for so great a salvation put within your reach by him, within mine and that of every person who would like to have it now and forever.
“This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4. In this context, “men” is the whole human race: women, men, and young people able to understand and obey the “gospel of the kingdom” of God and Christ. Matthew 24:14; Colossians 1:13
I am at your service in Christ,
Homer Dewayne Shappley