“I’m in a glass cage of emotion” and other feelings…
It means to “deal with effectively with something difficult.” And make no mistake about it, there are a myriad of ways that people ‘cope’ with this new normal we all find ourselves in. Some have gained weight and are eating either unhealthy foods or simply too much. Others are on the other end of the spectrum, exercising like never before. Some binge movies and shows, while others have become the executive producers of their own lives with creative Tic Tok videos, dancing for the world to see. Still, recent figures have showed online alcohol sales up 243%!  But whether you are drinking, Tik-Toc-ing, or binging your way through, there is one question that must be asked, “Am I effectively dealing with the difficulty of my present situation?”
You see, if your coping method isn’t healthy, then it only leads to unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and emotions. While we can numb our emotions with drink or food, subdue them with exercise or the distraction of technology, when it is all said and done we have not ‘effectively’ dealt with our emotions. My fear for so many of us is that we are becoming more and more internally unhealthy, and our way of coping is to simply procrastinate. But the emotions we put off until tomorrow will only become more detrimental to our health. That is, when we procrastinate, say feelings of depression or anxiety, we are not putting off our present situation until a later date. Rather we are unknowingly creating a bigger problem for another time.
But take heart because God has given us the ultimate method for coping: renew your minds daily. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). When Paul writes about being ‘conformed’, he is urging us not to allow our lives, thinking, and feeling to be determined by culture. By sharing how we can be transformed, Paul is sending us a clear message: change only happens from the inside-out.
This past week on the ‘Chasing Elephants podcast’ we featured a biblical counselor, who also happens to me my wife. During the interview she expounded on the importance of renewing our minds, particularly emphasizing the correlation between our minds and our emotions. Here are the points:
- As Christians, we have a choice concerning our mindset. In other words, our hearts seek, and can only seek, that which our minds are set upon.
- Therefore, our mindsets are closely related to our emotions. This next statement isn’t meant to oversimplify a person’s complicated emotions. But behind varying levels of anxiety or depression is always faulty and wrong thinking. On the other hand, healthy thinking can lead to healthy emotions, like a sense of peace: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
- We must thus guard our minds, hearts, and souls against sinful thoughts. To stay healthy requires a sense of proactivity (transformed = renewing your mind) as opposed to passivity (conformed = allowing the world to put you in a box). It is not enough to simply try to stop thinking unhealthy thoughts, we must actively replace those with healthy ones.
- Practically speaking the mind, and thus our emotions, operates like a spectrum, with varying degrees of godly and ungodly thoughts. Our position on that spectrum will depend on our moment-by-moment choices regarding:
a) how much awareness we have and responsibility we take for our thought life
b) where we choose to direct the course of our thoughts
c) what we choose to fill our mind with or think on
d) how much effort we choose to exert to discipline our minds
e) how intentional we are about “taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”
- The Bible is our greatest weapon in the battle for the mind and thus our feelings. In Matthew 22, Jesus teaches that we should love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. The question then becomes, for our purposes, how do we love God with our minds? Just as in any relationship or friendship, we get to know someone by spending time with them, asking questions, and listening. God has reached out to us through special revelation, that is Jesus Christ, and the Word of God. God has made it possible for us to spend time, ask questions, and listen to what he wants for our lives.
- Create a rhythm of actions that help maintain a good and godly mindset:
- Have a plan for daily Bible reading
- Meditate on Scripture throughout the day (visuals can be helpful with this discipline: write out a truth, make a verse your phone’s home screen, etc.)
- Pray multiple times throughout the day by beginning with adoration (acknowledging and admiring God, his works, and attributes) and then supplication (being honest with God about your needs)
- Have specific times throughout the day for thanksgiving (just pondering on how God has blessed you remembering all good things come from God)
- Study and meditate on theological doctrines
- Practical Steps for renewing the mind:
- CATCH a thought or attitude as sinful (2 Cor. 10:5)
- CONFESS that thought or attitude as sinful (1 John 1:9)
- CLAIM the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the sinful thought or attitude (Phil 4:13)
- FORCE, because Gd has given you a spirit of power, your mind to change from the sinful thoughts or attitudes to godly ones (Phil. 4:8-9)
- REPEAT, or practice, these steps when sinful thoughts or attitudes occur again (Gal. 6:9)
Quarantine has made so many of us feel trapped. And, if we are not careful, that sense of helplessness can lead to hopelessness, uncertainty to anxiety, and sadness to depression. But it doesn’t have to because God has not left us with the inability to cope! My desire today was to simply provide a description and roadmap for renewing one’s mind daily. I leave you with one of the greatest descriptions of a mind set on ‘things above’:
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. Philippians 4:8