More than Ever
The words came from my mom.
Debbie, what camp are you going to camp in? In truth or lies? Remember, we have to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
I was a teenager, sitting at the cool, tan kitchen table while moodily looking out the window at our snowy, suburban northern Illinois landscape.
Mom, I know.
I’m certain an eye-roll followed, but I’m also certain that these truths, each time she said them, rolled away from simply existing as something I knew towards becoming something I believed.
Our minds matter, more than teenage me could have realized.
My feet accosted my cubicle’s floor in the corporate office in a state much more southern than my years-ago, teenage-growing roots. As each unread email piled upon the next, thoughts piled inside my mind. You shouldn’t have taken this job. You’re probably missing God’s best for you. It’s all your fault.
Not good enough.
I descended the elevators where I should have made small talk with the riders (but didn’t), passed the white-tiled front desk where I should have said goodbye to the security guard (but avoided eye-contact), sat in my car where I should have listened to an educational podcast (but instead drowned my feelings in music), and then walked through my house’s door to find my sister.
Working at a high intensity hospital, she had come by, needing the balm of encouragement. She unloaded her day, and my mind kept unloading thoughts internally. She hasn’t even asked once how my day was. She’s overreacting, again. She’s so selfish. I stared at her and muttered a “Well, I guess I’m sorry” before I went back out the front door.
Not loving enough.
Back in my car, I left my sister to go join other sisters: a group of high schoolers forming what the youth pastor called “the hardest group at our church.” Each night felt more like a trauma counseling session than a cute time of fellowship. I saw them on the tan-soft couch. They’re nowhere near where I was at their age. They think these issues are so huge. But panic.I have no idea how to help.
Not capable enough.
Third time in my car, I couldn’t bring myself to start the engine. The sky had turned dark, and I felt darker than compressed. Not enough, not enough, not enough.It had been months of these thoughts-turned-beliefs railing inside my mind. The judgment I passed on others was nothing compared to the judging standards I slammed against my fragile soul. Feelings welled up—compounded years of failure, inadequacy, fear of hurting everyone I loved. My brain tried to escape their flow by darting in any direction to get out, to escape before all the air was evaporated and maybe I would be gone with it, definitively this time. Panic: swelling up, weighing me down.
Whose camp are you going to camp in, Debbie?
I needed truth now, more than ever.
“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).
I needed whatever is true that night. The One who is the truth came through to cradle me in my brokenness by bringing me back to the cross, more than ever.
Looking back, I thought that moment was a time I needed the Lord to come through most. But, now I’m continually learning that “more than ever” isn’t a one-time event, a moment of deep darkness. What if the moments that matter, more than ever, are continual, found in our daily choices to guard our minds?
Thinking. Philippians is all about it. When Paul penned these words by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this section graced the ending. He’d spent three chapters extolling the One we are to think about: Christ. He showed that our life is within His life, that humility finds its answer in Him, that His light shines for all, that His righteousness which we have through faith encourages us to press towards the goal (chapters 1-3).
In chapter four, he crescendos. In verse six, Paul delves into what happens inside our minds: anxiety, but not an anxiety that has the last say of chaos because Paul, next, describes peace. This peace can rule our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). How? Through taking our thoughts captive by putting up the guardrails of our peace: thinking on the truth, on what’s right, on what’s worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
More than ever, we need to be guarded by thinking on such things that bring us not just a temporary peace but to the feet of the One who is the Prince of Peace. That’s what I needed as my life was seemingly ending inside my car. That’s what we need when the world is seemingly ending not just within us, but also around us.
We must fight to renew our minds (Romans 12:2).
Our life is comprised of moments when we choose to believe the truth or the lies. It’s the choices in the cubicles, at our kitchen sinks, on our couches. We must choose to fight, more than ever, in the moments that make up our forever. We have to be courageous enough to fight to continually bring ourselves before the Lord, asking Him to do the fighting for us when all we have is weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Will we dwell on our failure, or take our thoughts captive to what is true: that we fail, but we don’t fall into hopelessness but into the grace that all failure points us to our need of Christ (Romans 6:1-4)?
Will we dwell on our inability to love, or take this thought captive to what is lovely: that we are loved so much that the Savior died for us, and it’s only from this compelling love we can give love (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)?
Will we dwell on our floundering to help people “good enough,” or will we take that thought captive to what is excellent: that Jesus went to the cross, and He offers the real help that all of us so deeply need—not just for eternity but within the breath-sucking days that feel like an eternity (John 15:26-27)?
Our fighting starts with reading God’s word. It continues with meditating on it. It grows through memorizing its life-transforming truth. It develops through prayer. It finds its strength in song. And it continues, everyday, more than ever.
This fights panic-attack car-darkness. This combats crippling-failure. This refocuses us on what gives peace and energy in the first place: Christ.
I’m going to remind my downcast soul of the words spoken at cool, tan kitchen tables: take those thoughts captive.
Now, more than ever.