Why We Need To Think About What We Think About
Many years ago, I agreed to attend a healing Mass with a friend. To be honest, I was afraid. I wasn’t sure I belonged there, or had the right to ask to be prayed over because I wasn’t physically sick. There was no terrifying diagnosis, no broken bones. I didn’t even have the sniffles. However, what I did have was killing me.
I was spiritually ill; literally sick from not doing God’s will.
Uncertain of how it all happened, I found myself on a path that was leading me far away from the Lord. Consumed by the fear of money running out, struggling in my marriage, and barely holding onto my sanity raising four small kids, all I could think about was how badly I wanted out of my life and how much better everyone else had it. My mind was a battlefield, and the enemy was all over it.
Do you ever think about what you think about? Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist, has researched the mind-brain connection, the nature of mental health, and the formation of memory, and she has this to say about our thoughts: “Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking. When we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.” 
Makes you think twice, doesn’t it?
Scientists aren’t the only ones who have something to say about our thoughts. Scripture is full of references to the mind and our thoughts. The most common verse is Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
What do you dwell on?
When you go to bed, do you think about all the things on your to-do list that you didn’t get to? Or do you recall all the things you did get done?
When you wake up, do you hit snooze, delaying the dreaded day ahead? Or do you roll out of bed and onto your knees, beginning your day in thanksgiving?
Are your thoughts stuck in the past, dragging you down the path of shame and regret? Or do you stay present to the moment, trusting that God knows what He is doing and that His plan for you is good?
If our thoughts precede our actions, and hope can change the structure of our brain, than mindset is everything. Romans 12:2 instructs us: “Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind; that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” In other words, live different. Think with the mind of Christ. Keep your thoughts holy so your actions will be holy, and in doing so, you will be able to recognize God’s will for your life.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s what we are all after, right? Knowing what on earth it is that God wants us to do. Discovering that good plan He has for us. According to Romans, the way to find out is by the renewal of our minds, but easier said than done. Our minds are so powerful, running 24 hours a day. We think nonstop. Did you know that I can pray the rosary, and plan dinner, and worry about everything all at the same time? And don’t get me started on how well I can focus on what might happen someday; which for the record, is never good. It’s terrible, really. Because the more we focus on something, the more that something controls us. And knowing this, the enemy works overtime, blinding our minds because he understands that if he can keep our minds in the dark, we will never be able to see the light of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-5).
So while renewing our minds sounds great in theory, practically speaking, how do we this? I have three suggestions.
- Saturate your mind with Scripture. Read it before you go to bed and read it when you wake up. Remember this: “We become what we behold.”
- Pay attention to your negative thoughts. Are they coming from God or the enemy? Write them down and see if you can get to their root. Then, go on and pluck them out!
- I highly recommend making Lisa Brenninkmeyer’s new devotional, Be Still, a daily habit. It will put you in the right mindset, providing you with the tools you need to get through your day.
We may not be able to choose what thoughts come into our minds, but we can choose whether we keep them there. So let us be of sound mind, holding every thought captive to Christ, weeding out unhealthy roots, and dwelling on whatever is good.
Thinking of you, and praying as always,
 Caroline Leaf, Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018)
 Caroline Leaf, “How To Detox Your Brain Part I” (January 12, 2018), https://youtu.be/P9UtL9_2jZA