s actIt's Never Too Late to Start Taking Every Thought Captive
- Part 2 -
An Essay by Sara Goetz, Cornerstone Community Team
Note: This is the second part of this article. To read part 1 — It's Never Too Late to Find Peace and Joy — click here.
If you were a child of the 80s you already know that one of the best cartoons of all time was Scooby-Doo. Much to my delight Scooby-Doo has recently experienced a resurgence with the original characters solving spooky mysteries in high definition. In one of these new episodes, Scooby-Doo and the gang combat an “Invisible Madman” who (without visible detection obviously) wreaks havoc on many people, including the Mystery Gang.
The hurdles of capturing an invisible madman are numerous, as you can imagine. First and foremost, the antics of the invisible man create strife and conflict among the team — those who were a recipient of the invisible man’s chaos blamed their cohorts and accused them of being behind the attack. In addition, and for obvious reasons, it’s quite difficult to catch an invisible man. The invisible man has the advantage — those battling him can only see the effects of the man, not the man itself. By the time a footprint is spotted or an indentation on a chair is spied, the man has already been able to escape. Those in pursuit of the invisible antagonist are always two steps behind in their quest for capture. To say the least, the mystery team has to employ all of their detective skills, strategies, and unconventional tactics to catch the invisible madman and quell the disruption he is bringing.
It never ceases to amaze me the way Biblical truths work themselves into the varied and vast elements of our lives and culture. This idea of an invisible enemy does not begin with the writers of cartoons, classic novels, or current sci-fi horror movies. Way back in the first century Paul wrote to the Ephesians (and say it along with me because I bet you’ve heard this before), “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Paul is telling us that, like Scooby-Doo, as Christians, we fight an invisible enemy who creates strife and conflict between us and who often eludes our grasp when we try to go in for the capture.
Not only is our enemy invisible, but one of his most powerful weapons is also impossible to see — our thoughts. Just as the invisible man, our thoughts are often difficult to detect, capture, and disarm. Their elusive nature allows them to leave evidence of their presence without giving away their identity. The anxiety lasts, but the cause has disappeared. In its absence, we often misidentify what is actually happening. We end up blaming others or our circumstances as the primary cause of our anxiety. The invisible enemy remains invisible, and we end up fighting the wrong battle.
Here’s the good news. Our thoughts don’t have to stay invisible. By paying attention to our feelings and reactions when we are anxious, we can begin to uncover the invisible enemy and his tactics. Just as the mystery gang began to throw flour and powder and pancake batter on their invisible madman to make him seen, we can do the same with our thoughts. And I bet you’d be surprised at some of the things you think.
When you have a strong reaction to something, take a deep breath, and try to identify what you are thinking. Sometimes we get our moods, circumstances, feelings, and thoughts confused. “I am anxious because my kids are fighting,” is not a thought. It is a mood/feeling and a circumstance. A thought is, “My kids are fighting and I need to make it better.” Once you identify the invisible thought, you can decide to accept or reject it. Our thoughts reveal our beliefs — and it’s not uncommon to find beliefs you didn’t even know you had.
Before you become disappointed in and punish yourself for holding invisible thoughts and beliefs, allow me to remind you that you are just human. Having invisible thoughts and beliefs is a part of the package. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you unintelligent, and it doesn’t make you a “bad” Christian. It makes you exactly who Paul was talking to when, in Romans 12:2, he told us that our minds require constant renewal. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This renewing of our minds has as much to do with evaluating what the world tells us to believe as it does with evaluating what we tell ourselves to believe. You aren’t ever going to outgrow that command. Don’t beat yourself up for needing to take a minute and reflect on the thoughts and beliefs you’ve been gripping too tightly. It might be time to let go of those beliefs that are holding you back from being everything God intended you to be.
In case you didn’t watch the Scooby-Doo Episode, you can rest assured that the mystery gang ultimately captured the invisible madman giving the story a pretty good ending. Romans 8 reminds us that the invisible enemy and his invisible tactics are no match for the spirit of God in us. “If God is for us, then who can be against us?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And that is the best ending to any story ever written.