In February of this year, a small group of ladies from our church packed suitcases with lightweight clothes and cans of dry shampoo and headed for Cape Town, South Africa. A day and a half later, we bumped our wheeled suitcases down the ramp in a foreign but familiar city. The air was hot and full of anticipation. In all our preparation for ministry, we had prayed for close and renewed connections.
A few days later, we gathered with our friends. Amidst the whir of fans, the sounds of praise and community echoed between the walls. Any failure to connect or communicate dissipated when we began to share stories of God’s faithfulness with one another. Heads nodded slowly with an agreement that only comes from walking a long road. These women, friends of mine on the other side of the world— know what it is to struggle in every way possible.
When I shared my desire to love God with my entire mind and what a daily labor that could be, many soft agreements traveled through the room. We shared scriptures and read them aloud. The reminder of how God has promised to “renew our minds,” was one they especially loved.
“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
And though it might seem silly, I needed to see up close that my sisters in Africa found themselves fighting the assault on the mind just as I did. Doubt, discouragement, anxiety, anger, pessimism, and wrong thinking all plagued them just as it has plagued me. Even though we came to South Africa to minister to them, it helped to remember my struggles were common ones. Because as much as I may want to blame this “brain trash” on my smart phone, computer screen, or twitter feed— I cannot. We know the source of our discouragement comes from somewhere much darker. Even on the other side of the world, where wi-fi is rarely free and always spotty, all of our minds sit right in the middle of a battlefield.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” —Eph. 6:12
Still, walking through this world with a truth-focused mind is harder than we often think. We may try desperately to hold the joy of Christ with both of our hands only to realize we are standing stuck, in the clinging mud of discouragement or disappointment. Often the lies of the enemy look strangely like some version of the truth we know. Perhaps we have a tendency to downplay the enemy’s attack on our mind as moodiness, or even blame our own anger and despair on the sin of our children.
Friend, may I encourage you to bring yourself daily into His presence so that He can create in us that renewed mind? It is not easy, but His word is clear. The entanglements of our minds while still on this earth are certain, but God’s promises are even more certain. He can be trusted. I love this particular verse as it relates to this very thing of allowing God to test our minds and hearts.
“Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” Psalm 26:2, 3
There are so many things that the enemy would choose with which to attack us, unhinge us, debilitate us.
God is faithful when we are so often failing.
He is good to those who call on Him.
He upholds us with His righteous right hand.
And lest we forget, He is the Creator of these minds of ours. He knows well how they work and how they fail.
At the end of all our efforts to cling to what is good, and abhor what is a lie— He has given us His word to counsel and convict and to pull us close to Himself.
But we must learn to recognize a lie from the truth.
When I was eighteen years old, I had my first job as a bank teller. Before I was given a name tag and cash drawer, I had to attend months of daily training. Apparently the bank needed to know I could count before they would give me stacks of money.
On the day we were to discuss counterfeit currency, I was a little excited to be able to see and hold some of this fake money. But when the class began, the teacher held up only real money for us to feel. She explained that the number one way to recognize false money, is to become well-acquainted with real, actual money. Several years later, when someone finally came to my teller window with very convincing, but falsified fifty dollar bills— I knew it was fake right away. My teacher had been completely right. Because I was so acquainted with the truth, I recognized a lie immediately.
With our hearts and minds, much more is at stake.
It’s not enough to know the truth of Scripture, we must be intimately acquainted with it. We must meditate on it, think deeply on it and have it close at hand to focus on.
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Psalm 119:15- 16
Even though we have the full counsel of God’s Word at our fingertips, often we can do everything within our power to keep a pure heart and a mind focused on Christ, and still struggle. In those moments, when what we know deeply does not always reflect in our daily reactions, there is the same grace that reached into our desperate brokenness and brought us life. The same hope in Christ that gives us the certainty of life with Him, promises us a more abundant life now. We will never arrive this side of eternity. We just won’t ever feel that we do this perfectly all the time.
But that, my friend, is just another example of how Jesus is most kind to us, as He shepherds us along. We always need more of Him. And He is always faithful to give us what we need, in Him alone.
“The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight for you,” —Deuteronomy 1:30a