The first time I taught the Get Out of Your Head study, I gathered a room full of women in my local church to talk about what’s going on in our heads. We met for six weeks, and lives were changed. The first night those women streamed into the chapel where we were meeting, they were greeted by a giant whiteboard on which was written the question, “What are you thinking about?” Attached to that board were dozens of brightly colored sticky notes with topics that might be taking up space in their thoughts, things like these:
Before the women in the Bible study took their seats, they were asked to identify a few of the thoughts that were true for them and peel off those sticky notes. It was a challenging task.
Following that evening’s exercise, my team and I assessed which thoughts had been taken and by how many women and which thoughts were still left on the board.
Despite dozens of positive options available on those sticky notes, guess which options got picked?
Stress at work
Stress over finances
Am I good enough?
Am I worthy?
Guess which stickies remained untouched?
“Hiking” did get three takers, so at least there’s that. Now, I’ve got to tell you, based on what these women indicated they were thinking about, I pretty much knew what assumptions they were making. Assumptions such as If people knew how badly I’d failed, they’d never love me and My worth comes from my ability to be perfect. No wonder I am not worthy of much.
As a result of those assumptions, emotions surface: frustration, anger, despondency, hopelessness, embarrassment, inadequacy, shame. From those emotions, beliefs begin to form: I’ll never thrive in my career. I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never be accepted and loved. I’ll never get out of debt. We spiral down and down.
From those beliefs, actions are taken: We will numb our pain. We will hide our fear. We will fake our happiness. We will “armor up.”
Those actions over time form habits, which craft the lifestyles that shape our days. No wonder so many of us have trouble sticking to change! We fall prey to negative thinking and then wake up one day utterly defeated.
We need a new normal.
The truth is, even if our minds are a mess, Jesus offers us that new normal. It’s a place where we know we’re fully loved, where we’re operating in our purpose, where we’re running free. Our minds are strong and clear. And that’s available to us as His followers—right now. But sometimes even if we know this truth, we don’t believe it. And our minds spin and spin, looking to land, and yet unsure if our mind stopping is even possible. Messages get mixed and it feels like we can’t quite put our feet back down on the simple truths of what it means to love Jesus and what it means to be loved by Jesus.
Get Out of Your Head is a Bible study in the book of Philippians, where we remember, or perhaps discover for the first time, what it looks like to imitate Christ. What becomes apparent is that the overflowing, contagious joy that comes from following the example of Jesus is directly connected to how we think.
We often don’t think about the way we think. We think about the way we feel almost every minute. But changing the way we think seems nearly impossible. And yet the apostle Paul clearly tells us again and again—conforming our minds to Christ is possible, and it is the goal for every follower of Christ.
In the pages of this short letter, the apostle Paul writes to the Philippian church to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is telling the believer that because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we actually have the power to think Jesus-thoughts! Are you kidding me?!
There is no such thing as an insignificant thought. We are the product of hundreds, even thousands, of daily thoughts. However, if you dig under the thoughts of dry cleaning, spreadsheets, e-mails, or what you should eat for lunch, you will find some driving, consuming thoughts—thoughts that you attempt to keep tucked away, but the consuming thoughts remain. We serve a perfect God who is rightly jealous for His own glory. And if our thoughts shape our lives, no longer can we dismiss what we allow to bounce around in our minds. We have a very serious problem on our hands.
Realizing this, we can no longer casually dwell on fears . . .
We obsess over idols. We aren’t merely “distracted” with worry . . .
We are fixated on not trusting God.
Welcome to what I believe to be the greatest war we may ever fight: the war in our minds.
Jennie Allen’s newest Bible study, Get Out of Your Head: A Study in Philippians is now available. You can purchase it at ChurchSource for up to 30% off the list price. Click here for samples and to buy.