I have an incredible imagination that served me well as a young child.
Now, as an adult, it has turned into a prison of my own making. I’ve allowed anxious thoughts (fears and doubt in God) to distract me. I find myself getting too caught up in my own mind to remember the One who made my mind. My imagination is a gift from God, but I turned it into an idol by allowing it free reign into the illogical.
This is how the prison is built. I take those destructive thoughts and instead of letting them go into God’s hand, I hang onto them. I obsess over them, and a chain is begun. I imagine other ways it could have gone, and links are added to the chain. Soon it starts to encircle me.
I often sit in this jail, key in my hand, lamenting that I’m in there. Today I found myself there again. But, this time I stopped to pray. I told God, “I hate this. I hate that I am in this prison. I hate that I do this and I don’t even know HOW I do it. It’s like some twisted corner of my mind likes to be miserable, likes to suffer. But seriously, God, how can that be? I don’t like to be so worried that I’m throwing up and missing out on time with my family and losing sleep.”
I knew I needed to figure out how the prison got built in the first place. I remember crying out to God and asking why He wouldn’t help me. He told me, “Because you won’t let Me.”
Here’s the frustrating part. I KNOW all of this. I KNOW that I need to pray without ceasing. I KNOW that my redeemer lives. I KNOW that I am told to never take my armor off. I KNOW that I am God ‘s and cannot be plucked out of his hand. I KNOW that paranoid and anxious thoughts are not of God. So why do I entertain the notion that I’m too busy to stop and pray, too busy to ask for help, until I’m crushed.
I remember listening to a sermon on strongholds of our own making. The preacher talked about how we return to them because they are familiar. They are comfortable.
What? Comfortable? That sounds a little crazy to me. It’s not a comfortable place to be in. Then I stopped and thought about it. I suppose I do find it familiar. I’ve been there before and I’m used to it. It doesn’t take any effort. It does, however, take effort to leave.
I remembered a women’s conference, where I was called to serve as interpreter for the deaf. I was only there for that reason. Yet, the speaker somehow knew what I was going through and prayed over me, “God says, “You are worthy. You are good enough. I am well pleased.”” If God says I’m worthy and good enough how arrogant must I be to say, “No I’m not. I’m going to just sit here and stew in my misery rather than rejoice in your glory and peace.” I sounded like a three year old!
Instead, when those thoughts enter my mind, I need to immediately speak out against those thoughts saying, “I cast down every thought and imagination that would exalt itself against the name of God!”
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thin that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” II Corinthians 10:3-6
When I recite Scripture, the chains fall away. The prison door is open and I walk out, rejoicing in God’s grace, his mercy and power.
And yet… the prison is still there… waiting for me to get comfortable again; to decide I’m too tired to read my Bible this morning… but I can sit on social media for an hour? I’m having a hard time focusing on this Scripture, I’d better read it later… yet I can binge watch something on tv? That is not good. And without realizing it, I’m backing in that prison again.
So, how do I keep from going there?
I need to take control of my vivid imagination instead of the other way around.
I need to be careful not to say “my” with these things…prison, anxiety, fear, doubt, obsession. I don’t want to claim them as my own.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7
We are no longer slaves to fear [and all of those other things!] We’ve been given a spirit of LOVE and POWER and oh so very important… a SOUND MIND.
The mind is a battlefield. How vital it is to maintain our guard at all times. No one thinks about guarding it during peaceful times. Who’s sitting in full riot gear on a sunny day in the park while feeding ducks? But we need to be. We need to constantly have that armor on. Don’t drop the shield.
In this day and age, we’ve all learned the art of multitasking and doing things one-handed. Yet, there’s a pit fall. The busyness of this life, the cares of this world, can draw us away from God. Every single person on this planet has a prison hanging out behind them waiting for them to back right into it.
Some people have realized it. They’ve realized that prison is right there waiting. But instead, they turn and face it and say, “No! Not today. I’m slamming this door. I’m walking back toward the light and I’m making time.”
Maybe it’s the sacrifice of setting an alarm before you need to be up, before kids are awake or the world interrupts with phone calls or social media. It’s a matter of realizing there are distractions everywhere and avoiding them. It means making a conscious effort to seek out a time that is quiet. Not allowing anything to distract you. Make that time to spend with your heavenly Father. Allow Him to guide you through this life.
“Be still, and know that I am God….” Psalms 46:10
The enemy doesn’t want it to be easy. He wants you to be comfortable enough to stop praying constantly. That sounds odd doesn’t it; to be so comfortable that we don’t pray? We should get in the habit of praying so much that we feel uncomfortable when we are NOT praying.
I learned that a renewal of my mind isn’t a daily thing, it’s a constant thing. The second I stop, that’s when doubts creep in. There is good news in this harsh little lesson though… the same way it becomes second nature to press that little on button on my coffee maker before I do anything else in the morning, the same way we automatically lock our homes, put on our seat belts… all of those steps we can do practically in our sleep… the longer we press in, the longer we call those verses to mind, and immediately seek God in the morning, the more second nature it becomes to reach for God. And the verses come quicker.
I used to work out all the time. I played soccer. I was in the best shape of my life. Then I injured my knee. And I stopped playing soccer. I could have modified my workouts to allow my knee to heal. Instead, I began to skip the workouts entirely. The first few didn’t really matter. But, I found that with every skipped workout, it was harder to get back to the gym. It didn’t take long to get out of shape.
The same goes for our spiritual health. If we are not daily working out our faith, with all of our might, it’s just like skipping workouts. The first couple times don’t seem to matter. Miss a little quiet time with God and you’re not sunk. But you may find your temper getting shorter. Too busy to read your Bible one day? It’s not the end of the world. But it may take you longer to realize you need to stop that thought train before it derails your whole day. Soon you’re telling yourself, “I don’t need to go to that Bible study.” The next day you might find yourself crying and feeling like the biggest screw up ever and how could God let this happen and how could He ever love such a screw up.
It’s the little things we do every day that keep us growing closer to God. And it is the little things that we let slip that draw us away from Him. So which way do you want to go? Closer to God or further away? We need to make a conscious decision every day to spend time with God, to spend time with other Christians who will help us and encourage us, to read and memorize Scripture. We need to put on every piece of our armor every day.
You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to miss once in awhile. God isn’t going to love you any less. But, we mature faster and become stronger quicker when we get into some good habits and don’t neglect them.
It’s hard to recognize when you’re in a prison of your own making. But once you do… you’ve got to remember that the prison doesn’t go away just because you remembered your way out. You have to actually follow the path that leads out.
Sure. I may go back there now and then. But when I do, as soon as I realize it, I run back to Jesus. I’m not sure if it’s possible to completely destroy the prison. We may be saved, but we are still sinners. We are going to stumble and fall, but GRACE, oh, sweet, wonderful grace is waiting. And God’s grace is made perfect in our weaknesses.
The more time I spend with Jesus, the less often I find myself going back to that prison of my own making. And soon, it begins to fade away. Someday, it may be gone all together.
Father God, I have this prison I built and I’m sorry.
God, I want to honor you with every step and word and deed.
God I thank You that You are strong in our weakness, that Your forgiveness is unending, and that You never stop caring or give up on us.
I thank You that there is always call to praise, even in the darkest nights.
I pray for our minds God, that we’d be able to clearly see the strongholds, that we’d be able to take sledgehammers of faith to them and tear them all down and replace them with Your love and life.
Your word tells us that You will keep in perfect peace him who’s mind is stayed on You. Help us to keep our minds stayed on You, God, to always wear our armor, and to pray without ceasing.
Help us to never forget, to never allow anything in Your place.
I thank You so much for all of this God. Amen.