By Dena Johnson Martin, Crosswalk.com
Survive or thrive: The power of mindset
When I began the journey of walking through my divorce, I was terrified. I felt as if my entire world had collapsed around me, and I had not future. Everything I knew was gone in an instant.
Somehow, in the midst of the pain and devastation, I made a decision:
I would not survive. I would thrive.
My kids would not survive. They would thrive.
It was a conscious decision I made early in the process, one that colored my every thought, my every action. It was the mindset I chose instead of the one I allowed to simply overtake me.
You see, mindset is essential to our well-being. We are told in Romans 12:2 not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Renewing our minds is a conscious decision to think on things that are lovely and noble and true and right and excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:9). It is the decision to control our thoughts instead of allowing our thoughts (our human inclinations) to control us. It is the process of deliberately identifying wrong thinking and replacing those thoughts with the truths of scripture.
Where do we see an example in scripture of someone who allowed his mindset to guide his future?
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Daniel 1:8
Daniel was a young teenager, likely of royal descent. He had been stripped of everything he had known and led away into captivity in a foreign land. Yet, he was firmly convinced of what he believed about the God of Israel.
As a young Jew, Daniel had learned the importance of scripture. I am certain he had recited the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) twice daily for many years. The Word was burned deep within his mind—and his heart.
When Daniel was captive in Babylon, he was determined not to defile himself, not to be brainwashed by his Babylonian captors. Instead, he determined to follow the way of his God, the God of Israel. He resolved to keep his mind firmly fixed on God so as to live in a way that is pleasing to His Father.
How did it turn out for Daniel?
It was not an easy journey. Along the way, he was hated and maligned by those around him. He was thrown into the lions’ den. He suffered much at the hands of his captors.
But, it was also obvious that God’s hand of blessing and protection was upon him. He was honored and respected by the kings he served. His countenance shone brighter than those around him. He was called upon when the wise men of the country were baffled and unable to discern dreams. He was elevated to a position of honor.
Because he made a decision from the beginning to be obedient no matter the cost.
Because he decided circumstances would not control his attitude.
Because he determined in his heart he would not sin against God.
Because Daniel had been transformed by the renewing of his mind so he would not conform to this world.
One of the most consistent questions I am asked is what does it look like (practically) to be transformed by the renewing of one’s mind?
I think there are several important ideas that must be addressed to answer that question.
Make the decision. The first thing we must do is make up our minds that we will not allow this world to control us, decide we want to be transformed rather than conform to this world. Whether it is making the decision to thrive in the midst of difficult circumstances or being firmly convicted that we won’t be defiled by the riches of this life as Daniel did, we must start by making the decision of what we want.
There is a small book called Lose 40 Pounds in One Day. The premise of the book is that it is about mindset. We must start by making the decision of what we truly want. And, it may be a decision we have to make every single day. But we have to start by setting our mind on what we want one time.
If we don’t make the decision, the circumstances of life will continue to control us.
Control our thoughts. It’s not so much about giving up certain thoughts, such as those of anxiety, depression, or hopelessness. Instead, it’s about changing our thoughts.
A lot of people think they will give up something—maybe alcohol or porn—but the truth is you need to replace that something with something else. My weakness is Diet Coke. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t smoke. I don’t have any “bad” habits…other than Diet Coke. When I am stressed, I tend to reach for a Diet Coke. When it has been a bad day at work, I grab a Diet Coke. But if I want to successfully give up Diet Coke, I would do well to replace it with something that has a little flavor.
It’s the same with our thoughts. We don’t just stop thinking negative thoughts; we must replace negative thoughts with the truth of scripture. We don’t just stop wrong thinking; we replace it with right thinking.
Controlling our thoughts starts with hiding (memorizing) his word in our hearts. It’s about recognizing wrong thinking and changing those thoughts to something that is true (scripture). It’s about choosing to think on His word rather than wrongs done against us. It’s about learning to think on things that are lovely and noble and true and right and excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:9).
That’s when His perfect peace that surpasses all understanding takes over our lives.
Recognize we needs God’s help. Alcoholics who have been in 12-step programs recognize it. Drug addicts recognize it. Porn addicts recognize it.
But do we?
We cannot successfully be transformed without God’s help. When we are in a battle for our mind, we must admit our helplessness and seek His help. We must remember that in our weakness His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9). We must remember that when we are tempted, there is always a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).
What about you? How are you doing in the transformation process? Maybe you are in a great place, reveling in His love. Maybe you feel like depression and anxiety are getting the best of you. Can we decide together—today, right now—they we will begin the process of transformation together?
I’m willing to make the commitment. Will you join me?