My thoughts can be as sneaky as an enemy soldier overcoming me in the dark and taking me captive. I walk myself, battered and bruised, into a windowless prison and obsess over an issue or an object. I leave the powerful weapons of good that Jesus has given me to take my thoughts captive, in an open but forgotten cell next to the hovel where I’ve taken residence.
Instead, something as superficial as the well-worn state of my kitchen and bathrooms become a source of self-contempt; every real or imagined misspent dollar a verdict on whether I have lived well or not. Or, in a more devastating direction of obsessing, every possible mistake I’ve made in parenting becomes a puzzle on my dining room table that I bend over for hours trying to piece together. I keep looking for a missing piece and get sucked away from any other uplifting, profitable activity around me. The reading glasses I’m wearing to see the puzzle make my sight blurry when people approach me. And it feels like such a monumental effort to take the glasses off and make other people the focus of that day.
Sometimes the thoughts that take me captive are not micro thoughts of my story in this world. Sometimes they are macro thoughts, such as man’s cruelty to his fellow man. I went to see the movie Unbroken last week. I read the book soon after it was published so the story wasn’t new to me. But the punch in the gut horror of the story still took the breath out of me. And my thoughts were turned toward the suffering of all mankind. And where does God fit in all of this? Louie Zamperini came out of his post traumatic state of mind by putting his faith in Jesus and by using the weapon Jesus had given him to hold his own thoughts captive: forgiveness.
But when faced with suffering my thoughts of God can easily go in another direction. For example, why didn’t God use well placed lightening when Louie’s captors continued to torture him and the other prisoners? I know the book of Job. I know I wasn’t there when God made the heavens and the earth. I know I don’t have the mind of God. I know man has free will. Yet the lightening scenario popped into my thoughts during the movie and sounded rather justified and brilliant.
I really need to reacquaint myself with the weapons Jesus has gifted to me; and stop trying to come up with weapons for Him. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” To hold my thoughts captive I need to choose to live closely with Jesus. I need to know his character, not obsess over the character of men who are not captive to the character of God; men who are not captive to love.
1 Corinthians 13 is a well-known chapter in the Bible about love. But well known doesn’t mean oft remembered (unless a wedding is being planned). The chapter ends with this: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
A feeling or a memory that abides continues without fading or being lost. The word abide is derived from Old English words that mean ‘wait’ and ‘onward’. My thoughts can be held captive by faith, hope and love. I can abide with beautiful thoughts that are truer than the sufferings of this world, as I wait to move onward to the place God has lovingly prepared for me.
Pain is a powerful enemy. But greater is He who is in me than the pain of this world. What or who will I choose to give my thoughts to today? I know who wins. It makes sense to give my thoughts to the winner. Still, it is not an easy choice. Pain is a brutal and persistent enemy. I’m not advocating denying the reality of pain. I’m choosing to abide in the love of Jesus. Love moves us onward.