Brain research shows that every conscious thought we have is recorded on our internal hard drive known as the cerebral cortex. Each thought scratches the surface much like an Etch A Sketch. When we have the same thought again, the line of the original thought is deepened, causing what's called a memory trace. With each repetition the trace goes deeper and deeper, forming and embedding a pattern of thought. When emotion is tied to this thought pattern, the memory trace grows exponentially stronger.
We forget most of our random thoughts that are not tied to an emotion. However, we retain the ones we think often that have emotion tied to them. For example, if we’ve thought over and over that we are "unglued," and if that thought is tied to a strong emotion, we deepen the memory trace when we repeatedly access that thought. The same is true if we decide to stuff a thought – we’ll perpetuate that stuffing. Or, if we yell, we'll keep yelling.
We won't develop new responses until we develop new thoughts. That's why renewing our minds with new thoughts is crucial. New thoughts come from new perspectives. The Bible encourages this process, which only makes sense because God created the human mind and understands better than anyone how it functions.
A foundational teaching of Scripture is that it is possible to be completely changed through transformed thought patterns:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV)
Scripture also teaches that we can accept or refuse spots. Instead of being held hostage by old thought patterns, we can actually capture our thoughts and allow the power of Christ's truth to change them:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)
I don't know about you, but understanding how my brain is designed makes these verses come alive in a whole new way for me. Taking thoughts captive and being transformed by thinking new ways isn't some New Age form of mind control. It’s biblical and it's fitting with how God wired our brains. I can't control things that happen to me each day, but I can control how I think about them. I can say to myself, "I have a choice to have destructive thoughts or constructive thoughts right now. I can wallow in what's wrong and make things worse, or I can ask God for a better perspective to help me see good even when I don't feel good." Indeed, we gain new perspectives, we can see new ways of thinking.
I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control. This would be my new thought. This would be my new memory trace. This would be my new pattern.
But I couldn't just say it or think it. I had to believe it. And in order to believe it, I had to settle a matter of trust in my heart. You see, if I know there is a potential good hidden within each chaotic situation, I can loosen my grip on control.
It's easier to loosen my grip when I can see the good. When I can't immediately see the good, loosening my grip becomes a matter of trust. Either way, as long as I believe -- really believe -- God is there and that He is out to do me good, I can stop freaking out trying to fix everything on my own. I can rest in the fact that God is in control. Which means I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control.
Yes, this is a hard lesson to learn. But it's crucial.
Taken from Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst.
Copyright © 2012. Use by permission of Zondervan.com.
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