Many of us have bought into the lie that we can’t choose our thoughts. Think about how often we say things like, “I can’t stop thinking about such-and-such.” Or how frequently we say we’re stressed when what we really mean is that we’ve worried ourselves into a frenzy. We talk about fear like it’s a wild animal that jumps out from behind the bushes, attacking us against our will and overpowering us. We’re far too tolerant of fear when we see it in this light—as a predator against which we have little recourse. It’s time to adopt a zero tolerance policy in regard to anxiety, worry, and fear.
Fear vs. fearlessness is far more a matter of choice than we think it is. Granted, turning from fearful thoughts to healthy ones can require Herculean strength, but the fact remains that we can choose our thoughts, and we have a responsibility to do just that.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Love Pray, the author’s friend Richard instructs her to choose her thoughts like she chooses her clothes each morning. This morning, I sailed right through the task of choosing my blue and pink running shorts and a cotton T-shirt. It’s not as easy to choose certain thoughts and reject others, but it’s just as possible. Think about it: if we were powerless over fearful thoughts, God wouldn’t have given us instructions like this one: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8, NLT). I can name a hundred topics that are honorable, pure, excellent, etc. But anxiety is never lovely, and having cold sweats because you’re fretting about what might happen tomorrow is never admirable.
Once you commit to disciplining your thought life, and if you’re consistent even when various crises arise, you’ll find yourself rejecting fearful thoughts as quickly as you once accepted them. You will walk in courage and peace in situations that would once have reduced you to a meltdown.
“We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One” (2 Cor. 10:5, Voice).