“I've been trying to think of an idea for you. One I keep coming back to is the correlation between a sold out believer who has true faith in Christ and still falling prey to the human nature of worry and fear or depression. How can we gain control in our minds when our hearts truly belong to the Lord and we still feel so down? How can we physically, practically, realistically attain the joy of the Lord? Sunday School and cliche answers don't count. ;-)”- Christi
This blog hits on "some" of her question...it is a great question with lots more that could have been explored, but here goes!
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
Let’s take a look at the pattern of our world.:
- At one point in their lives, every person will suffer from a period of depression.
- 18.8 million Adult Americans suffer from severe depressive disorders.
- 15% of the population in most developed countries suffer from severe depression.
- 30% of women are depressed. Estimates for men were once thought to be half that percentage, but now psychologists believe it to be higher.
- Preschoolers are the fastest growing market for antidepressants. No, there is not a typo…I said preschoolers.
- By 2020, depression will be considered the second biggest killer behind heart disease and studies are showing that there is some link between depression and coronary problems.
Statistics from the Uplift Program: http://www.upliftprogram.com/depression_stats.html
- 40 million adult Americans or approximately 18% suffer from an anxiety disorder. Frequently, those with disorders also have a co-occuring problem with drugs, alcohol or depression.
Statistics from NIMH: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america.shtml
Look at our headlines. They breed fear. At any given moment, I am worried about: drinking tap water due to the diseases that could be swimming in it, but I am also fearful of drinking bottled water because of the BPA in the plastic and the fact that from what I’ve read, the water in the bottle is from the tap so I don’t drink water which leads to me to fear that I am not drinking enough water; terrorists; the economy; the millions of ways I could get cancer; random acts of violence; gas prices; what foods are safe for consumption; the war and if my husband will be deployed and injured or worse in combat; the state of government and business corruption; if it is safe to send my child to a public school; will my family be healed from brokenness; and most frequently, does worrying increase my chances of dying younger? I know I am not alone in my fears. I know because I can look at the numbers above and see that at any given moment, you too are fearful of some of the same things I am as well as your own fears.
Fear and depression. This is the pattern of our world. And God knows that, which is why he tells us over and over again not to live in fear, not to be held captive by our sorrow. But, if you are like me, you live with a constant battle against the control these emotions have on your mind and your actions. I believe the answer to this battle lies in Romans 12:2 and if you, like me, have suffered years of the conflict of following the pattern of this world versus following Christ, you too long to finally once and for all end this fight.
To truly get out from under our fears and pain, we need to take a deeper look at what Paul gives us for an answer to this constant drip and nagging that anxiety and depression has in our hearts and our minds:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world:
We’ve established what the world’s pattern is. Paul says, “Do NOT conform.” Conform is defined as: “to act in accordance or harmony; comply; to be or become similar in form, nature or character; to act in accord with prevailing standards, attitudes, practices.”
The first thing to notice is that conformance is an action.
1.) How do your actions show conformance to the pattern of the world around you? Be specific!
2.) How did your actions “become similar in form, nature or character” to those in this world who do not know the God of the universe? What got you to the place you are at now? What compromises did you make along the way?
Paul doesn’t give us any leniency here. He says DO NOT. He doesn’t say try not to or do your best not to, he says flat out DO NOT. There is no wiggle room here. There is no allowance for some conformity in some areas. But, thankfully, he gives us the answer on how to stop acting in accordance with our worldly counterparts.
Paul goes on to say:
But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Why did Paul go from telling us to stop our actions that make us look no different from our non-Christian neighbors to talking about our minds? Because all actions have a thought that precedes them. Let me repeat myself. ALL actions have a thought that precedes them.
1.) Look back at your answers above. What thoughts preceded the actions that conformed you to the pattern of the world?
Let’s take a look at how we are to truly get a hold on the power our minds have over our actions.
Transformed is defined as: “to change markedly the appearance or form of”. As Christians, we are to change markedly our appearance and form from the rest of the world.
1.) Honestly, does your form or appearance (and I don’t mean the physical kind) look much different from the non-Christians you know? Why or why not?
Before you start worrying (which the whole point of this is to learn to NOT worry), let’s look at how we are to change ourselves “markedly.”
By the renewing of your mind.
Renewal is defined as: “to begin or take up again; to restore or replenish; to revive; to begin again.”
When I think of renewal, I think of two things: spring and the library. In springtime, there is a period when all that has died off because of the cold harshness of winter gets to come alive again in spring. There is a period in which we get to start again. I think of the library because those 2 weeks never seemed like a long enough time to finish the pile of books we so eagerly checked out. There is that chance to get more time to finish what we started, to get to the best part.
Our minds too need that time to get to the best part. We need that time to restore or replenish what has been lost throughout our day. We need a chance to start anew after our fears and sorrows creep in. We need to begin new once again with our list of reminders for the day: I will act kindly towards others. I will not fear. I will find hope. I will show love. I will be Christ-like. I will trust the Lord, my God, with all my heart. I will not lean on my own understanding.
Friends, if you are tired, and I know you are because I know I am, of the constant battle inside of you that pulls you to and fro with a desire to be Christ-like yet the weight of fear and depression pulling you wayward, start renewing your mind: daily, hourly, every waking second.
Renew your mind through:
1.) Reading His thoughts: If you want to change your actions, you have to change your thoughts. Your thoughts are most likely to be a lot like this world’s because that is our nature, our fallen, sinful nature. Start replacing your thoughts with His thoughts through reading your Bible daily. Do you have a time devoted to this each and every day?
2.) Repeating His thoughts: We didn’t even talk about this, but how much is our mind, our actions and our words tied together. Thoughts become words, words become action. If you want your actions to no longer be a reflection of those who don’t know Christ, replace your words with His. Memorize scripture. Repeat scripture: to yourself and to others. You can’t ever be in the wrong if your words are a direct reflection of God.
3.) Understanding His thoughts: You cannot grow in your understanding of the God you serve unless you challenge yourself in digging deeper than the simple open the Bible to whatever page it happens to fall open to, close my eyes and point at a verse, method of Bible study (and I know, because I was a devoted follower of this method for many a years). Read an entire book all the way through, get the complete picture. Read more about the scriptures through a Bible commentary or works by Christian authors. Challenge yourself. Take your understanding to the next level, whatever level you may be on.
4.) Seeking His thoughts: You cannot renew your mind without seeking God’s power of change over it. Ask him constantly to help with your daily renewal. Pray that His thoughts would become your thoughts so that your actions would no longer be like those who do not know Him.
The truth is that in order for us to not be held captive by the same fears and depression that grips those who do not know the Prince of Peace is that we must be in a constant state of renewal, of change within ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we won’t slip back into exhibiting the same patterns of the world, but it does mean that they only way out of it will require a certain amount of action on our parts to change our minds to reflect the peace from God that transcends all understanding.
Look at your patterns again. The ones that you struggle with: whether it be depression, anxiety, addiction, or anything else. Now look at how much time you spend in your daily renewal process. How much time are you spending in order to be “markedly different” than those who do not know Christ? It will be tough. Things will get in the way. Lives will get busy. Satan will convince you of more important things to do, but living a life free from the patterns of the world is a process we must complete each and every moment of every day we are here on this Earth.
1.) What do you need to do work on your daily renewal process?
2.) How can you keep yourself accountable to make sure you renew your mind?
3.) What prayer do you need to pray in order that you can be transformed each and every day into someone who is markedly different and does not conform to the pattern of this world?
Here's to renewal...
Until next time,