March 9, 2015

Thinking Biblically About Overthinking, Part II

[Continued From Part 1]

In dealing with obsessive thinking I have concluded that I need to make cognizant choices and take responsibility for my own thinking and my own actions. This of course has to be aided with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I need to deal with the spiritual fortresses/strongholds mentioned in 2 Corinthians 10:3. Behind fear and shame is a spiritual fortress that doesn’t belong in my life with Jesus and it is Jesus that will help me remove it. Prayer is the start point, mid-point and end point in this battle. This is the resupply depot for not only each individual battle it is the supply line for the entire war. The battles are minute by minute but the war lasts a lifetime.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon one of the greatest preachers of all-time who was known to have confronted his own issues concerning overthinking was once noted as stating:

“A man might as well hope to fight a swarm of flies with a sword as to master his own thoughts when they are set on by the devil. A poor tempted soul, assailed by satanic suggestions, is like a traveler I have read of, about whose head and ears and whole body there came a swarm of angry bees. He could not keep them off nor escape from them. They stung him everywhere and threatened to be the death of him. I do not wonder you feel that you are without strength to stop these hideous and abominable thoughts which Satan pours into your soul; but yet I would remind you of the Scripture before us - "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."
Spurgeon’s statement is quite revealing about what a man of God understood about this type of thinking. First, he understood they were his thoughts or his “own thoughts”. He was responsible for them and needed to eventually deal with them and take accountability for them. Secondly, they were also not just his thoughts but they were also “set upon by the Devil”. In this way I believe they were exacerbated and magnified by the spiritual sycophants and workers of the darkness. The Devil is a trickster and a liar. What do lies and tricks mess with? Your mind, your senses and how you perceive reality. If these facilities in your life can be manipulated in your life what is your preventative recourse? 


Scripture on the written page remains unaffected by dark forces in this world. This is why our thoughts and actions must always be matched against it as a measuring stick for our lives. Where did Spurgeon find deliverance and relief from what appeared to be obsessive thinking or OCD? He found it in a correct understanding of the Bible. The same place I should if I have the similar issues.

I’ve found that when a person is struggling against sin, two different aspects of his inward self are at war. What are they? There is the spiritual man and the sinful or natural man illustrated in 1 Corinthians 

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ~ “…a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."

So spiritual logic tells me that a person like me who is losing the battle to obsessive thinking is too far adrift of Scripture and must re-anchor. It is also a visible behavioral contrast between the spiritual mind or spirit and the flesh of a man that are constantly at odds with one another. The spiritual man is the true inner man. The sober mind, the true you. It is called other things like your conscience or your Spirit driven will. It is the part of you that wants to do what is right. The problem arises with the flesh or the brain itself. It is of the flesh and being so has been corrupted as it is by the fall.

There is then the sinful nature. It is the part of me that is inclined to do what is wrong and against God. It has been called the corrupted nature, depravity or simply your flesh. So I see that the spiritual man must overcome the flesh to expect any victory over the obsessive thinking. A Christian which I claim I am is a child in Christ. A person who has gained control over his sinful base nature has a disciplined character. He becomes a spiritual or spiritually mature man in Christ. Herein lies the only reassurance that I am not fodder for Hell’s cannons. If I am fighting hard against my sinful nature but have not yet gained control, I should probably be encouraged. I realize now it is a sign of hope. It is a sign that I am not content to remain spiritually immature, but I want to become mature in Christ. One of the needs of the warrior to win a battle or war is the desire to do so.

Romans 7:20 ~ But if I do that which I desire not to do, it can no longer be said that it is I who do it, but the sin which has its home within me does it.

The deciding factor in victory though is not me, it is the Holy Spirit Who is fighting on my behalf. It is the Holy Spirit that can help me overcome most my sin if I only persevere (1 John 1:8). So in truth, all sinful thoughts and obsessive thinking may not be from the Devil. It is possible that the thoughts might even originate in my own head for whatever reasons. To actively fight them with Scripture and Holy Spirit is the corrective action. It is when we learn to live with the obsessiveness and become complacent with it…that we essentially approve of it by acquiesces. We cave into and yield to the sin that should be actively resisted and chased out (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Once you begin to honestly strive against them…they no longer are your thoughts but only manipulations by the enemy. By actively resisting and fighting them we remove their spiritual power over us and disown them.

Paul knew in Romans 7 that it was not his spirit, the true man that was doing sinful things, because he did not want to be doing them. Rather, it was our sinful nature that his spirit had not yet learned how to completely control. Again, like Spurgeon…it is clearly it is our choice to resist the obsessive thinking or rollover and play dead in front of it.

Obsessive or orbital thinking is sin…but I am forgiven. I am not perfect…but Jesus is and He died for my sins, even the ones I struggle with and currently have little control over. I still have the desire to overcome my sin and that is the sign of a repentant heart. I will now need to replace my thoughts with His thoughts. I must have Jesus’ mind. I must submit my imaginations to Him…somehow…someway. Even when everything in me screams that I can handle it…control it. History has repeatedly shown I cannot.

My obsessive thoughts do not define who I am, Jesus through the Holy Spirit does but only if I get out of His way. Instead of allowing an obsessive mind to keep searching for something to feel bad about I must be content in my current situation because it is where God wants me. I must be at peace in all situations. I need to stop allowing guilt and fear to steal my joy.

Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

I need to stop seeing things in an all or nothing light. Life is not black and white. If I fail in one endeavor doesn’t mean I failed completely. Logic tells me that would be a fallacy of composition. I can make mistakes and not be a complete failure. I can do dumb things but not be dumb. Again, there is no need for me to be perfect, Jesus already did that and it is finished. I don’t need to overgeneralize. A single downfall or slip back to old sinful habits does not amount to complete spiritual defeat.

I cannot continue to conclude that a person's behavior is a negative reaction to something I’ve done or said. This is assuming too much and ascribing intent. By doing this I define how people feel and attempt indirectly (and perhaps unintentionally) to control them. I thereby assume too much. Along the same lines I need to stop making mountains out of molehills. I need to stop catastrophizing. By doing this I exaggerate the impact of actual failures or shortcomings and potentially cause more damage in a given situation. Conversely I minimize other’s achievements and trivialize other people and their accomplishments.

I am also not the cause of all problems and I should stop comparing myself to others as not measuring up. Also life may not be fair but it is the hand God dealt me to play with. I cannot blame-shift to others for my life. It is after all…my life, not theirs. God will not love me any more if I am a better person.  I do not need to continue to meet certain unattainable standards in order to feel good about myself. Jesus did that work for me. Just because I feel something doesn’t make it true. Because I feel inferior…doesn’t mean I am inferior.

Lastly I need to realize that I need to be the source of changes in my life. People do not need to change to make my life better. That is just a symptom of the blame-shift philosophy. People do not need to conform to the image I believe they need to be…they need to conform to the image of Christ…just like I do. In that unity of mind, I believe then I can have the mind of Christ. A mind like Christ’s that does not feel the need to obsess over trivialities and stupidity.

Again, I have allowed myself to be put in a position of ridicule and subject to criticism by exposing my faults so openly here. I also must admit that I continue to struggle mightily in this realm. I write these things like I do it because I believe that these words help others. I know this to be true because I have received replies from others that struggle through similar situations and are not ashamed to admit it. I believe that if I do not help build others up, I will only succeed in tearing others down. It's that two-sided nature again. I am of spiritual mind but my flesh gets in the way. This type of post is my way of obeying God and keeping sin in check. If I am obeying God's commands I cannot be sinning quite as much. That alone is worth the effort.

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