You can think up some birds. That’s what you can do. You can think about yellow or think about blue. You can think about red. You can think about pink. You can think up a horse. Oh, the thinks you can think!Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss was on to something. We all know the thinks we can think but I’m not sure we understand the profound influence our thoughts have on our lives. They determine more about our lives than we like to believe, and the good news is that we have permission and the power (the will) to change them.
Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Our minds hold our thoughts. According to a Newsweek Magazine report in July 2020, researchers at Queen’s University in Canada discovered that the average person has more than 6,000 thoughts per day. Imagine how we feel if 50% of those 6,000 or so thoughts are negative or critical or judgmental. Imagine how we act toward others if we think they don’t like us, or when we’re comparing ourselves to them.
Imagine how we move around in the world if we believe we’re unloved. Or when we make a friend’s betrayal mean that something is wrong with us. Imagine what we do when we think that change is impossible.
We Can Change Them
Can we really change our thoughts? Paul says we can!
Paul gives the church at Philippi this imperative: think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things (Phil 4:8 NIV). He goes on to say in the next verse to practice what they have seen him do which must include choosing the thoughts he dwells on.
Edith Eger is a practicing psychologist who survived the holocaust and witnessed the horrors of evil in the concentration camps. She testifies to the truth that our thoughts are either life-giving or damaging to our souls and we need to choose wisely. She has dedicated her life to helping people heal from post-traumatic stress disorder and authored several books. How do we explain this kind of dramatic transformation from a traumatized victim of unthinkable abuse to joy-filled psychologist serving others? She gives glory to God and joy and gratitude are the steady tone of her life.
For years Edith couldn’t speak about the abuse she endured and witnessed. She could have remained stuck in her grief and despair and no one would have blamed her. Instead, she chooses faith, hope, and love. Now she brings light and healing into the world through her work.
Not Just Paul
Paul and Dr. Seuss only echo what God says about what we choose and how we love with our minds. Deuteronomy 30, part of a speech Moses gave the people of God, is a clear example of our ability to choose life or death. And Jesus repeats the words of Moses in Mark 12:30. We love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Our minds hold our thoughts.
I’ve set life and death before you today: both blessings and curses. Choose life, that it may be well with you… Deuteronomy 30:19
As I learn about spiritual formation, I’m more convinced that our whole selves – our minds, bodies, souls, and hearts – must be transformed. Our thoughts are only one dimension of our spiritual growth. In an upcoming post, I’ll share some practical ways we can practice changing our thoughts.