Last month we began a series on a mother’s potential for influencing her family. I shared with you how I receive e-mails from moms who are discouraged and also from those who are encouraged in their daily lives and walks with the Lord Jesus. My heart is to help those who are struggling and to give them hope for change. Because much of this revolves around the battle for what we will do with our minds, I am going to spend another Mom’s Corner addressing this issue.
For many years when I was depressed, discouraged, or unhappy, I thought that I was a helpless victim of my feelings. I would pray and ask God to free me from my negative thoughts, but the pattern continued until the Lord Jesus, in His mercy and grace, began to show me truths from His Word that applied to my problem. Prayer was very important in my quest for conquering the negativism. That was to continue and be ever increasing. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). However, I also was instructed in Scripture as to what I needed to do to gain victory over my unhappiness, and that was to obey the Lord—a choice I was to make.
Let me share with you the verses the Lord showed me that helped me understand this. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). The Holy Spirit residing in me gives me the “will” to do what is right. I wouldn’t even care about doing what I should do without the Spirit putting that desire in my heart. Beyond the “will,” the desire to do what God wants me to do, He also enables the actual doing of it; He works in me to do His good pleasure—to accomplish it.
Notice, though, that there is one piece that fits between the “willing” and the “doing” and that would be the “yielding” or choosing to be obedient. I won’t quote again all three verses from Romans 6 that mention yielding because you can read those in the August Mom’s Corner. I will use only one of them to refresh our memories. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). Here is the amazing truth that the Lord Jesus showed me in the midst of my continual yielding to the negative thoughts. As long as I yield myself to obey sin—for me it was the wrong thoughts—God didn’t help me to do what is righteous. He allowed me to keep walking in my sin and negative thoughts. He kept putting that will within my heart for what was right, but His enabling to “do” had to wait for me to yield to obedience.
In practical examples from my life, this is how it looked. When the children were fussing with each other, when the house was a mess, and when I was tired, if I began to focus on myself and how discouraged I felt, then I was yielding to sin. At that point, God didn’t fill my heart with happiness, joy, and peace. While I don’t like to feel unhappy and defeated, the reality was that I was content with it because I continued to choose it. I was walking in disobedience while maintaining the expectation that God would somehow remove the negative thoughts from my mind and replace them with love, contentment, and patience.
Remember the Israelites of old? God could have made them a perfect nation with perfect people. Instead, He made them His people, gave them the ability to choose obedience or sin, and asked obedience from them. Despite all that He did for them and despite all that He gave to them as direction, they still often chose disobedience. He didn’t “zap” them into obedience just as He doesn’t “zap” me into obedience. He waited for the Israelites to obey, and He waits for me to obey.
If this yielding to obedience weren’t a part of my walk with the Lord Jesus, He would never need to tell me in His Word anything righteous to do. I would already be doing it. However, His Word is filled with “do this” and “don’t do that.” He is placing within my heart the “will” to do what is right. I must choose to yield. I must decide to be obedient.
For example, consider these verses: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Do I naturally feel joyful or like glorying in a trial or tribulation? Most certainly, I don’t. In these verses I am told that this is an obedient yielding I am to make, and I am even told the outcome—the reason I would make this choice. If I automatically reacted to these difficulties with joy and glory, then there would be no reason for Scripture to tell me to do so. To yield to righteousness, I take those negative, “poor me” thoughts captive and bring them into the obedience of Christ. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
For me the starting place for this yielding to righteousness and taking my thoughts captive begins with gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20). “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Will I focus my thoughts on gratitude to God for what He has done for me and given to me, or will I allow my mind to dwell on what I don’t like or am unhappy about? That choice of what I yield to is left up to me.
If I yield to obedience, then comes the enabling to do it. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
I have walked both paths—the path of yielding to obedience and the path of yielding to sin—particularly in what I do with my mind. I can still face those decisions, even on a daily basis. I can tell you from my experience that though the path of obedience can be very, very difficult when the feelings are negative, the obedience leads to freedom from unhappy, sad, and “poor me” thoughts. Yielding to the sin of continuing in those wrong thoughts simply spirals us further into them and away from the joy and peace we desire.
May I encourage each of us to move from allowing our negative feelings to drive our thoughts. This yielding to righteousness will be a continual process. When we yield our minds to righteousness, the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives not only for us to enjoy, but for our families as well. Our children are watching us. They are learning from our reactions and responses to the daily pressures we face. What will they glean from us? Can we say with Paul, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9)?