It is amazing how just a slight shift in our thinking can alter our entire perspective. As I began exploring what it means to “Guard Your Thoughts” several months ago in the midst of 2020, I believed that this process was largely a passive, defensive act much like someone would monitor their home for intruders. It might require me to be on the lookout for potential intruders, or to secure my home each day, but this was the extent of my actions.
This passive approach to guarding my thoughts annoyed me as it seemed to be more something which simply haunts you rather than something which is truly beneficial. This is waiting and trying to prepare for the worst to happen. Deep down I believed there had to be something I could do to go on the offensive in pursuit of protecting my mind. I am finished with trying to control every factor which my mind thinks might keep myself or others from harm.
When it comes to fear and anxiety there are certain emotions which come to haunt you in a similar way. There are certain things you guard against which you pray never happens to yourself or the ones you love. In an effort to protect yourself or your family you might do things which you believe guard yourself or others from feelings of loss, scarcity, and regret.
Worrying for Worrying’s Sake.
There is one emotion which seems to buck this trend. Instead of taking action now, in hopes of preventing future events from happening, this emotion robs us of our current joy. This emotion is dread. Dread is an emotion which occurs in the here and now. It robs you and me of any current or future joy by dominating our thoughts with feelings of fear and anxiety. Dread’s focus is future events, real or imagined, which you are struggling to face. Dread is worrying for worrying’s sake.
So when I think of guarding your thoughts, the process reminded me a lot of dread. I was doing very little offensive work in anticipation of something potentially bad to happen. I was on the lookout for an intruder of some kind to invade my thoughts, but actively doing nothing else to prepare for such an event. Since early March, I have continued to pray this prayer, reading Philippians 4:8, wondering just how this verse might change things for me. Then God showed me that guarding my thoughts is anything but passive.
The call to Guard your thoughts seemed like such a wimpy move, but it was never intended to be this way. To Guard your thoughts is a full court press, all hands on deck, on the offensive fight. I was only seeing maybe one percent of what is involved in the process. Watching for potential intruders is a very important, but small part of what God calls us towards. The other ninety-nine percent, involves us actively thinking on or filling our minds with “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…”
“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”
Philippians 4:8 AMP
Guard Your Thoughts
By Starting With Scripture and Prayer
There are a lot of directions one could go in an effort to guard your thoughts, but the first place I recommend starting is with seeking God in the Bible and prayer. My inspiration for this prayer came from Philippians 4:8 and there is plenty to go on in Philippians 4:8 alone, but the one area which has had the greatest impact on me personally is practicing gratitude. Now I’m not talking about gratitude for gratitude’s sake. I think it’s good to be thankful, don’t get me wrong. But this is not where it’s at my friends.
By Adding Intentional Gratitude
I’m talking about gratitude with God in mind. The problem is when a lot of us think gratitude, we tend to isolate it when it needs to be practiced with God in mind. It is whole-heartily thanking God for how he’s proven faithful. Gratitude in this context is not something we practice without including God. In fact, God should be at the center of our gratitude.
“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV
Trending Self-help Mantras
I absolutely loathe trending self-help mantras and I’ll tell you why. Typically, they involve filling humans with the silly notion that we can fix ourselves and at the same time they tend to take God out of the equation. Gratitude seems to be one of the latest trending self-help maxims you see across social media. You know, the Instagram style post with a smug saying and a pretty background . And while I do believe gratitude on its own merits can prove valuable, gratitude through the lens of God’s faithfulness is a game changer.
It is still early in my personal journey to “Guard Your Thoughts”, so I will have to wait and see what this will look like practically in my life. Still, I am encouraged to find out that I can take active steps towards guarding my thoughts. I am encouraged that this is not just some wimpy step I take in pursuit of Jesus. Instead this is an act of war.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17 NIV