You may be familiar with Romans 12:2, which tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, but do you know how to do that in real life, especially if you’re a frustrated ministry wife? Years ago I had memorized that verse as a child in Bible Drill. However, I didn’t understand what Romans 12:2 actually meant until God used a difficult family situation that prompted my journey to discover how to renew my mind.
Our Journey to Pain School
Several years ago our daughter struggled with some physical pain issues during high school, then shortly after starting college she began having seizures. We took her to multiple doctors, but nobody could really pinpoint exactly what was going on. Finally, we contacted Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and enrolled her in their intensive pain rehabilitation program. It was a 4-week group program with several other families. Each morning, the parents would have meetings where we learned more about our childrens’ conditions and how to parent through the illness, while the kids attended exercise and therapy sessions. In the afternoons, we would all meet together for more education on breathing techniques, proper sleep hygiene, neuroscience, nutrition, and medicine. The families ate meals together everyday, plus on the weekends group activities were required. For a month our thoughts and conversation focused exclusively on rewiring our brains in order to reset her nervous system, which would eventually reduce or eliminate her physical problems.
Basically, the “cure” was this: not thinking about the pain would make her not feel the pain and not have seizures anymore. Being a non-medical person myself, this sounded like gobbledy-gook to me and I argued with the doctors and totally resisted this approach to treatment. I kept asking them, “Can’t she just have some different medicines?” A few days before we were supposed to complete the program, I started to panic because we just weren’t getting it and I didn’t see how she was any better. So in my quiet time that morning, the Lord spoke into my confusion and reminded me of Romans 12:2—“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I clearly felt Jesus speak into my heart: “What do you think this verse means but exactly what these doctors are teaching you?”
So…do you know what it means to renew your mind?
Do you know how to work out Romans 12:2 in real life? Because I didn’t! But, after studying God’s word and reading some great books on renewing the mind, I started practicing this discipline in several areas of my life, like in my …
- food choices (since I’m trying to eliminate the bad habit of emotional eating)
- feelings of anger and bitterness I’ve been harboring (yes, pastors’ wives can feel angry and bitter!)
- responses and attitudes toward my husband in certain areas
Do you ever struggle with discipline in any of these areas, especially those that relate to your marriage or the ministry? For example…
- If he’s always on the phone or it seems like church needs are always more important than our needs—what thoughts are usually going through our heads? Well, there he goes again checking those emails. He pays more attention to the church people than he does to me!
- He’s too exhausted from handling church stuff to take care of things at home I need him to do!
- His meeting ran long (again!) and he missed another T-ball game. I’m tired of feeling like a single parent and making excuses for why he’s not here.
Can you relate to any of these situations? I sure can!
The Lord is teaching me that the devil loves to whisper lies
that begin to swirl around in my head.
If I dwell on these negative thoughts,
then I begin to believe them,
and they become a filter through which I view my circumstances.
They color the way that I view my role as a pastor’s wife,
and they affect the way I see my husband.
Then they engage my emotions,
so now anger or bitterness or depression can start to grow,
and when my emotions start churning,
they reinforce the lies and the negative thoughts,
and soon this becomes a dangerous cycle,
an established thinking pattern that I fall into automatically.
No wonder we sometimes feel trapped in a hurricane of emotional turbulence, with stress and frustration swarming around us, hiding the blessings of God’s goodness from our view! So, how do we step out of this cycle of misery?
We have to renew our minds.
We must be intentionally aware of Satan’s lies. We must recognize his voice in our heads. We must deliberately focus on Truth instead of lies. Because…
if I’m always thinking about my husband’s shortcomings,
then the more frustrated and resentful I’m going to feel,
and the easier it will be to take offense the next time he picks up his phone or comes home late.
So, be honest. Have you ever done something like this? You’re feeling neglected because your hubby is consumed with church business, so you distance yourself emotionally from him to remind him what he’s missing when he’s not spending more time at home? I certainly struggle with this. I pout and my tone of voice becomes sharp. Then I resentfully finish honey-do tasks around the house that he hasn’t gotten to yet. And when he does try to help or show me some attention, I’m either too frustrated with him to appreciate his effort or receive it with an ungrateful attitude that does not bless him.
Friend, this cycle of negative thinking is so hard to break because the more we do it, the easier it is to do it again! My mind needs renewing, which means…
- I’ve got to QUIT thinking the wrong way
- I’ve got to STOP believing the lies
- I’ve got to START thinking the truth
But how do we do this in real life when our insides are churning, we’re upset, and those negative thoughts get louder and louder in our heads?
A Cautionary Tale
Earlier this week I had an Epic Fail in renewing my mind. I got up extra early to have my quiet time because the whole day was reserved for finishing this episode and blog post. I soaked a while in Psalm 119, reading and highlighting “renewing your mind” verses about truth and lies, when a church wrench got thrown into our day (shocker!).
- Greg asked me to step in and fix the problem, which annoyed me because once again church plans are more important than my plans.
- I didn’t appreciate the way my husband handled the situation, and I heard Satan whisper in my ear, “See, he’s doing it again, totally disrespecting what you had planned for the day!”
- I listened and I agreed with those thoughts, then I popped off about it—in the Sam’s parking lot in front of church people!
Good grief! How many Biblical principles did I violate in one morning?
So, how do we let the Word transform us instead of reacting like the world does?
When we feel ourselves getting riled up like this, we need to stop in the moment, take a deep breath, and start running through as much truth as we can in our minds. Practical truths like this…
- My husband didn’t cause this problem. His day and his plans got messed up too; it wasn’t just my schedule that got disjointed.
- He cleaned the kitchen this morning, so he does try to be helpful.
- He counts on me to support him and to help him. Is this situation worth him losing faith in me?
Then we think on Truth from Scripture…
- Philippians 2:3-4 says we should have humility, should value others above ourselves, not look out for our own interests but for the interests of others.
- Ephesians 4:32—“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
- 1 Corinthians 13 is full of Truth about real love, which suffers long, bears all things, is patient, is not easily provoked, is not jealous, doesn’t keep a record of wrong.
Choose to think these truthful thoughts over and over. Say them out loud if that helps! But repeat these truths until you …
- feel the Holy Spirit diffuse the anger
- calm down enough to shake off the sting of hurt feelings
- find edifying words to speak into the situation
- can overlook the offense
- can forgive
- can move on in love and kindness instead of wearing frustration like a new Easter dress for others to notice
Jesus knew I was going to be tempted like this! He even gave me the verses beforehand so I’d be prepared, but I read the Word too casually that morning. 2 Timothy 2:15 calls us to be diligent students of the Word so we’re not ashamed and we are able to accurately handle the Word of God. Simply reading Scripture and even highlighting verses is not the same thing as renewing our minds.
What is “renewing your mind”?
Renewing is the deliberate exercise of replacing lies with truth, a spiritual discipline that we must work out in our minds over and over through the power of God’s Word.
Somehow, neuroscience and the Mayo clinic seem to understand this process better than most Christians do! That’s why our daughter’s therapy program included almost 28 days of focused, repetitive, consistent protocols of new thoughts to think, old thoughts to quit thinking, and new rules to follow about sleep and exercise and medicine and conversation and behavior. We were saturated with new truth over an extended period of time, and our daughter was miraculously transformed in her mind and in her body. Praise the Lord! Her health and activity level were restored. Her particular condition was reversed because she did the hard work of rewiring her brain by thinking different thoughts consistently enough that the new thoughts became her automatic, default thoughts. (Scientists call this process building new neural pathways, by the way!)
So friend, if you’re struggling in this season of marriage or in ministry, look for the truth in your situation. Don’t believe the lies the devil wants to tell you. Ask God to show you verses that will speak Truth into your difficulty. Learn to renew your mind so you can be transformed! God wants you to be victorious, not defeated in this mental battle. If you’d like some wisdom from Pastor Adrian Rogers on this topic, check out his article entitled Who’s Winning the Battle for Your Mind — and for Your Family. Click HERE for that free resource.
Thanks for reading my story about learning how to renew my mind. I hope it blesses you and encourages you to build that discipline into your life as well. Until next time, friend, let’s pay attention to our thoughts and embrace Truth so we can be delighted in ministry life!