Your intrusive thoughts do not have the final say in your life. Jesus Christ has spoken a more powerful word on the cross. And he invites you into a joyous place where your mind is an ally, not an enemy in your striving to conform to his likeness.
Our thoughts are important. Our minds are a factory of thoughts, some intentional, some not intentional. We strategize, reflect, and ruminate. And sometimes we experience intrusive thoughts, those thoughts that pop into our mind and can feel out of our control.
Recently on vacation I was snorkeling and my mind produced the thought: what if a tiger shark is trailing you right now? My head whipped backward to see if the intrusive thought was a premonition. It wasn’t. Harmless fish schooled behind me.
Our intrusive thoughts can feel overpowering at times. How do we navigate them? Last week we considered three questions to ask ourselves when we experience intrusive thoughts.
Is there something different about the season I am in?
Does my personality lend itself to more frequent intrusive thoughts?
Why am I having this intrusive thought?
These questions help us frame the intrusive thoughts and consider how we ought to treat them: are they flagging the presence of stress in our lives? Are they indicators of a battle with compulsive tendencies? Do they reveal sin in our hearts?
Today, let’s press into scripture and consider how to be proactive with our minds.
Preparing Your Mind
In 1 Peter 1, Peter encourages his audience that they have had given to them a salvation that was secured by the suffering Christ. That salvation secured for us glories to which even “angels long to look.” Peter then turns and says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13).
Essentially, Peter says, “You are completely secured in the glorious rescue of Jesus Christ, but beware! Guard your mind for battle!” Peter goes on to urge his flock that, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere and brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart…” (1 Pet 1:22). From Peter, we learn a few important truths about our battle with intrusive thoughts.
Look Backward and Forward
First, Peter points us to our salvation. Our salvation is the ground of how our minds are shaped, and that salvation is not secured by us, but by Jesus Christ himself. When intrusive thoughts come, look backward to the cross of Christ and forward to the hope that Christ has secured for us in eternity. Intrusive thoughts can act as a mental black hole, collapsing our mental energies into the present and into ourselves. It can feel as though our escape from the dark matter depends on us alone. This is a lie. Peter reminds us that the work is accomplished in Christ. Look to the cross! Christ secured for us a new mind in his atoning work. Look to heaven! Christ has secured for us a transformed and future of complete rest in himself.