What if the greatest spiritual battle of our generation is taking place in the space between our ears? Does how we think actually shape how we live? What are toxic thinking patterns and what does the Bible say about them?
Bible Gateway interviewed Jennie Allen (@JennieAllen), author of Get Out of Your Head: The One Thought That Can Shift Our Chaotic Minds (WaterBrook, 2020).
Why do you write, “The greatest spiritual battle of our generation is being fought between our ears”?
Jennie Allen: What we believe and what we think about matters, and the enemy knows it! And he’s determined to get in our heads to distract us from doing good and to sink us so deep that we feel helpless, overwhelmed, shut down, and incapable of rising to make a difference for the kingdom of God. Even if we’re one of those who won’t be shut down and we’re loving God and people as we go, a million toxic thoughts haunt us each step of the way.
What does the Bible mean when it says “take every thought captive” and “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”?
Jennie Allen: My deep dive into the inner workings of the brain confirmed what the Bible says: we can take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Not only can our thoughts be changed, but we can be the ones to change them. With each positive choice we make—stillness instead of distraction, for example, or community instead of isolation, or surrender instead of anxiety—we’re training ourselves to use the mind of Christ that we have (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).
The more we make these positive choices, the more reflexive that approach becomes. We said that at first such a shift is possible through consciously, deliberately interrupting our spirals. But as we practice more, that shift becomes probable and then predictable and then utterly instinctive to us. Eventually we get to the place where we don’t even realize we’re interrupting our negative thinking in order to choose mind-of-Christ thinking, because the impulse has become so ingrained.
What is the thought that can successfully interrupt every negative thought pattern?
Jennie Allen: I have a choice.
If you’ve trusted in Jesus as your Savior, you have the power of God in you to choose! You’re no longer a slave to sin, to passions, to lusts, to strongholds (Romans 6:18). You have a God-given, God-empowered, God-redeemed choice regarding what you think about. You have a choice regarding where you focus your energy. You have a choice regarding what you live for.
We’re not subject to our behaviors, genes, or circumstances.
We’re not subject to our passions, lusts, or emotions.
We’re not subject to our thoughts.
We have a choice because we’re conquerors who possess weapons to destroy strongholds.
How does what we think reflect what we believe about God?
Jennie Allen: Let’s say I tend to feel worthless and invisible. And let’s say I read Ephesians and learn that God says he chose me as an adopted child and I’m deeply loved (Ephesians 1:5). Even if I don’t overtly deny the validity of that premise, I still doubt it’s true for me. I nod at the truth, but I never fully absorb it and believe it to be true of my identity.
Then let’s say I’m married to a spouse who’s typically distracted with work. I don’t feel seen in our marriage, which confirms my deep-seated fear that I’m indeed worthless and invisible. So even in the most inconsequential of arguments with my husband, I feel anxious and start to spin every time he’s short with me. I can’t see all that he has on his shoulders—I can’t empathize with his stresses—and my needs exceed his ability to ever meet them. Before long we’re full-on fighting constantly and don’t even know why. My husband now has become the enemy in my mind and can’t ever seem to say what I need to hear or be whom I need him to be. And the spiral of my thoughts has now invaded my relationships and robbed me of joy and peace.
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No human is ever meant to be the person who fills our souls or holds in place our worth. Only God can do that. But until I throw off the lie that God’s love isn’t for me, my emotions, decisions, behaviors, and relationships will remain twisted up in the mistaken belief that I’m worthless.
When we begin to think about our thoughts, perhaps for the first time, we can stop the downward spiral. We can reset and redirect them. That’s our hope. Not that we’d wrestle each and every fear, but that we’d allow God to take up so much space in our thinking that our fears will shrink in comparison.
How can our thoughts be wholly consumed by the mind of Christ?
Jennie Allen: No self-generated declaration—loud and passionate though it may be—can accomplish these interventions. Instead, we need a complete transformation: our minds exchanged for the mind of Christ. We were not made to think more good thoughts of ourselves. We were made to experience life and peace when we think less about ourselves and more about our Creator and about others.
The only true self-help is for us as followers of Jesus to believe who we are as daughters and sons of the king of the universe and to know that our identity was secured by the shed blood of God’s own Son. When we believe that about ourselves, we think less about ourselves and more about the mission we’ve been given to love God and the people God puts in front of us, no matter our circumstances.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Jennie Allen: Romans 8. The answer is Jesus. With the chaos in the world and the chaos in our souls, we have no other hope. It’s him.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Jennie Allen: Connection with God is the foundation for every other God-given tool we have to fight with. This is where our thought lives change. We begin here because if supernatural change is what we want, we have to go to our supernatural God to find it. I’m grateful for Bible Gateway because it’s an incredible tool to help us be with God as we go about our day!
Bio: Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher marked by personal authenticity and vulnerability. She has published several popular Bible studies and trade books, including Made for This: 40 Days to Living Your Purpose, Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard, and Restless: Because You Were Made for More, and speaks frequently at conferences such as Catalyst, Q Conference, SEND (North American Mission Board), and the IF:Gathering, as well as in some of the largest churches in America. She earned a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Jennie and her husband, Zac, have four children.
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