Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Mind/Body Connection

The mind/body connection is an amazing thing, isn’t it? Those of us who suffer with issues of chronic pain and disease know that mind and body are both at work here, and this is a very important factor in our coping with whatever physical affliction the Lord has sovereignly appointed for us. My own experience with this has been of epic battle proportions at times. Whenever a new symptom appears, the fear escalates and tries to steal away the sweet peace that the Lord has wrought in my heart.

The process is very familiar by now, and I really ought to see it coming. But, for whatever reason, each time it happens, it seems I am right back at square one in the process of learning to think biblically about my situation. It goes like this: A new symptom appears, and I panic. My mind races with the possibilities of what it could be. Though I have learned not to google things (this inevitably increases the anxiety), it doesn't stop my mind from thinking through, based on the knowledge I already have, all the terrifying possibilities. I can go from, “Hmm, that’s odd. Don't think I've had that before,” to “I will probably be in a wheelchair soon,” all in about 30 seconds. Even with all of my biblical counseling training, and a fair amount of experience with this scenario, it still takes only a twinge and a moment for me to start that downward spiral of fear and anxiety.

Now, the Lord has been quite gracious to me in helping me to deflect unbiblical thoughts, and most of the time, I don’t get far down the spiral. But there are still times that I let my emotions win over truth.  What I hope to think through with you today is the “why” factor. Why, after all I've learned, and after all the countless times I've been here, do I still have this response? Why I am so easily led to a place of fear and panic when I know that, in reality, I have nothing to fear?

I think, at least for me, there are a couple of reasons. The first one that comes to mind is the deeply ingrained thought patterns that were set in my mind long before I became a Christian. I was saved later in life, so my unbiblical ways of thinking and responding were firmly set patterns when I met Christ. Though my relationship with Him has completely extinguished some old, sinful thought patterns, this one is really hanging in there.

Another reason this one is particularly tough is that it seems to be relentless. As I have gone through this trial for the last 6 years, it seems the physical issues have stacked up. Just as one issue is being resolved or dealt with to restore functionality, another comes up. In my less holy moments, I find myself saying, “I can't catch a break here!” While I know that this thinking is unbiblical, I find it to be persistent nonetheless.

There are probably many other reasons that this battle is so tough, and I’d be willing to bet that you can relate, and could add a few of your own. But the bottom line is, this thinking is unbiblical and does not glorify God. So, should we feel guilty about it, and beat ourselves up over it? No, I don't think that would glorify Him, either. After all, He died to pay the price for our sinful thinking, and that was enough! We don't need to add self-flagellation to His finished work. Confession is all that is necessary on our part. The Spirit will grant us the grace we need to repent of this thinking, and to start again.

I think what we really need here is preparation. If we're calling this a battle, then we are soldiers, and we need to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18, AMP).

10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].

                Remember who you are in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).

11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.

                Remember that the Lord’s protection is freely yours (Psalm 34:19).

12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

                Remember Job (Job1).

13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].

                Remember that God is for you (Psalm 118:6; Romans 8:31).

14 Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God,

                Remember God’s promises (Matt. 11:28-29; Is 40:29-31).

15 And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.

                Remember the Gospel (John 3:16).

16 Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].

                Remember the faith of those who have faced fear and won (Hebrews 11).

17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.

                Remember that Christ Himself is the Word of God (John 1:1).

18 Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).

                Remember to pray thankfully, without ceasing (1 Thess 5:16-17).

I’d like to invite you to meditate on this passage, and really think through its applications to your own battles with default responses to your pain. One of the main messages I get from it is the importance of prayer. Often, in times when I’m feeling physically functional and well, I forget to pray for protection from my own “stinkin’ thinkin’,” and then I’m surprised when it comes up again. We need to be in prayer for more grace, more strength, and more patience in these moments. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we can overcome even the most deeply rooted thought patterns and fears. By His grace, we will have victory:

But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere…