For Part 1 in this series, click here to read.
In seminary, one of the most practical classes that I took was "Counseling Emotional Problems," and in it, my professor emphasized the importance of "renewing our minds" as Christ-followers (see Eph. 4:21-23; Rom. 12:1-2). With any emotional issue or sin struggle, we battle temptation or lies in our minds, and our actions merely reflect the content of our thoughts. Therefore, for change to occur, you must begin at the root of the emotional issue or sin struggle - the mind.
So how do I "change my mind"?
First of all, this will not be something you can do on your own power. You cannot pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, heal, and deal with the root of depression or anger or an eating disorder on your own. You need the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the people of God to help you. Seek the Lord in prayer, asking Him to help you. Dig into God's Word and learn the truth. Find a Christ-follower of the same gender with whom you can share.
I also do not want to negate the use of biblical counseling and the proper use of medication when needed and used hand-in-hand with counseling. It is not a sign of weakness to talk to a counselor or to use medication. A counselor can help equip you to better understand and face various situations, and medicine when properly used can improve health and functioning, enabling the individual to better process and cope.
Second, remember the acronym "ABCDE."
- Actuating Event - What is the event that triggers negative thoughts or invites temptation? For example, your parents getting divorced might cause feelings of insecurity or anger. Another example might be that a coworker or classmate's thoughtless remark all of the sudden causes you to feel pressured, insecure, or ashamed. In these examples, the divorce and the careless remark serve as the actuating event that begins the chain reaction inside of you.
- Belief about the Event - You cannot change events that have happened in your life, and they are often out of your control to begin with. While you cannot prevent or erase them, you can change how you think about them. To do this, you need to identify what your beliefs/thoughts are about the event. What emotions do those events trigger, and what are the thoughts behind or associated with those emotions? This is where using the web described in the previous post can be helpful in determining emotions and beliefs.
- Consequences of the Behavior - Your beliefs lead to consequences. If I am angry at God because He permitted a broken relationship to happen, then that anger can lead to depression, which can lead to a host of other consequences from health problems to strained relationships to suicidal thoughts. If you do not like the consequences, then you have to change what leads to those consequences - your beliefs!
- Dispute the False Belief(s) - Do your beliefs/thoughts align with the truth proclaimed in Scripture? Do you even know Scripture well enough to answer that question? You cannot identify error unless you know truth. Study Scripture. If you struggle with anger, use the concordance in the back of your Bible to look up verses that relate to anger, forgiveness, and love. Let verses about God's character and God's promises be what you fill your mind with. This will not be as easy as it sounds, and perseverance will be needed because it is a daily battle to combat deceptive thoughts and to speak truth to yourself. If you're not intentional in filtering thoughts that do not align with Scripture and replacing them with truth, then you will lose the battle.
- Experience the Effects of the New Belief - You can experience different consequences, positive consequences, when you dispute false beliefs.
Ephesians 4:21-23 states, "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." By renewing our mind, we are taking off the old self - our flesh - and putting on righteousness. In all of this, remember the grace of Christ - grace that He demonstrates in His loving sacrifice. "Such grace should make us so in love with God that we cannot stand whatever in our lives re-soils us and offends him. Biblical grace makes us intolerant of evil in our lives" (R. Kent Hughes).
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (Rom. 8:5-6).
For more on this topic, read a previous post entitled "The War Within."