Cultivating a truth-filled mind
By Leslie Ludy
I sat tensely in the hospital waiting room, trying to keep my breathing steady as I waited anxiously for news. Any moment, a little boy would be born — a baby whom I hadn’t met but already loved as my own. And yet, unlike a normal pregnancy, I didn’t yet have the complete assurance that he would be my child. God had scripted a beautiful story between our family and the baby’s birth mother. Through an amazing series of miraculous events, it seemed God had put all the pieces in place for us to become this child’s forever family. We had spent months building a relationship with his birth mother, working with an adoption agency on paperwork, preparing our other children to welcome a new sibling, setting up an adorable nursery, and stocking up on baby supplies. We had spent hundreds of hours in prayer for the adoption of this little boy. And God had given me a tremendous peace through the entire process.
But now that the moment for the baby’s arrival was finally here, my mind suddenly flooded with an onslaught of doubts and fears. What if something went wrong? What if there was a complication with his birth? Even more prominent was the fear that something might go wrong with the adoption. Maybe his birth mother would change her mind. Maybe she would second-guess whether we were really the right family for her baby. I knew it had happened to other adoptive families … maybe it would happen to us, too.
I did my best to hold the whole situation with an open hand and a surrendered heart, knowing God was in control no matter what happened. But inwardly I wondered whether my heart could really handle that kind of devastating disappointment. Two years earlier I had lost a baby to miscarriage, and I still felt the pain of that heart-wrenching experience. I inwardly recoiled at the thought that I might lose this child, too.
Instead of preparing to joyfully welcome a new little life into the world, I was quickly sliding into a state of despair from entertaining so many fearful “what ifs.” All my fears were based on scenarios that hadn’t even happened, nor were likely to happen, but somehow at that moment they felt more real than what was actually true.
Feeling desperate, I reached for my journal and Bible that I’d stashed in my backpack earlier that day. Opening to the Psalms, I began to read and meditate on promises from God’s Word. So many seemed to be written specifically for my situation. I scribbled furiously in my journal, writing down each promise that stood out to me and purposefully choosing to agree with God’s words instead of the “what ifs” that had been plaguing my mind.
Instead of dwelling on the “worse case scenario,” I began to dwell on the faithfulness of my God. Supernatural peace began to replace my anxiety. I remembered so many times when He had shown Himself faithful to me throughout my life. Whatever happened in the next few minutes or hours — I felt a renewed assurance He was with me, that He would never fail me, that He would be perfectly faithful, and that His plans for me were good. Fear was swallowed up by faith — simply by deliberately choosing to dwell upon truth.
Agreeing with God’s Reality
Early in my Christian walk I assumed that being constantly plagued by disturbing “what ifs” was normal — because it was something I lived with almost daily. But by the time I faced that scenario in the hospital room that day, I had come to recognize the life-changing principle of Psalm 1:1–3 NIV:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked … but whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither…
I have realized over and over again in my Christian walk that what I choose to dwell on defines whether I flourish or wither.
In Philippians 4:8 we are told, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (emphasis added).
This is not just a vague, general esteeming of things that are true, noble, just, etc. In fact, the definition of meditate in this verse means to conclude, account, and reckon. To conclude or reckon something is to accept it as an irrefutable fact — not merely as a nice-sounding ideal.
When it comes to our thought lives, we have two choices. We can choose to dwell on whatever fears, doubts, lies, or cultural ideas happen to present themselves to our minds — or we can deliberately choose to align our thoughts with God’s reality: things that are noble, just, virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report. In order to meditate on God’s reality, we must learn to immediately reject thoughts that don’t align with His reality; thoughts of fear, doubt, hopelessness, etc., are no longer welcome in our minds.
As we actively agree with God’s reality, it becomes our reality as well. This doesn’t mean we will never have experiences that aren’t lovely, noble, and praiseworthy — but it does mean that God can and will turn every difficult experience into something lovely, noble, and praiseworthy when we deliberately choose to trust Him and reckon His Word as fact.
Meditating on God’s truth has literally transformed my life. It has turned fearful, painful, and even miserable situations into glorious demonstrations of God’s faithfulness and triumph. But I have learned that dwelling on God’s reality does not happen without purpose and decision on my part. In a world filled with darkness and pain, it’s far easier to meditate on things that are fearful, discouraging, or dismal than things that are lovely and of good report. And if you happen to have a naturally pessimistic personality like I do, meditating on God’s truth instead of the enemy’s lies can be even more of a challenge. And yet I can speak from personal experience when I say that it is possible to learn how to continually meditate on what is lovely, noble, and pure — by God’s enabling grace.
I’d like to share some practical ways that can help us cultivate a truth-filled mind, even when the enemy or the culture is hitting us with one lie after the next. These steps have been a tremendous help to me in my own journey to learn how to “think on these things” according to the pattern in Philippians 4:8, and I pray you will find them helpful as well.
#1. Actively Meditate On Who He Is
We’re all familiar with the culture’s version of “meditation” that involves sitting in a lotus pose, breathing deeply, and emptying the mind of all thoughts in order to simply “exist” or “become centered.” But truth-based meditation is the opposite of emptying our mind or centering thoughts on ourselves. When we meditate on God’s reality, we actively and purposefully fill our mind with thoughts about who He is.
This doesn’t mean thinking about Him in a shallow, fleeting way. Meditating on God’s ways and truth means to deeply ponder, to mull over, to consider, to contemplate, to remember, and to reflect upon His majesty, His holiness, His faithfulness, His power, His mercy, His love, etc. It is not a passive state of mind, but a purposeful action — a decision of our will.
Let’s look at a few of the many Scriptures that illustrate this concept:
When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You
in the night watches.
I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.
I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds.
I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.
Make me understand the way of Your precepts;
so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.
My eyes are awake through the night watches,
that I may meditate on Your word.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
So a book of remembrance was written before Him, for those
who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that these verses offer many great practical steps for learning how to deeply ponder who God is. For example:
When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches (Ps. 63:6). Practice contemplating a specific quality of God (i.e., His faithfulness, holiness, or mercy) as you fall asleep at night or when you happen to wake up in the middle of the night. How have you personally encountered that specific aspect of His nature? Take time to worship Him for who He is (i.e., thank You that You are faithful and true, that You are holy, holy, holy, that You are slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, etc.) as you are drifting to sleep or first waking up.
I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds (Ps. 77:12). Practice sharing with others about His deeds — share stories of what He has done in your own life, and talk about what He has done throughout history. Verbally express to others the specific things that you love and appreciate about Him.
I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways (Ps. 119:15). A wonderful way to meditate on His precepts is through practicing inductive Bible study. Learn to use the many study tools available (online or physical concordances, etc.) to dive deeper into the Bible passages you read and understand their meaning and context.
I muse on the work of Your hands (Ps. 145:5). Take time to observe His handiwork as you study His creation; ponder what an amazing God you serve as you look at the mountains, the ocean, or even a simple flower.
Meditate on His name (Mal. 3:16). Study the names of God throughout Scripture — it’s awe-inspiring and personally edifying. Each name reveals a specific aspect of God’s nature and character and helps us think deeply about who He really is and what a mighty God we serve!*
#2. Guard Your Inputs
When I was a new mother, I constantly encountered people’s thoughts and ideas that claimed to help me be a safer and wiser parent. Literally from the first day my child was born, I was bombarded by the latest studies on the merits of breastfeeding over formula, the potential dangers of lead-containing baby toys, the possible long-term problems with pacifiers, and the critical importance of a properly installed car seat. There was certainly some practical wisdom woven throughout this onslaught of information, but a lot of it simply made me feel paranoid and stressed. Instead of dwelling on things that were lovely, pure, noble, and true, I found myself dwelling on what might possibly go wrong if I didn’t fearfully obsess over every tiny detail of my child’s development.
Finally, I realized that I needed to be more guarded with my inputs. I stopped clicking on every “baby advice” email or social media post that I came across, and instead redirected my focus to God’s truth. It made an enormous difference in my perspective as a new mom. Instead of feeling paranoid, I began to feel at peace knowing God was in control and would lovingly guide my parenting as I leaned completely on Him.
When we are seeking to cultivate a truth-filled mind, it’s vital to remember that what we watch, read, and listen to on social media, blogs, movies, books, conversations, etc., has a powerful influence upon our thoughts and perspective. When we fail to put a careful guard around our points of input, our minds can very quickly become cluttered with human ideas, cultural counterfeits, and enemy lies. Even seemingly “good” things (like the helpful “baby advice” I encountered as a young mom) can lead to a mind that is fixated upon earthly concepts instead of heavenly ones if we are not guarded.
One of the most simple and straightforward ways to combat this danger is to evaluate your input points against Paul’s checklist in Philippians 4:8. Does this thought, quote, blog, movie, conversation, or idea, represent something that is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy? If not, am I willing to remove it as an influence over my heart and mind?
For example, if something you are watching or reading is not truth-based or edifying (producing fear rather than faith, pulling you into unhealthy cultural mindsets, etc.), can you replace it with an activity that is? If a conversation is not steering your thoughts toward truth, can you gently redirect the dialogue into something more honorable? (Or possibly step away from the conversation altogether.) A helpful question to ask is, “Does this input draw me closer to Christ or pull me away from Him?” If any input, no matter how seemingly harmless, is distracting us from Christ, we must be willing to remove it from our lives.
At first glance it may seem unrealistic to eliminate all unhealthy points of input into your thought life. But this is a critical step in flourishing instead of withering spiritually. So, by the grace of God, be willing to aggressively remove inputs that are steering you away from truth, and replace them with input points that will lift high the reality of Jesus Christ in your heart and mind.
#3. Change Your Sleeping and Wake-Up Habits
There are plenty of mornings when I feel less than excited to get out of bed and face the day. Often I am tempted to inwardly groan as I think about that day’s task list or the mountain of family and ministry responsibilities that flood into my mind during the first few moments I’m awake. So a number of years ago I came up with a strategy to help my mornings get off to a better start. As soon as I open my eyes, I take a moment to meditate on God’s truth. Usually it’s something very simple, like remembering a Scripture such as “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24) or “His mercies are new every morning” (Lam. 3:23). Choosing to “think on these things” from the first moments of my day makes a tremendous difference in how the day begins and flows from that point forward.
If you struggle with a blurry perspective when you wake up in the morning or when you are falling asleep at night, I encourage you to find a few key Scriptures that you can meditate on in those moments. It’s an amazing way to focus your thoughts on God’s reality rather than whatever distracting, complaining, or stressful thoughts might be knocking at the door of your mind.
Another way I love to fill my mind with truth before falling asleep (or first thing in the morning) is to read one of the classic Scripture-based devotionals such as Daily Light — a beautiful compilation of Scriptures for each day of the year. It only takes a few minutes, but it immediately causes my mind to become focused on the things of Heaven rather than the things of earth.
#4. Fill Your Days with Truth
Deuteronomy 11:18–21 paints a vivid picture of the position that God’s Word is meant to have in our daily lives:
Therefore you shall lay up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
It’s clear that God does not want us to treat His Word casually or carelessly, but to purposefully make it our focal point — to build His truth into every corner of our daily lives. This can be easier said than done in our modern, noisy, fast-paced world. But I have found a few practical things that personally help me fill my day with truth no matter how busy life gets:
Listen to audio Scripture as often as possible. There are many great audio versions of the Bible and I love to have Scripture playing whenever possible throughout my day. It’s a very practical way to dwell on what is noble, just, lovely, and of good report no matter what I’m doing.
Decorate your home, car, workspace, etc., with special verses and promises from God’s Word — this can be as simple as notecards with Scriptures written on them or as elaborate as beautifully decorated Scripture art pieces — both are equally effective and powerful. When I place Scripture strategically in my living space, I notice that quite often the words will catch my eye at the very moment I need to be reminded of His truth. And it never fails to lift my spirits when I see His words of life as I’m going about my day.
Commit key Scriptures to memory and call them to mind often. Memorizing Scripture can feel intimidating if you’ve never done it before. But even if you start with just a few simple verses that are one or two sentences, you’ll be amazed at how often they come to mind and apply to the situations you face on a daily basis. All Scripture — even the simplest verse — is powerful and life-changing because it holds the very Words of God. And when we have His Word hidden in our heart, it is so much easier to continually dwell upon what is noble, just, lovely, and pure.
Consider the old hymns. Many of the old classic hymns are filled with rich scriptural truths that are just as powerful and applicable now as they were when they were written. Even if hymns aren’t your preferred music style, simply taking time to read and ponder the lyrics can be extremely uplifting and help anchor your soul to truth.
#5. Resist and Replace
Most of us face moments during each day when we are baited toward distraction, temptation, or fear; when thoughts that do not align with God’s truth come knocking at the door of our mind. Unless we are prepared to immediately recognize and resist those thoughts, we’ll quickly find that we are dwelling on things that are the opposite of Paul’s checklist in Philippians 4:8.
The first step in learning how to take rogue thoughts captive is to recognize them. The more we meditate on God’s Word and become familiar with Scripture, the faster we will become aware whenever a thought or idea does not align with His truth. So don’t skimp on spending time in His Word as often as possible — it’s meant to be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path!
For me, a warning sign that my thoughts are not aligning with God’s truth is that I usually begin to feel a subtle inward agitation. Sometimes I don’t even realize why I’m feeling unsettled, but when I stop and take inventory of my thoughts I can usually pinpoint where the distraction is coming from — I am dwelling on things that are not in agreement with God’s pattern.
When this happens, I’ve learned to stop whatever train of thought I’ve been following, reject any wrong thoughts I’ve allowed in, and replace them with God’s truth. Often this is a simple process that only takes a few seconds, but it completely redirects my focus. If I find myself thinking “I’m just too exhausted to handle this parenting challenge right now,” I replace that thought with the truth that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). If I find myself worrying about a financial need, I replace that thought with Christ’s assurance “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:8).
I encourage you to be aggressive in evaluating your thoughts throughout each day and learning to recognize ideas and mindsets that do not align completely with God’s truth. The moment you become aware of a wayward thought seeking your attention, be ready to proactively resist it and replace it with God’s life-giving truth. This one simple discipline can change your life in dramatic ways.
It is extremely easy to let our thoughts be influenced and guided by erroneous cultural ideas and enemy lies. As a result, many Christian women today are continually plagued by fear, doubt, discouragement, and even despair. Even if you have struggled with those issues, God has given us a tremendous tool in biblical meditation. Learning to let God’s truth rule your thoughts can change your entire perspective.
It’s wonderful to realize that when we choose to “think on these things” we are not just esteeming good ideas, but agreeing with God’s unchanging, immovable truth. Meditating on Him brings us closer to Him; it brings the heavenly wisdom and grace we need to walk victoriously through every challenge we face. Here’s a quick glimpse at the beauty of biblical meditation as expressed in the Psalms:
May my meditation be sweet to Him…
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be
acceptable in Your sight…
The meditation of my heart shall give understanding.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.
His truth is always available to us, right at the moment we need it. So, by His grace, let’s learn to dwell on who He is. There is no greater reality we could ever choose to focus on!
This article was originally published in Issue 39.
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