by Jennie Allen
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here.
They say authors write for two reasons: either the author is an expert on the subject, or the subject makes the author desperate enough to spend years finding the answers. The latter most definitely describes me.
One morning I woke up intending to write. But first, I thought, I need to spend time with God. So what did I do? I picked up my phone. I noticed an email about something I was working on, in which the sender was “constructively” critical of my work. Just as I decided to set my phone down, something else stole my attention . . . and the next thing I knew, I was on Instagram, noticing others’ wins and glories contrasted with my work in process that seemed to not be measuring up. In minutes with my phone, I decided that I was an inadequate writer, I was spending my life chasing things that mean nothing because I am nothing, I have nothing to say. I was spiraling fast into discouragement.
Then my husband, Zac, came in happy, having just met with God, and I snapped at him. My spiral began to spin faster and more chaotically. In less than an hour, I had diminished myself, criticized all my work, decided to quit ministry, ignored God, and pushed away my greatest advocate and friend.
Wow. Brilliant, Jennie. And that was only this morning? And now you want to try to help others with your chaotic thoughts?
I imagine all my life I will be in process with this. But because of this journey I went on during an 18-month season of doubt and the years since, instead of my spiral stealing a day, a week, a few years . . . just an hour into it, there was a shift in my thinking.
I did not stay paralyzed. I am free and joyful.
We do not have to stay stuck. God built a way for us to escape the downward spiral. But we rarely take it. We have bought the lie that we are victims of our thoughts rather than warriors equipped to fight on the front lines of the greatest battle of our generation: the battle for our minds.
The apostle Paul understood the war that takes place in our thoughts, how our circumstances and imaginations can become weapons that undermine our faith and hope. The Bible records his bold declaration that we are to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Take every thought captive? Is that possible? Have you ever tried?
Once, a bird flew into our tiny house and wouldn’t fly out. It took more than an hour for our whole family working together to catch that silly little sparrow. Shooting the bird with a BB gun? Easy. But capturing the wild sparrow flailing through our house was an altogether different task, a nearly impossible one.
How much more impossible to capture a wild thought on the fly? Yet the book I build my life on is telling me to capture all my thoughts, every one of them?
Is God serious?
Is this even possible? Because honestly my thoughts run wilder than that hyperactive sparrow.
I see the same wild chaos in nearly every woman’s eyes I meet. Like the young woman in so much pain who sat across from me this week, drowning in anxiety she has been fighting for two years. She looked at me, pleading, “Help. Tell me what to do!”
“I don’t want to live anxious,” she said. “I’m in counseling. I’m in Bible study. I’m willing to take medicine. I want to trust God. Why can’t I change? Why do I feel so stuck in this?”
Goodness, I relate and have fought the same thing.
It’s incredible, if you think about it: How can something we can’t see control so much of who we are, determine what we feel and what we do and what we say or don’t, dictate how we move or sleep, and inform what we want, what we hate, and what we love?
How can the thing that houses all those thoughts—just a bunch of folded tissue—contain so much of what makes us who we are?
Learning to capture our thoughts matters. Because how we think shapes how we live.
Adapted from Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen (WaterBrook, 2020). Jennie Allen is the founder and visionary behind IF:Gathering, an organization that equips women with gospel-centered resources, events, and community so they may learn more about who God is and disciple others. A sought-after speaker, Allen has taught at Women of Faith, Catalyst, and Q conferences. She is the author of several books, including Restless, Anything, and Nothing to Prove. Allen has a master’s degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Zac, live in Dallas, Texas, with their children.