As a writer, I fully understand the value of research and knowing my topic well. Regardless of length or type of work, research allows me to better know my writing topic. When I struggle at any point in a writing project, research always produces the breakthrough I need to move forward.
This same approach plays a significant role in my faith walk too. Regardless of the struggle or challenge, seeking God’s will by digging into scripture always strengthens my faith.
I’m referring to going beyond daily devotions. I’m getting at digging into all the scripture related to the struggle or challenge and refusing to stop until your faith revitalizes. It may take several hours, days or even longer, but the time spent won’t be in vain.
If you refuse to quit and push through, you’ll come through the stronger because you’ll know God and his will better than ever before.
Steps for Digging In to Scripture
Below are my basic steps specific to digging in to scripture. Take them and make them your own!
Make a list of related scripture and read through them. Make note of the ones that most connect with your struggle. I usually find them with the concordance in my Bible or by doing a Google search. If doing a Google search, only look at Scripture at this point. Stay away from any articles or commentaries. Just you and God for now.
Write out the scripture that stood out to you. Don’t question why some click while others don’t. Just go with it. It’s the Holy Spirit working.
Make bullet points for each scripture. Write down any thought or connection you make with the reference. No editing. Just record what comes to mind.
Meditate on each Scripture. I often take walks or go for bike rides or even take a nap where I fall asleep thinking about the Scripture as related to my struggle or topic. Just spend time directing your thoughts toward the Scripture you’re studying.
Read through the Scripture and your notes again. Make note of additional thoughts and revelations.
Pray using the Scripture and your notes. Talk to God about what you’re studying. You may have more notes to take during this step.
Listen for God to speak to you. Again, go for a walk or bike ride, but this time just listen for God’s whisper in your mind. Don’t make yourself think anything.
Seek outside sources. Only do this after you’ve spent significant one-on-one time with God. These sources include commentaries, sermons and articles about the scripture and topic you’re studying.
Talk out what you’re studying. Again, only do this after lots of one-on-one time. Find a good listener and share what you’ve discovered. Then, let that person give you some input.
Consider journaling. This works best if you do it throughout the process. I actually do these steps in my journal.
The key in this process lies with refusing to quit. Keep reading through the scripture, and keep meditating on them too. Push through and continue digging in even if you don’t feel or hear anything at first. God will speak to you. Expect it to happen.
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
In this scene, Simba finally moves forward after attempting to forget his past. He realizes forgetting is not only impossible, but doing so denies who he is as well as holds impact well beyond himself.
Our youngest son came to us when he was 9 years old. He brought with him a rough start to life filled with more disappointments, struggles and hurts than most people face in a lifetime. In the six years since he’s been our son, we’ve worked to undo the damage and bring him to a place of continued forward growth academically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
One prevailing principle in his progress is the idea of learning from the past and then moving on. We deliberately talk often about how he can choose to overcome his past or let it define him. With every struggle we encounter, we talk in detail about the choices he made in that particular situation and how he can make adjustments for future decisions.
We also talk about how he can better handle life’s situations without reacting and letting emotion control him. Finding positive choices helps him grow and heal. These 5 questions help immensely in that process.
Did you ask for forgiveness? While granting forgiveness remains out of his control, asking begins the healing process. Related, we also make sure that he forgives where needed too, and we reference Ephesians 4:32 in that discussion.
What can you control? The answer is always “myself.” This brings understanding about focusing on controlling his own attitude, actions and words.
What can’t you control? The answer to this is always “others.” You can only control yourself, not others.
What could you have done differently? This question helps him understand that while he may not have meant for something to happen, his actions or reactions set the stage for something to happen or somehow made a situation worse. The idea of a ripple effect is crucial for growth.
What can you do to control your anger/frustration in the future? We then spend a few minutes discussing ideas, which usually include praying, taking a deep breath, walking away, taking a break, journaling and quoting scripture. Having tools he can use when struggles happen again is crucial to prevent repeating the same mistakes.
These discussions with our son also include talking about self-control and its importance, and we focus on how he can build trust through respect and obedience. We then end the discussion with a prayer and “hugging it out.”
While in the throes of depression for many years, the idea of taking thoughts captive simply seemed impossible. In fact, the idea to do so never really entered my mind. After I felt a release from depression somewhere in my 28th year of existence, the ability to take thoughts captive began to grow within me.
God used my husband, a godly counselor, my awesome pastor, my faithful exercise partner and several people in my church family to move me along in this process. Even more, though, His Holy Spirit worked within me to train me and teach me how to wear and use His armor. (See How to… Take Every Thought Captive, Part 1 of 2 for more on the role of the armor of God in this process.)
There are five strategies that taught me to take my thoughts captive. These five strategies make up the continual training plan I use regularly to never again be in a place where my thoughts hold me captive.
Retrain thoughts. My negative, self-defeating thoughts needed saturated with scripture. Reading A LOT of positive books also helped reprogram my thought processes. Also, I had to be very careful with whom I spent time in fellowship.
Learn truth. Because my thoughts were so messed up, I had to find out what God was saying about what I was thinking. Since the best way to know falsehood is to study the truth, I continually sought to bring my thoughts up against God’s truth.
Become teachable. I am ashamed to say that I was not very teachable as a teenager and for most of my twenties. I had to learn to become teachable and willing to change.
Admit fault. I had to recognize and admit that my thoughts were leading me astray. For a time, I couldn’t trust them much at all and had to rely on others who were thinking clearly and based on God’s truth. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at repenting when my thoughts wander from truth.
Maintain. Recently, an online friend advised me to say this simple prayer, “Lord, You know my weaknesses. Speak to me.” This prayer works well for me in a lot of ways, not the least of which is to help take my thoughts captive. But here’s the important step: You have to listen for God to speak. This is the heart of the maintenance program. Then, I cycle through the other steps (not necessarily in any particular order) routinely.
With complete certainty, I can say that this training process saved my marriage and my sanity. And as I continually cycle through it, I use a variety of methods to help create a more full and complete captivity of my thoughts. The methods I use the most are:
Journaling. Helps tremendously with focus. Barb Raveling’s post on Truth Journaling is a terrific resource.
Idea book. I have a notebook where I record all my ideas. Just getting them out of my head and onto paper seems to put them in captivity and to keep them from taking over my mind.
Accountability. Having an accountability partner to talk to and to help apply God’s truth takes thoughts captive by removing emotion, which can taint our ability to think clearly.
Fellowship. Know the difference between fellowship and socializing. We need fellowship to grow emotionally and spiritually. (Note: Watch for a future post on fellowship.)
Please know that by no means do I think this topic has been sufficiently or completely covered. What I can testify to is that the two posts on this topic do accurately reflect my struggle to understand and apply God’s truth in a very sensitive and vulnerable place in my life.
DISCUSSION: What advice do you have for “taking every thought captive”?