Statisticians have written that one in four American families has a family member affected by a serious mental illness. There are more hospital beds in America occupied by people who have a mental illness, than by people who have cancer, heart and lung disease combined. Serious mental illness needs to be a concern to everybody. It is also essential, however, that those without mental illness recognize their daily need for good spirit/mind hygiene. Ephesians 4:23 enjoins Christians to be continually “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” In a companion passage, Romans 12:2, we read that Christians are to be continually transformed by the renewing of the mind in order to prove that God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect. To separate the spiritual from the mental may be beneficial as an academic exercise, but in day-to-day practical terms, spirit and mind are as interrelated and interdependent as marrow and bone.
Ephesians 4:23 challenges Christians to be continually “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” In a companion passage, Romans 12:2, we read that Christians are to be continually transformed by the renewing of the mind in order to prove that God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect.
In Philippians 4:4-9 the Apostle Paul writes out his prescription for maintaining good spirit/mind health. Throughout the Apostle’s writings, he establishes “peace” as the healthy state of spirit/mind. Troubled spirits/minds are neither healthy nor enlightened. Here is Paul’s preventative and pro-active “Eight Step Prescription” for maintaining or recovering peace of mind.
1. Rejoice: When you “re-joice” or “re-joy” the spirit/mind, you become rejuvenated. The dictionary says that to rejuvenate is to return something to its original or like-new condition. In other passages, Paul actually promotes “self-talk,” “praying scripture,” and “singing” as tools for rejoicing. (Vs 4)
2. Don’t Be Anxious: This requires strategy! Paul knows that for you to stop thinking anxious thoughts and feeling anxious will require more than just the command: Don’t be anxious! But he wants to emphasize by this command that your normal state of being is not one of anxiety but of peace. The goal is to return to peace. (Vs 6)
3. Pray about everything: Paul promotes engaging God audibly and/or in your heart about everything with a full honest expression of just how you are feeling. The Gospels and the Book of Hebrews present Jesus in prayer as fully honest and expressive of His emotions. (Vs 6)
4. Make supplication about everything: Supplication is that form of prayer that admits that there is a problem that you cannot handle by yourself and that you are reaching out for help. This is not an immature prayer but rather a maturing prayer. (Vs 6)
5. Make requests with thanksgiving: In the request form specifically itemize those things in your mind begging for resolution. You may need to write them on paper. Accompany each request with thanksgiving. Be thankful for the “enoughness” and then bless it in anticipation of it increasing. Be thankful that God is present and that His presence is your source of peace and resolution for what is harassing your mind. Thanksgiving is a powerful spirit/mind resource in Christ for re-tracking attitude. (Vs 6)
6. Peace surpassing understanding will surface: Paul’s idea here is suggestive of a reservoir within that part of your being some theologians and psychologists call spirit. This reservoir contains in its depths the undisturbed peace of God’s presence. Paul says that this peace will surface and surpass the agitated or depressing thoughts and create a soothing protective guard about your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. (Vs 7)
7. Meditate: Paul is making it clear that we have to be specifically proactive in refocusing. Put aside your “request with thanksgiving” list. It is time to lead your thoughts captive rather than be captive to your thoughts. Paul challenges us to focus on the positives as pathways to peace. The best way to stop thinking about black bears is to begin thinking about white bears. (Vs 8)
8. Practice: Paul writes that the God of peace will be with those who practice this prescription.
TIM RESIDE is the President of Bright Tomorrows. Tim has completed 108 credit hours of study in Practical Theology, inclusive of 36 hours at the doctoral level, and holds an MA in Practical Theology. Tim has been successfully coping with and overcoming bipolar illness since 1979.