Learning to think on these things

Think On These Things

I have decided that learning to “think on these things” is one of the hardest things to do.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

To which my heart cries, “YES!”

Yet, when reality hits and situations come my way, choosing to think on these things becomes an act of obedience to Christ. Learning to think on these things takes self-control, solid boundaries, and great faith. It takes moving forward to the next beautiful thing. Even if it is not so beautiful. Even when your thoughts seem stacked against you.

In preparation for our second term overseas, I honestly COULD NOT imagine getting on the plane. I didn’t know how I’d feel in that moment and didn’t know know how I’d fly away from America again with a one way ticket.

Knowing the realities of life in Africa, the poverty, the daily struggles, the loneliness, the language barriers, the difficulty of basic things… it seemed overwhelming and daunting in a way I didn’t feel the first time we left.

The battle in my mind was fierce.

Nothing about it felt lovely or right.

Nothing but knowing God was calling us and He still had a plan for us in Africa.

Now that we’ve landed and begun our term, the battle to think on these things continues.

Learning to think on these things

I’m not sure who I am here. The rug of my American self was pulled out from beneath me the moment we landed in country. The rules are different, the game has changed, the pace is slow and the culture is confusing. Where do I fit in all of that?

How can God possibly use me in the midst of this place?

When opening the kitchen drawers takes a ton of muscle because the wood swells in the humidity and makes them nearly impossible to open or close.

When the downstairs toilet runs unless the lid is lifted after each flush.

When mold covers the things we left stored.

When you have to unplug this to plug in that because there are not enough outlets.

When a friend looks through your trash bags and asks if she can have things you’ve thrown away.

When children are dirty and starving.

When I can understand French but seemed to have forgotten how to speak it.

When some problems seem so petty and other problems so very heavy.

When the stakes are high and danger surrounds.

When stress and tension accompany our days.

When relationships are complicated.

When the unfinished task is mountainous.

My brain was running through all of this and more during our first week here. The battle to think positively, get joy and think on these things was raging on.

Everything takes work. Everything is hard. Everything seems to disappoint, discourage and deflate.

Oh, there are happy moments too! Fun, laughter and plenty of things to take my mind off the struggle.

As always, culture shock plays a role too.

But in the inner quiet places of my mind, when I take a deep look at my thoughts, the struggle to “think on these things” is very real.

I know I am not alone. The unexpected sacrifices of this life overseas effect us all.

The battle in our minds is fierce.

For this second term, I do feel like God has been preparing me in new ways, asking me to accept this life and bringing me back stronger than before.

Just my ability to say goodbye again, pack up our family, get on a plane and set up house in West Africa shows His mighty hand at work.

Learning to think on these things

His unrelenting strength carrying my heart.

Of that, I have no doubt. But when I’m battling to think on these things, I must remember the weapons I have to fight the battle well. To fight the battle in my mind and win. To keep thinking on these things regardless of what is happening around me. To not let situations disappoint, discourage and deflate.

But to choose life, love, joy and hope.

To think on these things always

“Choose to be grateful for what is known over what is unknown. Every single morning.” – Jennie Allen

And what is known is Jesus.

Verse after verse challenges us to think on these things. These known things.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believedYet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:18, 20-21

I will go before you and will level the mountains…”Isaiah 45:2

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” Psalm 86:5-7

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3

In my devotions, I’ve been reading a small devotional by Jill Holler. In it she wrote, “Through countless generations He has been faithful to those who have cried out to Him from unreachable places, where troubles surround and sin overwhelms.”

She also said, “Come and sit at the feet of Jesus even when the pressing responsibilities of life urge you away… let His peace rush over the worries of your heart. Nothing in the world can strengthen our souls like time in His presence.”

His Word. His Presence. Keys to fighting the battle of our minds.

Learning to think on these things

The tools needed to think on these things.

The answer to worry, fear, doubt and overwhelm.

The strength to take disobedient thoughts captive.

The way back when thoughts travel away from truth.

After a particularly challenging conversation I was having with myself, God led me to Psalm 94 ESV. Verse 11 says, “the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.” I read it a few times and thought, “Well, thoughts may be ‘but a breath’ but they sure seem strong and long sometimes.” {and any time I’m afraid I’m getting too dramatic, I read things like verse 17 and remember that David felt free to express his emotions before God and we can too!} But as I kept reading, I saw verses 18 and 19.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

It didn’t say “when my foot slipped.” It says, “When I THOUGHT my foot slips.”

His steadfast love holds us up even against our thoughts!

When our cares are many, said and unsaid, He consoles us and cheers us.

Friends, we have hope when thoughts take over. We can win the fiercest battle of the mind with time in His presence and time spent soaking in His word. We can joyously overcome the deepest, strongest thoughts.

We can walk in the freedom of learning to think on these things.

Every day choosing to think on things that are lovely, right, pure, true and praiseworthy.

Think on these things.

A few other stories to encourage and resource you:

My Journey with Anxiety and Depression by Sarah Mae

Journaling Through a Depressed Heart by Dave Barringer

8 Resources When You Are In The Valley by Amy Young

Jennie Allen’s Anxious Thoughts Guide and her interview on Typology Podcast

“Sometimes we prefer familiar bondage to unfamiliar freedom. Lord, help me to step out from what I have known into the freedom you have.” – Dave Barringer


  1. This was so, so needed for me today. I was on the field for two years, then returned (almost two years ago now…how the time has flown) and went really quickly in a new city, new job, new daily routines. I’m still grieving and overwhelmed by a lot of desires & unknowns. Thank you for sharing these good, good truths that don’t push me to “fix it”, but to trust him.

  2. Boy, can I ever relate to what your daily life is like and it’s frustrations. Having done three teaching assignments in Senegal and now setting up house in Jamaica, I have these same chats with myself.

    As you pointed out so well, our hope has to be in God, clinging to His words and remembering the times He carried us through in the past.

    I find it interesting that modern psychology is now moving away from teaching people they are victims as they now lean towards controlling our thoughts. Hmmm. Wonder when they’ll realize these “techniques” have been around for ages?

    Blessings to you as you serve!

    1. I agree! The principles in God’s Word REALLY are there to help us with daily struggles. I love how practical and real the Word is when we apply it to our lives. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Such a great encouragement! Thank you. I am on the other side, where two of my children are in mission work in Taiwan. Even though we totally support and love that they are serving the Lord, we miss them so much. So thankful that His steadfast love holds us up!

    1. Yes, I know my mom would say the same. Thank you for praying for them and sending them even when it is so very hard. Thankful for God’s faithfulness!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *