Monday, January 11, 2010

from the archives: self-control and your thoughts and emotions

It might not look like this post is about biblical womanhood, but self-control is one of the qualities older women are to teach young women about in Titus 2:3-5. I've talked so much about self-control of the bodily kind on this blog, I decided to focus on controlling your thoughts and emotions for this post.

I have been reminded recently, once again, of the importance of preaching the gospel to myself every day, as I bring my thoughts and emotions under the blessed control of God's truth.

At the start of this term, my shoulder muscles were stiff with stress, I was wading breathless through a bewildering sea of responsibilities, and when I stopped to think about it, I could feel a tightening band of anxiety around my chest.

I was struggling with feelings of discouragement, worry and guilt. Discouragement over my lack of organisation last term (funny how a couple of forgotten committee meetings and un-run errands can plunge me into despair!). Worry about all the tasks I've committed to this term (Sunday School, Equip books, Sola Panel, a certain series on Biblical womanhood). Guilt about the burden these things place on our family (mostly false guilt, since I was fulfilling my responsibilities to my family, according to my husband, who ought to know).

For several memorable mornings, right at the start of the term, I woke at 6.00 and prayed in the lovely early-morning silence which rests on a house at that hour of the day. I spent a good 20 minutes or so praying through the unhelpful thoughts I was listening to: the guilt, the worry, the discouragement. I battled my unbelieving, doubting, anxious thoughts one-by-one, wrestling them into submission, taking each one captive to God's truth.

I can't begin to tell you the difference it's made! As I meditated on God's character - my Father's loving sovereignty, and how he is in control of all my responsibilities; my Saviour's sacrifice, and how I have been forgiven for all my sinful failings; the Spirit's empowering, and how I do everything in his strength - and as I praised God for his grace, and prayed about my anxieties - a burden was lifted, and my days were permeated with a sense of peace.

I'm swallowed up in busy-ness at the moment, and anxiety is threatening to creep up on me, but I'm finding that the inner assurance of God's sovereign love, which I fought so hard for at the start of this term, still remains with me, holding it at bay.

God won't ask me to do anything he doesn't give the time, energy, strength, and grace to do. He will be patient with me as I struggle with all the sins I'm so painfully aware of, and he will give me the grace to overcome them, slowly but surely. I can take each day as it comes, with its own particular responsibilities, and give myself to them fully and joyfully, rather than allowing the weight of the next 30 days to rest on my shoulders.

I am reminded of Jesus' "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29).

In his service is perfect freedom.

For more on self-control as it relates to our thoughts and emotions, see chapter 4 of Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal, and Nicole's helpful discussion of the issues raised at EQUIP book club.

image is from stock.xchng

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