Learning Discipline 4… Living in the Truth

“… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32
“I am the way and the truth and the life.”
John 14:6

The lies that cause us trouble are of two basic types: 1. the lie that I am somehow fatally flawed, irredeemable,  and therefore unlovable and unacceptable; and 2. the lie that God is withholding something good from me – i.e., that God is not really good.  These lies take various forms depending on our life experiences of course, but they’re as old as the those the Temptor used on Adam and Eve back in Eden.

Our need, though, is not to stay focused on the lies, but rather on The Truth, for that is what will bring us true freedom and life!  After all, if you want to recognize the real thing from the counterfeit, you study the real thing; that way, you can discern the ways that the counterfeit falls short.  Then you can easily reject that imposter: in this case, the warped thoughts that trigger that bad habit or addiction which pretends to bring satisfaction, but instead only distracts for a while and needs to be repeated, over and over.

The Real Thing (i.e., God) works differently; He can bring peace which transcends our circumstances. And we can even experience joy in the midst of our struggles. No lesser good, no inferior and temporary pleasure available in this world can do that. “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” (St. Augustine)

Every time we experience despair or hopelessness, or perhaps great fear and anxiety, if we look carefully, we will find a well-practiced automatic thought happening in our mind. Psychology calls these thoughts “automatic” because they happen very quickly, often “under the radar” of our immediate awareness. It takes some practice to become aware of this connection, though journaling (once again!) is very helpful in pointing out when these negative thoughts have been operating sub rosa, and creating upsetting feelings. Feelings always follow thoughts.

Jesus knew this, and so that is why he spoke as he did in the verses quoted above, and why St Paul speaks about being “… transformed by the renewing (that is, “being made new“) of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). The previous verse in Romans 12:1 speaks about presenting to God our bodies as a “living sacrifice”. Sounds like a process of discipline to me: discipline which involves training our passions and appetites; discipline which we can only begin to achieve by first having our minds – our thoughts – made new in God’s gospel Truth by cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s light.

So, practically, what does that mean? When you find yourself in a bad emotional place, ask yourself, “What am I thinking?”. Examples: “You’re such an idiot.”, “How disgusting you are.”, “You’re always going to be alone.”, “Who do you think you are?”, etc, etc. Counter that thought with something else, something you would tell your best friend: “So you made a mistake – everyone does.”, “You can be loved even if you’re not perfect”, etc, etc. The lie here is that love is conditional: that it is a reward for being worthy enough. Satan loves to get us on that merry go round of thinking, for it keeps us looking at us: our shortcomings and failures, and not on the mercy and acceptance of a loving Father.

Try putting into your phone or tablet’s search engine “Bible verses for encouragement”, or “comfort”, or “courage”. Read those verses as personal love notes from Jesus, who loves you not because you’re good, but because He is! Turn your eyes away from yourself and focus instead on the mercy and power and love of God. And start winning the war in your head.

To be continued…