THOUGHTS THAT DIVIDE AND DISTRACT: A Biblical View of Anxiety





My mother’s favorite Psalm was Psalm 139. She especially loved the last two verses, 23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” She also loved the hymn we sang with these words put to an old tune. As I grew, I came to love this Psalm and make it my own and it became my favorite Psalm, too. It’s interesting that the New King James Version uses the word anxieties where the KJV uses thoughts. The Hebrew word is saraph and means “disquieting thoughts, thoughts.” This word is found also, in Psalm 94:19: “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”

The root word for saraph is caiph and means “ambivalence, division, divided opinion.” Strong’s Definition says “divided (in mind), i.e. (abstractly) a sentiment: —opinion. In other words, these are thoughts that divide and distract, thoughts that cause us to be anxious because they bring doubt and question.

Let’s unpack this. This word caiph is first seen in 1 Kings 18:21 where Elijah was about to fight the prophets of Baal and called the people and prophets of Israel together. “And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word.” The word translated opinions is this word caiph. Interestingly, the word falter in Hebrew is pacach and is defined in Strong’s Concordance: a primitive root; to hop, i.e. (figuratively) skip over (or spare); by implication, to hesitate; also (literally) to limp, to dance:—halt, become lame, leap, pass over. So what Elijah is saying is, “How long are you going to hobble around, to limp between divided opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him, if Baal is, follow him.”

 Let’s look at two more verses with this word caiph before we see how this applies to us. The first is found in Job 4:13-14: “In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, trembling, which made all my bones shake.” (Emphasis mine.) Secondly, also in Job, chapter 20:2: “Therefore my anxious thoughts make me answer, because of the turmoil within me.” It’s becoming clear that these dividing thoughts are anxious thoughts, disquieting thoughts, thoughts that make us afraid and worried. Notice, the key to understanding is that they divide our thinking. When we are presented with situations in our lives, our minds immediately go to scenarios that we see how things are going to play out. We begin to project what we think the outcome is going to be and then start worrying, ruminating and oftentimes, even panicking. Our thoughts are all over the place. The more we allow these thoughts to take root, the more our imaginations can run wild. If left unchecked, these thoughts can become strongholds in our lives. We can be overtaken with anxiety and worry. This is exactly where we need to apply Paul’s instruction to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

We must declare war. We must use our mighty weapons to pull down these dividing thoughts and the strongholds. The word for mighty here is dynatos and comes from the same root dynamai which is also the root for the word dynamis which is the word used for the power of God that not only raised Christ from the grave, but also the power that is in us when the Holy Spirit lives in us. 

The Greek word for pulling down is kathairesis and means demolition; figuratively, extinction:—destruction, pulling down.

The Greek word for stronghold is ochyroma and means a castle, stronghold, fortress, fastness, anything on which one relies. (Emphasis mine.) Of the arguments and reasoning by which a disputant endeavours to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent.


Let that sink in. These thoughts that divide and distract can become a fortress in our lives and can become that which we rely upon. It’s very insidious, but we can begin to believe that what we are thinking is absolute truth and become convinced of something that is just our thoughts and may, in no way, be what is happening or what is going to happen. We cannot let these arguments and reasoning be fortified.

To continue with that passage, casting down is the same word as pulling down. Notice what he continues to tell us to pull down: arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

The Greek word for arguments is logismos and means a reckoning, computation, a reasoning: such as is hostile to the Christian faith, a judgement, decision: such as conscience passes.

The Greek word for high things is hypsoma and is an elevated place or thing.

The Greek word for exalts is epairo and means to raise up, exalt self, poise up.

So we are to pull down, to cast down every thought, every argument and reasoning, every imagination and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. And then we are to bring every thought captive. The word for thought here is noema and means a perception, i.e. purpose, or (by implication) the intellect, disposition, itself: — device, mind, thought. And the word for captive is aichmalotizo which means to lead away captive, to capture one's mind, to bring into captivity. And where do we bring them captive? To the obedience of Christ.

Obedience is hypakoe and means compliance or submission. We comply with His Word and submit every dividing thought and everything that exalts itself to what we know about Christ. But it doesn’t stop there. We are to punish all disobedience. The word punish is ekdikeo and means to vindicate, retaliate, punish, to revenge. And disobedience is parakoe and means a hearing amiss, disobedience, an unwillingness to hear. We are to punish the disobedience of hearing amiss of these thoughts. Recognize that we will always have thoughts that divide and distract, but they need to be dealt with immediately. They need to be pulled down and brought into captivity. And then we must replace those thoughts with the truth that the Lord is sovereign, the Lord is in control, the Lord can be trusted, that He will never leave me nor forsake me. 

Probably the best known verse for anxiety is Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There is so much in this passage that we won’t unpack in this study, but Paul tells us here not to let anything make us anxious, but with a grateful language pray and seek the Lord and make our request to Him. Then the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. The Greek word for peace is eirene and means “peace, quietness, rest, tranquility.” This peace, this rest, this tranquility passes our understanding, the Greek word nous means “the intellect, i.e. mind (divine or human; in thought, feeling, or will); mind, understanding. The word guard is phroureo. I love the first definition in the Blue Letter Bible, “to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight.” Those anxious thoughts are a hostile invasion. The peace of God prevents our hearts and minds from the hostile invasion. 

It’s good to have this verse and other Scripture memorized for moments where we experience anxiety. Psalm 94:19 that we mentioned earlier is good to memorize. “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Thinking about the Lord and all the comforts we have in Him delights our souls. Thinking about Him dispels the anxieties. 

Another passage, Isaiah 26:3-4 is great to commit to memory:


                             You will keep him in perfect peace,

                             Whose mind is stayed on You,

                             Because he trusts in You.

                             Trust in the Lord forever,

                             For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.

Psalm 91 is a most important Psalm to get very acquainted with in dealing with anxiety. It is actually a Psalm of spiritual warfare and deserves a study all its own. It speaks to our refuge and protection. The whole Psalm would be good to commit to memorization, but in particular the first 2 verses:  “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’”

So, when these thoughts that divide and distract us and make us anxious begin to flood our minds, we immediately must pull them down and bring them into submission to the truth of God’s Word. Then, with a grateful heart bring our prayers and request to Him, our Hiding Place... where we dwell and abide. And His Word assures us that we will not only experience His peace, but that His peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. His Word and what it says about our wonderful Savior will comfort our soul and keep us in perfect peace as we stay our mind on Him.




I used the New King James Version and Blue Letter Bible and Strong’s Concordance for this study.

.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

DOUBLE PORTION: A Study of Hannah

MARRIED TO A FOOL: Abigail and David, Part 1

MAY ALL WHO COME BEHIND US FIND US FAITHFUL